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Somerset Co. ski resorts open early for season

SOMERSET COUNTY, Pa. -- If you didn't want to take part in the Black Friday madness, the Laurel Highlands had some other than shopping to offer -- skiing and snowboarding, much earlier than usual.

Seven Springs and it's newly acquired resort, Hidden Valley, opened for the season early this year and snow enthusiasts took advantage.

Hundreds of people young and old were hitting the slopes at Seven Springs and Hidden Valley Friday for the first time this season.

"It's been a couple of years since we've had a Thanksgiving weekend opening and its very much a great way to get into the holiday spirit," said Anna Weltz, marketing director for the resorts. "Who needs Black Friday when you can have White Friday?"

Because it is rather early for snow in the Laurel Highlands, the resorts needed some help. For the past few weeks it's the machines that have done most of the work.

"The conditions are phenomenal. Packed powder and groomed condition," said Dick Barron, ski patrol director for the resorts. "Ninety-eight percent of the snow we are on today is man-made. About two to three inches is natural."

Avid skiers like Jayce Bartok said he couldn't tell the difference. He said the conditions at Seven Springs were nearly perfect, especially for November.

"We usually come out and stare at the bare slopes cause it's kind of a Thanksgiving tradition now coming here," said Bartok, who traveled from Brooklyn, New York to visit family in Ligonier. "It's beautiful. It's amazing."

His 3-year-old son Jaxon was even catching on after only his second time.

"(I like) when you go really fast and when you let go in slow motion," said Jaxon.

Meanwhile over at Hidden Valley, the conditions were just as good. The slopes were a little less crowded. But that's just the way Patrick McKevitt and his family like it. They're from Pittsburgh, but have had a home at the resort for nearly two decades. He admits he was a little leery about the resort being bought by Seven Springs, but said Friday so far, so good.

"They really pushed hard to remodel the ski school, remodel the rental agency and the restaurant and get it opened for Thanksgiving," said McKevitt. "That's never happened before. It was always like we were the laid back place and the family place ... 'Maybe we'll open for Christmas, maybe we'll open for New Years.' This time it was, 'Open, open, open' and that's good."

For skiers who want more options, new this year is the Highlands pass. It offers unlimited skiing and snowboarding at both resorts, giving skiers and snowboarders access to 64 slopes and trails

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times