Monday, October 15, 2007

own a piece of Laurel Mountain, PA

Laurel Mountain could end up like Mad River Glen, owned by people like us. There's a chance that a co-op could buy the closed-for-3-seasons ski area and run the lifts again. This ski area is right next to the Laurel Mountain State Park Cross Country Ski Area. Check the map, you'll see the old downhill area at the top, a real easy ski over from the first trailhead parking lot. I skied here last winter and saw the potential. It's a lot like White Grass with x-c trails and downhill runs together. It's in the same snow belt as Canaan Valley, and usually gets similar snow.

I would definitely like to see this area open up again as a co-op and would love to buy a share. Or maybe even better is have it remain "as is", and accessible from the Park's x-c trails only. I always like the idea of adding real estate to the State Park system, especially, since those x-c trails are some fine mountain bike trails too. Either way, I'm sending in some thoughts. Check out the article pasted below from a Pittsburgh paper and the contact info below that.
article link

n Vermont, the Mad River Glen ski resort is proof of what a nonprofit, cooperative-owned entity can do with desire and hard work.

"Twelve years ago, the skiing industry was rapidly consolidating and becoming increasingly commercial-based, and we kind of flew in the face of that," said Eric Friedman, longtime marketing director of the Mad River Glen Cooperative, formed in 1995. "Today, we're the only cooperatively owned, not-for-profit ski area in the country."

The group -- which in 1998 fulfilled its purchase agreement by selling its 1,667th share and has grown since -- has local admirers.

Ligonier Mayor Ormand "Butch" Bellas, Butler County's Rob Davis and others want to form a similar group to buy and operate Laurel Mountain ski resort, which will remain closed for a third consecutive winter season for lack of an operator.

"We're looking at Mad River Glen as an example of what we're pursuing right now," said Davis, an avid skier who recently requested pre-approval to form a nonprofit, cooperative aimed at purchasing the resort -- located in Laurel Mountain State Park -- from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the R.K. Mellon Foundation.

"Right now, we're just a handful of enthusiastic people with an idea," Davis said.

Key to making that idea a reality is the prospective co-op's intent to maintain a strictly winter operation at the 64-acre, 18-slope site, Davis said.

Since Laurel Mountain is located in a state park, it is forbidden from operating outside the skiing season, which hampers marketing efforts, Bellas said.

"The state is really intent on honoring the agreement with R.K. Mellon in the 1960s to have no overnight lodging and no summer programs there," Davis said. "We'd be willing to keep that going."

Since Somerset Trust Company took control of the area in 2004 from Laurel Mountain Ski Co., company representatives said they have talked with up to 10 parties nationwide interested in buying the resort.

"We are actively marketing the property," said Thomas J. Cook, Somerset Trust executive vice president, who declined to comment further.

But Bellas, a ski patrol member who has worked on Laurel Mountain, said the operational restrictions and the recent string of mild winters have driven away many of those parties.

"It's a big investment, so I can understand with winters why people have been scared off," Bellas said. "Somebody's got to be really committed and have really deep pockets to take it on."

But by attracting members to a cooperative like Mad River Glen to purchase the resort one $1,500 share at a time, Davis said anything is possible.

"We would need people with business and legal skills to form a board of directors to help shepherd us through this process," Davis said.

Representatives of R.K. Mellon Foundation and Laurel Mountain State Park were unavailable for comment.

Contacts (from here)
State Parks/PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources should be sent to Doug Finger at:

The Westmoreland County commissioners should also be contacted. They are:
Tom Balya,
Thomas C. Ceraso,
Phil Light,

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