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Snow Sports: Seven Springs' new high-speed, six-person chairlift should get skiers skiing faster

Sunday, December 23, 2001

By Larry Walsh

In retrospect, Seven Springs couldn't have asked for better weather conditions to introduce a small group of visitors to the Coca Cola Polar Bear Express, its new high-speed, six-person chairlift:

Bone-numbing temperatures, winds that whipped tears from the eyes and a blizzard of in-your-face snow from the resort's patented high-tower snowmaking system.

The new six-person chairlift at Seven Springs, dedicated Thursday, waits for its first passengers of the 2001-02 season. Seven Springs' patented snowmaking system, which features 30-foot and 40-foot stationary towers to give the new snow crystals longer hang time, allowed the Somerset County resort to officially begin the season yesterday. (V.W.H. Campbell, Jr. Post-Gazette)

Although the one-half-mile ride to the top of the North Face area and the return seemed to take forever, the trip on the comfortable black-padded chair with wide footrests actually was over in a few minutes.

And the faster a lift gets its passengers to the top, the better they like it, especially when weather conditions are less than ideal.

Thank you, Garaventa CTEC, the Salt Lake City, Utah, manufacturer of the lift.

And thank you, Seven Springs, for responding to guests who asked you to do something to alleviate the long lines of skiers and snowboarders waiting to reach the North Face area. The new lift cost $1.7 million and another $300,000 to install.

The "six-pack" lift, as it is known in the ski industry, takes less than three minutes to reach the top. It replaces a quad chair that took as long as 12 minutes to get there. The quad chair was moved to the North Face area to provide better access to Lost Boy, Little North Face and adjacent terrain.

Scott Bender, president and chief operations officer of Seven Springs, said guests will notice "a significant reduction in lift lines" because of the six-pack.

Yes, they will.

They'll also notice how easy it is to get on and off the lift.

Although it is a high-speed lift, it also is a detachable lift.

That means the chair slows down dramatically at the bottom and top to make loading and unloading a lot easier, especially for beginners.

It also made it easier Thursday morning for a group of print and broadcast reporters and photographers, joined by Coca Cola executives Roger Maher and Ron Theiss, to get on and off.

Theiss said Coca Cola bought the naming rights for the lift for five years for an amount of money he declined to disclose. He said it is the first chairlift the company has sponsored in this region, an area that includes Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.

The Polar Bear Express was officially dedicated when Bender broke a magnum bottle of Coca Cola Classic on a large steel column at the base of the lift.

Because Coca Cola doesn't yet sell its products in magnum containers, the bottle, which once contained champagne, wore a label carefully lifted from a double-liter plastic bottle of Coke.

The six-pack can carry up to 3,600 skiers and snowboarders per hour, but will probably transport fewer than that to give riders a little more time to get on and off. The lift is part of a $230 million five-year master plan, the largest capital investment program in the 69-year-history of Seven Springs.

"The days of rope tows and Poma lifts are long gone," said Hank Parke, executive director of the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce. His parents, the late George and Helen Parke, founded Hidden Valley Resort and started offering skiing there for the 1959-60 season.

"It's great to see Seven Springs take the lead in Pennsylvania with such a state-of-the-art chairlift. Its customers will spend more time skiing and snowboarding instead of waiting in a lift line.

"I can't wait to ride it again with my skis on."

The season has begun

A combination of good snowmaking weather and some natural snow helped Seven Springs open three slopes and trails yesterday for limited skiing and snowboarding. Hidden Valley has two trails open and is set to open Outback Park, its new snowtubing area along Route 31, at noon today.

Snowshoe in east-central West Virginia opened yesterday with seven slopes and trails served by three lifts. Contact: 304-572-1000; http://www.snowshoemtn.com/.

Wisp, near Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland, will open today. Call 301-387-4911; http://www.skiwisp.com/.

For more information on local and regional resorts, call or click on:

Blue Knob: 814-237-5111; 800-458-3403; http://www.blueknob.com/. Boyce Park: 724-733-4656; 724-733-4665 for snow reports; http://www.county.allegheny.pa.us/parks/. Hidden Valley: 814-443-2600; 800-443-7544 for snow reports; http://www.hiddenvalleyresort.com/.

Laurel Mountain: 877-754-5287; 724-238-9860; http://www.skilaurelmountain.com/. Mountain View at Edinboro: 814-734-1641; http://www.skimtview.org/. Mystic Mountain: 800-422-2736; 724-329-8555; http://www.nemacolin.com/. Seven Springs: 800-452-2223; 814-352-7777; 800-523-7777 for snow reports; http://www.7springs.com/. SnoZone Snowboard and Tube Park: 724-348-7399; http://www.snozone.net/.

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