I’ve never skied in Switzerland. Yet as I zigzagged across the Alpine Meadow, my husband a few yards ahead of me, and looked around at the vast expanse of white snow studded here and there with dark-green pines, I felt as if I were in the Swiss Alps and half expected to see a cow loping along or a yodeler in lederhosen or Heidi carrying a basket of goodies to her grandfather’s cabin, two golden braids dancing around her smiling face.
But I wasn’t in Switzerland. I was skiing with my family in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands at Seven Springs Mountain Resort—not too far from home, but seemingly a world away. The resort has an Old-World ambiance, perhaps because the original owners came from Germany, bringing their Bavarian heritage to the Allegheny Mountains they would call home. Starting with two and a half acres, Adolph and Helen Dupre began a small vacation resort with simple cabins built by hand and scattered along the mountain slope.
As the family business prospered, Mrs. Dupre decided she wanted to learn to ski, and from that moment on Seven Springs snowballed. Now the resort features thirteen slopes, eighteen trails, nine chair lifts, a snowboarding terrain park, a ski school, and an Alpine Meadow at the top of the mountain that sets it apart from other East Coast ski resorts I’ve visited. In fact it’s the Alpine Meadow with its view of snow-capped mountains undulating into the distance that comes to mind when I remember Seven Springs. It was like skiing in heaven.
ROOM TO MOVE
As a beginning skier, one thing I’ve discovered I need is “Room To Move,” to borrow a John Mayall song title from long ago. If you’re new at skiing or thinking about trying the sport, you’ll discover the challenge is learning to link turns and maintain control as you go down the mountain. Since snow by nature is slippery, you’re bound on occasion to lose control. Perhaps your skis don’t turn quite as quickly as you asked them to or maybe they turn too abruptly and you lose your balance. The key, of course, is regaining your balance without ending up doing what my eleven-year-old son graphically calls a “face plant.”
Regaining your control requires room. If you’re headed toward a stand of trees and you can’t turn in time, you might have a close encounter with pine needles, pine cones, or worse. And once you’ve stopped, you have to figure out how to turn around and point your skis away from the trees and toward the trail. This can be trickier than it sounds. To make matters worse, many trails, even those designated blue for beginner, are often narrow, twisting, and steep. They’re also lined with trees on both sides, thereby offering little room for error. In addition, on a busy winter weekend, skiers and snowboarders, usually younger than you and much faster, appear out of nowhere behind you and zoom by at warp speed leaving you wobbling in their wake.
But the Alpine Meadow was different. Like a big frosted sheet cake, this wide expanse sloped gently downward and offered plenty of room to practice linking turns without trees breathing down your neck or hot-dog snowboarders passing you at breakneck speed. I could have played on the Alpine Meadow all day. Who needs thrills anyway? What I like about skiing is the feeling of being light and swift, neither of which is an adjective that would come to mind to describe me in the ordinary world. But on skis you can become someone different, at least for a little while. You can be light, swift, and free.
My husband and I discovered that Seven Springs is a perfect destination for families. Our sons, Ross, 11, and Jasper, 17—who both fall in the hot-dog category, fearlessly zooming down slippery slopes on their snowboards—found the terrain park and black-diamond slopes challenging and tons of fun. Once or twice I saw each boy whiz by, a blur that shouted “Hey, Mom,” before disappearing around the bend.
Besides skiing, Seven Springs offers a wide variety of resort amenities including an indoor swimming pool, a huge game room, kids’ activity center, a bowling alley, an indoor roller skating rink, a fitness room, shops, and that’s not even counting the amenities available in warmer months.
Accommodations range from hotel rooms at the lodge to luxury slope-side condominiums. Seven Springs also welcomes groups and has rooms with bunk beds available. In fact, the resort can accommodate an amazing 5000 overnight guests. My family and I stayed in the lodge, which offered comfortable rooms at an affordable price. We visited on a busy weekend, and the halls were a bit noisy. If peace and quiet is a priority, you might prefer to stay in a condo.
One advantage to staying in the lodge is the proximity of the amenities. Everything is connected, so you can walk in climate-controlled comfort from your room to where the action is. Seven Springs has a half dozen restaurants—from downhome to upscale. You can also order pizzas to go at the in-house bakery. My family and I enjoyed dining at the Bavarian lounge, which faced a warm crackling fire and offered excellent people-watching possibilities. The food, basic bar fare, was prepared well and served hot.
One evening we gave Ross and Jasper ten bucks each and let them loose. They could spend as much or as little on food as they wanted and then use whatever was left over in the game room. The best part wasn’t alone time for Peter and me, although that was certainly a pleasure. It was watching Jasper take good care of his little brother. The two of them have an up-and-down relationship as many big and little brothers do. Most of the time at home Jasper keeps a good distance between himself and Ross, and when they are together, it’s teasing time. Except for the occasional shared video game, their relationship is not exactly close.
But here in Seven Springs, the two boys hung out together on the slopes and off. Ross, as you can imagine, was glowing with happiness to have his “cool” big brother’s undivided attention. And while Jasper didn’t share that same feeling of exultation, he seemed to be having a reasonably good time—or at least it appeared that way.
Peter and I didn’t spend too much time on the slopes with our sons; instead we enjoyed our own quality time together. And even though my husband can easily handle the blue-level slopes, which are more challenging, he skied the green slopes with me, usually waiting patiently at the bottom of the trail while I carefully linked my turns down the mountain.
Riding up in the lifts together gave Peter and me time to talk and enjoy the fresh air and mountain views. Then at the top, the Alpine Meadow spread like a white blanket before us, glistening in the sunlight. And as I descended slowly, effortlessly, gliding across the snowy meadow, my husband an arm’s length away, I felt as if I were in a fairytale. And this was the happy ending.
For more information, visit www.7springs.com or call 866-437-1300.