CHAMPION, Pa. — A dull but pleasant throb resonated through my right shoulder as I attempted to master fly fishing’s most basic cast, the back cast. Wheeling native Chris Woods patiently guided me through the process, offering tips and correcting my often erratic movements.
I slowly but surely gained confidence in my casting abilities, soaking in the fishing lesson and also the serenity of Lake Gosling, located at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Champion, Pa.
What made the whole scenario even more interesting was that just an hour earlier, I had been involved in a totally different sort of serenity: blasting bright orange sporting clays with a double-barrel Beretta 12-gauge shotgun at Seven Springs’ new Sporting Clays complex. Yelling “pull” more than 100 times and then firing 200 rounds at the elusive bright clays is what led to the shoulder throb.
Wheeling native Chris Woods, the
outdoor recreation manager at Seven Springs, displays the proper
technique for the back cast during a fly fishing lesson at the resort.
It didn’t take long for the back cast’s repetitive movements to loosen my shoulder as I worked for about 15 minutes on getting my casts to land on target. Then it came time to actually start fishing for the numerous species of trout located in Lake Gosling’s catch-and-release waters — brown, golden, brooke, tiger and rainbow.
My hopes were high as Woods, the outdoor recreation manager at Seven Springs, pointed out several large trout about 20 feet away in the lake. With that, I began working my fly toward the designated spot, showing off my new casting skills.
“The cold water from the snow melt and the large number of springs on the property that flow into the lakes makes for great trout fishing,” Woods said. “When they’re biting, you have a really good chance of landing a trophy fish.”
The fish weren’t biting that morning, much to my chagrin, but the setting, the company and, most importantly, the lesson I learned about fly fishing and patience more than made up for it.
Fact BoxTo Go: From Wheeling, take Interstate 70 east to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Take the turnpike east to exit 91 toward Pa. 711. Follow the signs to Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Estimated travel time is about two hours for the 100-mile trip.
Fly fishing, sporting clays, downhill mountain biking and much more are helping transform Seven Springs Mountain Resort, which annually is voted as the Mid-Atlantic region’s top winter destination, into a full-fledged four-season resort. Seven Springs is located less than two hours from Wheeling, just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Officials at Seven Springs are taking a “focus on the family” approach this year by adding activities for all ages and creating an atmosphere of fun and excitement in the hopes of bringing families back for multiple visits, said resort Adventure Programs manager Jamie Forys.
Another new feature for this year is that the resort’s summer activities, which began this weekend, also are centered just outside the hotel itself, which allows visitors to experience everything Seven Springs has to offer in one convenient area, she said.
“Last year we brought in the portable rock climbing wall and Eurobungy as new attractions, and they really created a buzz,” Forys said, noting they complement the resort’s most popular summer attraction, the Alpine Slide. “We also added downhill mountain biking late last year, and we are really looking for that to be a big hit this year.
“We also are looking at some new activities for the summer and fall. Also, by centering all of our activities by the sand volleyball courts (outside the hotel), this allows our guests to do more by going from one activity to the next.”
One of the new activities for this summer is sporting clays. While it’s not a sport that’s traditionally thought of as being family oriented, Seven Springs Sporting Clays Director Michael Mohr believes it is a perfect way for families to bond.
“It would be great for mom, dad and the kids to come up here and learn to shoot,” Mohr said, noting all the resort’s instructors are certified through the National Sporting Clays Association. “Attractions such as this help make the resort family oriented throughout the year.”
A new 7,000-square-foot Sporting Clays lodge is under construction, and Mohr expects the facility to be fully operational by October. Several shooting courses currently are operational, with more opening throughout the summer, he said.
I was fairly pleased with my shooting performance during my time with Mohr, hitting at about a 65 percent to 70 percent clip. It made for a great way to start my day of outdoor adventure.
As I was busy shooting sporting clays and then trout fishing, my wife Kristen and our two children, Melina and Isaac, were busy in the pool. Isaac was mastering the breast stroke through the guidance of one of Seven Springs’ swimming instructors while his sister, Melina, practiced her strokes in the pool’s deep end.
After the swim and my return from the outdoors, I found myself locked in a game of bowling with my two children as Kristen enjoyed a soothing massage at Champion Massage, which is located in the hotel. That was followed by the day’s final activity, a horseback ride.
J&H Riding Stables, located about a five-minute walk from the hotel, offers one- and two-hour horseback rides for all experience levels. The stable also offers pony rides for the little ones, along with a 45-minute tour of the facility that allows mom and dad to enjoy their ride.
Stable owner Jerry Yeager placed me on Fred, a 20-year-old horse that he said “is great for beginners,” while Kristen got to ride Fancy, a 4-year-old. Fred was an easy ride but Fancy turned out to be quite the handful, spending most of her time stopping along the trail to eat.
The kids enjoyed the horses and the billy goat that led them into the end of the day.
That was all we had time to take part in, but Seven Springs offers much more in the summertime.
All the fishing holes at Seven Springs are privately owned, which means you don’t have to get a Pennsylvania fishing license. Instead, you buy either a day permit or a season pass. The day pass is $15 for most lakes while the fee for special regulation areas for fly fishing only is $65 per day.
Woods said the resort’s fishing guides are Orvis endorsed, and there’s even an Orvis store in the hotel that sells fly fishing tackle and equipment. The guides offer several different fly fishing packages for those looking for instruction.
Lessons from basic shooting to top instruction are offered at Seven Springs’ Sporting Clays complex. There also are a number of different packages available, from 100 targets to 25. Equipment also can be rented at the lodge.
The lift-accessed gravity mountain bike trail is the first step in the development of a full bike park at Seven Springs, Woods said. The downhill trail is nearly a mile in length, switching back several times. The trail features elements including bermed or banked turns, rolling and tabletop jumps accented by challenging natural terrain. Riders of all abilities will enjoy the intermediate gravity trail, while advanced downhillers will appreciate its features and flow.
Mountain bikes are available for rent at the resort.
A ride on the chairlift masks the pending excitement you’ll feel as you place your sled onto one of the double tracks at the top of the Alpine Slide. Once aboard this twisting and turning track built directly into the side of the ski slope, you’ll zoom down 1,980 feet of downhill thrills on a four-wheeled sled equipped with a handlebrake for speed control.
The beauty of the Laurel Highlands is on full display at Seven Springs’ challenging 18-hole championship golf course. The course flows seamlessly through the mountain terrain, making for an unforgettable round of golf. Colorful landscaping and lush fairways greet each player and provide beautiful playing conditions in spring, summer and fall with breathtaking views that allow you to see seven counties and three states.
Disc golf, in which the player tosses a Frisbee into a net, shares the same joys and frustrations of traditional golf — fresh air in a beautiful setting, the camaraderie of friends and the challenge of sinking a long putt or hitting a tree halfway down the fairway. It’s a family friendly activity that can be enjoyed by all.
Perfect for team building exercises, the 50-foot-tall Alpine Tower will challenge your ingenuity and agility. Many friends, families and individuals have made this challenging and memorable experience a “must do” during their stay.
Ever thought about trying the challenges of rock climbing, but just didn’t know where or how to start? Look no further, as the 24-foot vertical rock wall allows participants to experience the thrill of climbing in a controlled environment.
Bounce, flip and leap to fun on this bungee cord and trampoline hybrid. All the rage in Europe, this activity allows you to test gravity’s hold and reach new heights.
Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned veteran, individual or a group, a round of paintball will provide fantastic fun while giving you the ultimate test in skill, courage and cunning. Seven Springs offers semi-automatic paintball markers, protective gear and paintballs.
Another feature for this year is the twice-weekly, family-style barbecue, Forys said, which will be held at the ski lodge area next to all the activities. The barbecue is from noon until 2 p.m. Monday and Thursday.
Also, after 3 p.m. each day families can make homemade ice cream, she added, using the new play and freeze ice cream balls that have become popular.
“Our whole goal is to let our winter guests know that there’s plenty to do at Seven Springs in the summer also,” Forys said. “We have concerts, comedy shows, daily volleyball tournaments and other activities that make the resort appeal to all ages. Our focus over the past two years has really been on making this a family resort for all seasons.”
Seven Springs also has a number of concerts and other special events throughout the summer. For more information on all the resort’s offerings, visit www.7springs.com.