Holiday shoppers are out in full force, but outdoor sports lovers will once again be relying on Mother Nature to deliver their favorite gift: Snow!
Luckily, the Laurel Highlands should have that covered this winter. Several long-range forecasts for the 2022-23 season are calling for colder temperatures and higher snowfall totals in the Laurel Highlands than during an average winter.
That means it should be all downhill – or cross country – from here for those who love to strap on a pair of skis, hop on a snowmobile or go zipping through the snow on a tube.
Here are some of the amazing outdoor opportunities available in the Laurel Highlands this winter:
The Laurel Highlands is well-known for its wonderful downhill skiing and snowboarding opportunities. That’s a given, as we’re home to the state’s largest ski area, Seven Springs Mountain Resort, plus its Vail-run brethren – Hidden Valley Resort and Laurel Mountain – as well as Nemacolin, which has six private slopes for skiing and snowboarding.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort, which opened on Black Friday, features 33 slopes and trails with a diverse terrain ideal for skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels. It includes seven terrain parks as well as a professional ski and ride school for group or private lessons.
With more than 400 overnight options – from full-service hotel rooms to chalets, cabins, condos and townhomes, there are plenty of choices for you to stay multiple days to take advantage of one of Vail’s pass programs, which include access to Hidden Valley, Laurel Mountain and more.
The targeted opening date for Hidden Valley is Dec. 23, but that could change if Mother Nature delivers more natural powder and ideal conditions for snowmaking.
This family-friendly favorite is an ideal location for beginning skiers and snowboarders, especially children. It features 26 slopes and trails plus two terrain parks on 110 skiable acres.
Revered by skiers, Laurel Mountain boasts the highest vertical drop on the Laurel Ridge at 761 feet and is famous for its double diamond Lower Wildcat, the steepest in the state, with an average of nearly 60% slope. The targeted opening date for the top-down resort, which is tucked away in Forbes State Forest, is Dec. 23.
Nemacolin is the ultimate in luxury, and the Farmington resort extends that to its skiing and snowboarding opportunities. New this year is The Peak Winter Season Pass, which allows non-guests access to 25 acres of skiing and snowboarding, lift access for downhill skiing and snowboarding, a heated pool, and hot tub.
Get the downhill rush of skiing without the required athleticism and equipment! Snow tubing is a great family activity open to a wide range of ages and skill levels.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort has the largest tubing area in the Laurel Highlands with 11 high-speed tubing lanes. The quick and easy Magic Carpet will whisk you back to the top for another round of fun during your two-hour session at the tube park.
Slip and slide down six lanes and 700 feet of fun with family and friends at Nemacolin, which features a conveyor lift to transfer guests to the top of the tubing slope.
Cross Country Skiing/Snowshoeing
Looking to exercise in the great outdoors this winter without the thrill-seeking element – or expense – of downhill skiing? Cross country skiing might be just the ticket for you.
The elevation and heavy snowfall at Kooser State Park help create prime conditions for cross-country skiing. Park staff set track on 1.5 miles of ski trail, which is marked with blue diamonds. The trail is classified as “easiest” and is popular with beginners to experienced skiers.
Laurel Ridge State Park features nearly 35 miles of trails available for cross-country skiing. There also is a 20-mile cross-country ski touring concession adjacent to the PA 653 parking area. A trail fee is required.
There are 33.9 miles of trails recommended for cross-country skiing at Ohiopyle State Park. The Sproul Trails and a section of the Kentuck Trail were created specifically for cross-country skiing.
With deep snowfall, the 27 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage within Ohiopyle also are good for cross-country skiing.
Many other locations in the Laurel Highlands – including Keystone State Park, Laurel Hill State Park and Linn Run State Park – allow cross country skiing on trails and open fields with adequate snow cover.
Keystone and Laurel Hill also loan showshoes.
Need something to get your motor running? How about 116 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in Forbes State Forest that wander in and out of state parks, forest lands, and state game lands?
The Sugarloaf Trail System and Pressley Ridge offer almost 16 miles of riding in Ohiopyle State Park.
As long as there is enough snow cover, snowmobile trails open the day after the last day of Pennsylvania’s regular or extended rifle deer season, and close April 1 or earlier as determined by the district forester or park manager.
During the snowmobiling season, DCNR posts snow and trail conditions three times per week. Check the trail conditions page before you head out to see if trails are open and ready for riding.