Hidden Valley PA

It may have been the worst kept secret in ski country. Three media outlets in western Pennsylvania reported last week on the purported sale of Hidden Valley Resort to Bob Nutting, the owner of Seven Springs Mountain Resort, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Ogden newspapers, based in Wheeling, W. Va..


Seven Springs ended the speculation when they issued a press release just before noon Sept. 3 announcing the deal. Nutting met with Hidden Valley staff members that morning, and then shared the news with Seven Springs staff in the afternoon. The asking price was believed to be around $10 million, although there was no confirmation of that figure.


Rumors of such a sale actually cropped up during the winter and were denied at that time. KDKA Television, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pittsburgh Business Journal all reported the rumors just before Labor Day, citing anonymous inside sources.


The two ski and ride areas are just 13 miles apart. They are within an hour’s drive of Pittsburgh, and inside 200 miles of Cleveland, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The two operations, separately, have played a significant role in the tourism economy of the Laurel Highlands.


Julie Donovan, spokesperson for Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, credited Seven Springs with bringing 1.2 million visitors to the region annually. Those travelers delivered an economic impact of $1.7 billion to the Laurel Highlands in 2011.


Now, however, the question is being asked: what impact will a single owner have on local and destination guests?


“This can only be a good thing,” said Jeffrey Sarnelli, an owner of Sarnelli’s Corner, a market in Jones Mills, Pa. “The ski areas are good for business here. I don’t see it going wrong. Maybe people can ski them both for one price.”


That’s one angle proposed to Seven Springs spokesperson Anna Weltz by SnoCountry.com. “The ink is barely dry. Those kinds of things have not been established yet,” said Weltz. “We will have a bigger, better and more detailed story in October.” The change of ownership will officially take place on the first day of next month.


Reaction on both resorts’ Facebook pages ran the gamut, with a number of Hidden Valley patrons fearing the loss of a quality, family experience, and predicting higher prices. Others, however, said the Nutting’s deeper pockets would create a better Hidden Valley.


“Seven Springs dedication to growing snow sports, and their commitment to enhancing their guests experience both on and off the mountain, has positioned Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands as one of the most recognized and visited ski destinations in the Mid-Atlantic,” Donovan told SnoCountry.com. “The visitors experience will only be enhanced at Hidden Valley by Seven Springs’ investment and vision for the family-friendly resort.”


The Buncher Group purchased Hidden Valley six years ago for $12.4 million, and invested millions more in resort improvements. The Pittsburgh Business Journal reported an all cash transaction, in the neighborhood of the aforementioned $10 million, to be consummated in the next 30 days.

Seven Springs has 33 slopes on 5,500 acres, with eight terrain parks, snow tubing park, golf course and 60,000 square feet of meeting space. It will acquire Hidden Valley’s 1,200 acres, 29 trails and golf course.


“This is astounding…..mind-boggling…wonderful,” continued Weltz. “The Nuttings are committed to the long-term growth of both resorts and making them economic engines for the region. It’s a dynamic opportunity for tourism here. I am pumped for the new season to get started.”


Photo: Pow Day at Hidden Valley (Facebook)