When I think Seven Springs, I think wintertime snow.
But a visit last month to conquer the Screaming Hawk Zipline Course sent all thoughts of cold and snow out of my head.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort is full of spring, summer and fall adventures, as well as great food, a relaxing spa, gift shops, a variety of specialty weekends and beautiful lodging.
"We want Seven Springs to be a place for families to create memories," said Alex Moser, director of marketing at the resort.
"In the last three years, we've completely renovated the 416-room hotel, the Slopeside dining room and Timbers, added the new spa, repurposed eight chalets, built the sporting clays lodge and restaurant, put in the zipline course, added an outdoor pool, added more events and the Segway tours," Moser said.
"We really made it a focus to offer more summer activities that fit our brand. It's also important to keep our employees working. We do care about keeping the region busy. We are the largest employer in the region, employing 1,500 at the height of the ski season," he said.
Since adding the zipline course, which opened at the end of July, the lines have been forming. "It's like giving away gold," Moser said. More than 100 adventurers take to the ziplines each day, he said.
What's the appeal?
"Everyone wants to fly! Why is Superman cool? Why is Spiderman cool?" Moser commented.
Fourteen guides under the management of Scott Rush take zippers under their wings for a ride of their lives. The zipline course will be open weekends through mid- to late October, weather permitting.
A great way for families to make memories is to purchase an all-day activity bracelet, which allows guests to use the Alpine Slide/Scenic Chair Lift, the Alpine Tower, Monkey Motion (a pole and trampoline hybrid), bowling lanes, disc golf, hydro bikes, inflatables, kayaks, miniature golf course, paddleboats, rock wall, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools - all for one price ($39.95 for house guests over the age of 6).
And if that's not enough to keep you busy, there are stables for guided trail rides, horse-drawn wagon rides and private carriage rides, a summer tubing course and downhill mountain biking.
And did I mention shopping? Bring your wallet to Mountain Memories, Ole Man Winter, Sacred Ground, Shoppe at the Springs, Seven Springs Boutique, Seven Springs Outlet and Trademark 7.
Children who are walking age through age 10 can hang out at the Kids' Adventure Day Camp for a half day or a full day, while Mom and Dad play golf on the par 71 course, play racquetball, visit the sporting clays lodge or relax in the hot tubs.
The Trillium Spa is housed in a restored mountain chalet, designed by Greensburg, Pa., architect George Conte, who also designed the sporting clays lodge and redesigned the guest rooms in the lodge.
A calm, quiet oasis, the spa offers massages, manicures, pedicures, facials and hydrotherapy. Spa packages also are available for a total pampering experience.
My masseuse, Molly Guthrie, skillfully smoothed all of the kinks out of my neck and back from a day of ziplining.
A variety of options are available, from casual at Timbers to fine dining at Helen's.
We dined at the Slopeside restaurant. I was hard-pressed to decide between the pea and leek ravioli or the lavender encrusted filet of beef with a saffron demi-glaze. The filet had me at lavender, which sounded quite enticing. It was delicious, and prepared rare as requested. The accompanying green beans were crisp and the lavender flavor spilled over to them, as well.
For just $4 extra, diners can choose the salad and dessert buffet to go with their entrees. What a bargain! The salad buffet was chock full of olives, artichokes, cheeses, vegetables, breads and more. And if you passed up the $4 option, for just $2 you can opt for the delicious array of desserts. It's quite easy to get way more than your money's worth.
The morning breakfast buffet, also served at the Slopeside, was quite healthy if you made the right choices, with big bowls overflowing with watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe and pineapple. Also offered were waffles with cooked apples, oatmeal, sausage, crispy bacon, sausage gravy. You can choose to have a chef whip up an omelet with fresh ingredients. Or you could go the doughnut, muffin and pastry route, too.
Not usually a big fan of buffets, I changed my opinion upon eating at the Slopeside.
Lunch was at the Grille at Sporting Clays. The lush, green view from our deck table overlooked a tranquil pond. And the sandwiches were delicious. My FITASC fish sandwich - named for a type of shotgun sport shooting - was delicious. Broiled cod with sauteed spinach, red onion, garlic, artichokes and tomatoes on a ciabatta roll. And so were the fries - which I shouldn't have eaten after that dessert buffet the night before!
The Sporting Clays:
Robert Walters was our guide for our sporting clays adventure.
It's all about posture, he told us. The correct stance will lead you to shoot correctly. The next lesson: let your gun see what your eyes see. It's that simple.
Sporting clays shooting has become quite popular at Seven Springs, he noted.
"I can put a gun in (your) hand and in an hour and a half have you breaking clays."
"It's amazing the amount of ladies who have taken up this sport," he said.
"It's like a big, outdoor video game."
What sets Seven Springs sporting clays apart from others?
There are two courses, two five-stands and a sub-gauge course. Not to mention the gorgeous scenery at the top of the Laurel Highlands.
"Our staff is full time ... and we have a lot of knowledge," Walters said.
I can vouch for that. My husband Bruce was having issues with his shoulder, but Walters taught him to shoot left-handed, which allowed him to participate in the activity.
And not only are they well-versed, "We are all around nice people," said Walters, who noted his nickname is "Smilin' Bob."
Formerly an insurance salesman, Walters said some days he still has to "pinch himself" - "What did I do right to deserve this job?" he said. A year-round employee, Walters works with snowmobiles in the winter.
The sporting clays lodge is open seven days a week June through late November, with the lower course open throughout the winter, adding to the variety of year-round activities.
"If you come to this resort and you're bored - seriously, then you've locked yourself in your room," Walters said.