Daily American: Michelle Ganassi

Laurel Mountain Ski Resort is still scheduled to open for the 2016 ski season after 12 years of being closed.

Katie Buchan, Seven Springs Mountain Resort communications manager, said heavy excavating is about 80 percent complete. The focus now, she said, is on primary infrastructure.

On the state-owned ski lift, the tower, bullwheels and motor have been installed. The bull rope will be installed in the next two weeks and then the device will be ready for load testing.

"We hope to have the lift inspected by the state by the end of August," she said. "Then all we'll need is snow."

Snowmaking construction is also underway. Buchan said the bulk of water and air lines have been successfully installed. One pressure test has been completed and a second is planned. Hydrants have been installed and the snowmaking pond work is compete.

"The ponds are filling naturally from springs and rainfall," she said.

Underground controls for the pump house are also being repaired, she said.

Although passes for Laurel Mountain are not yet on sale, access to the resort is included in the Highlands Pass, which offers unlimited skiing and snowboarding at Seven Springs and Hidden Valley resorts. Seven Springs purchased Hidden Valley for $7.5 million in 2013.

Buchan said resort officials have seen a lot of excitement from pass holders looking forward to skiing the Lower Wildcat again — or for the first time. The slope is one of the steepest in the mid-Atlantic.

"We're really excited for what this will mean for the region as a tourism destination," she said. "The Laurel Highlands will become a three-mountain ski destination, and we hope to draw people from far and wide."

About a year ago Ligonier Construction Co., of Laughlintown, won the construction contract with a bid of $5,158,000. The work includes site clearing and tree removal, improvements to snowmaking water storage, pumping and distribution, electrical service upgrades, regraded ski trails and the installation of a new ski lift. The state dedicated $6.5 million to the project in 2009.

The state owns the land and one ski lift. The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources leases the land to Seven Springs, which obtained the ski resort's assets, including the lodge, in 2008.

Seven Springs operated the resort for one season, in 2004, following its closure under different ownership a year earlier.

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