The Rebuilding of a Historic PA Ski Resort

September 8, 2016

In 1938 when the Mellon’s developed Laurel Mountain as a private ski club, the Ligonier Valley was a playground for the wealthy with fox hunting, trout fishing, and the Rolling Rock Club. This valley was where the Westinghouse, Carnegie and other famous Gilded Age families mixed socially for holidays away from the city heat and work pressures.

“This was a time when Pittsburgh was the 6th largest city in the US. The Laurel Mountain Region was to Pittsburgh what the Catskills were to NYC and the White Mountains were to Boston. The Industrial Revolution started here because of Pittsburgh’s three river-ways that created natural access to the city”, says Jim Shultz, an owner of Mountain Works Corporation.

Mountain Works, located within a few miles of Laurel Mountain, installed a new fixed–grip quad lift, completely Skytrac engineered and fabricated in Salt Lake City. It is a 2400 pph, 300 HP that replaces a 1960’s Poma double chair.

“As a 10-year-old kid growing up here and skiing here, I saw forest rangers complete with their brown ranger hats running the chairlift that the state installed. The ski club only had a t-bar and you couldn’t believe it! It was a double-diamond t-bar. You better hold on!

The ski area sat with no activity from the mid-eighties until 1999 when a new group came in and invested in a new lodge, groomers and modern snowmaking. They installed a used quad chair and got the Poma double chair operating and installed a tubing park which they thought would be a sure key to success. They ran it for about ten years.

The resort sat for 12 years when local people, having history and a big heart for the area, found Governor Ed Rendell in a tour bus – as the story was told – and asked the governor to consider earmarking funds and commit to the revitalization project.

The project broke ground last October of 2015. Seven Springs Resort, less than 25 miles to the North, will operate as the concessionaire. This arrangement will offer great options for skiers.”

Ligonier Construction, located in nearby Laughlintown, was awarded the general construction contract that  included removal of the existing chairlift, site clearing and trail grading.

“Obviously, we’re excited about the progress made there and are very appreciative,” said Alex Moser, marketing director for Seven Springs and Hidden Valley. “We’ve done a lot of collaborative work there with Ligonier Construction and with the state.” (Paul Peirce, TribLive)

“During a celebration on the reopening progress, Robert Nutting, Seven Springs Resort Chairman said, ‘Our partners—DCNR and Ligonier Construction—have made tremendous progress in helping us push towards our goal of reopening Laurel Mountain. This is a renowned skiers’ mountain with a unique and proud history. By reestablishing the ski area as a community asset, it will bring with it new jobs, activity and the ability to attract even more visitors to our region.We look forward to realizing our goal and celebrating as the first skier takes the first run down Lower Wild Cat and the steepest terrain in the commonwealth is reopened for all to enjoy.’

Operation of the resort by Seven Springs would be the latest development in the history of one of three ski areas privately operated on Pennsylvania state park land. Once the exclusive winter playground of Rolling Rock Club members, it [Laurel Mountain] opened in 1939 and later was deeded to the state. Laurel Mountain is among the first ski areas in Pennsylvania” ( excerpt from First Tracks!! Online)

9 thoughts on “The Rebuilding of a Historic PA Ski Resort

  1. Butch Bellas

    As a Pattoller at Laurel Mountain, I can tell you some stories about that Old Poma. Glad to see it retired, finally !!!!!

    1. Rus Davies

      Ditto on what Butch says from a Ski Instructor and briefly Mountain Manager at Laurel Mountain in the early 1980’s. If that old Herron Poma Lift could talk there would be lots of tall and short tales. Sy Stracka wrote a song or two about it,”Hey Bob, the moon was out today!” was just one gem. There was a song about the rope tow too, “Flossin in the mornin…..”

      I am glad rhat Sky Trac got the job. Jan Leonard’s spirit lives on!

  2. George Purnell

    I am so excited to hear that Laurel Mountain has been resurrected to allow an entire new generation to enjoy. Having learned to ski ther in the 50’s and 60’s, skiing was all we did on the weekends. Everyone knew everybody else. As a young teenager, I remember being on the Junior Ski Patrol and thought was a big honor. I had so many school friends from thr Valley School that skied. I remember wearing our ski clothes to school on Fridays because we were off at 12:00 and immediately carpooled to Laurel. The days I spent there were some of my greatest memories growing up in Ligonier. The best of luck to everyone for making a go at Laurel after so many years.

  3. Jill Clement

    I am so happy to learn that Laurel Mountain will open once again offering some wonderful slopes from Upper and Lower Wildcat to Broadway,etc. Mr. Mellon asked my father Lennie Bughman to go with him to survey the land that he ended up buying from the state. Doc Des Roche headed up the ski school, my father was head of the ski club, and many of us became Jr. Ski Patrol members. PA. State ski championships were held there and fun was HAd by all. I remember a ski ticket cost $3 … was that for a child”s ticket? That I don”t remember! I hope to ski again at Laurel with some old dear friends.

  4. Bill Blair

    This is fantastic news ! Let’s hope the snow gods cooperate. I learned to ski at Laurel, as did many of my friends, where I also enjoyed the responsibility of being on the Junior Ski Patrol. Many of us thoroughly enjoyed the comaderie of many families being together experiencing the fresh air while laughingly having a lot of fun. Also, a number of us went on to race in high or prep school and are still skiing today, though not with the same abandon. The whole atmosphere was very family like and Doc Des Roche was a wonderful person to oversee the mountain as he made skiing fun. His daughter runs/ran the Sugarloaf Mtn. Resort in Maine’s racing program ! GOOD LUCK LAUREL.

    Good luck Laurel.

  5. Michael Hammerberg

    So glad to know the “day” is here that Laurel Mountain will reopen for sure. Being a past Ski Patroler , from 1982- closing day I would be very tempted to come back from my home in Montana to ski a few days this coming ski season!! There where many great days of skiing Lower Wildcat along with some non discript runs in the woods. Will miss the old chairlift with midstation too. Good luck with the weather and “new snowmaking” equipment! Also, will the patrol room be below the old ski rental shop?

  6. Skeets Ellis

    My father, Dr Ray Ellis won numerous State Championships at Laurel. He was on UNH ski team with Doc. He also knew Lenny Bughman well, who wrote many articles on my Dad in the Pittsburgh papers. Still love Laurel today.


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