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Seven Springs Mountain Resort is located in a natural snow bowl in the heart of Pennsylvania's Laurel Mountains, about an hour southeast of Pittsburgh. It is without question one of the most naturally beautiful areas in the state.

And the owners of Seven Springs have struggled to ensure that the beauty remains. Original structures are still in use, and additions are built with wood and stone from the land with the same care that the original founder used. You'll notice that for the most part, development blends in with the rugged decor of nature.

Seven Springs was a dream of Adolph and Helen Dupre, two German immigrants who started out with 2 1/2 acres of land and a rope tow powered by a Packard automobile engine. It was one of the country's first mechanical rope tows.

After Adolph died in 1955, Mrs. Dupre and the children expanded the ski area, installing Poma lifts, a double chair and snow-making equipment.

Today, Seven Springs has grown to a complete four-season resort, with lodging for 5,000 and a staff of 1,300 during peak ski season. The massive base area includes a 10-story hotel attached to a conference center, a sports complex and a shopping arcade.

Almost 600 condominium and town house units are scattered around the 4,000 acre complex, and the resort's lift network can transport more than 20,000 skiers an hour.

Every night at Seven Springs, as long as conditions permit, the snow-making system is in operation. The snow flies at the rate of 18,000 gallons of water per minute over 400 acres of ski slopes.

Two years ago, lights were added to the North Face ski slope for night skiing, and a parking area was added to accommodate 400 more cars. The resort offers 11 chair lifts and four rope tows serving 16 slopes with a wide variety of runs. Giant Steps and Gunnar offer the highest vertical drop, 970 feet.

Rental equipment and learn-to-ski programs are available -- even a Tiny Tot Ski School for children ages 3 to 6 that includes equipment, lunch and lessons on the slopes. Both group and private lessons are available. Prices range from $15 to $45 depending on services needed and time allotted.

If you're not a skier, you still can enjoy Seven Springs. The sports complex has racquetball courts, weight rooms, a Jacuzzi and sauna, as well as bowling lanes, a huge game room, an indoor roller skating rink and a large, glassed-in pool. And don't forget that shopping arcade.

When you're hungry, there are several restaurants, each at a different price level. You'll also find a lounge on top of North Face. You can pick up a schedule of entertainment at the customer service desk.

In summer, guests can use the 18-hole golf course and tennis courts. In the fall, Seven Springs celebrates Autumnfest Sundays with harvest-time festivities that include an outdoor buffet with open-pit cooking, a craft show, music and dancing.

In the winter, folks mostly come to ski. Seven Springs is open daily from early morning until 11 p.m., with night skiing from 4:30 to 11 p.m. You might want to ask about weekend specials or group rates for 30 or more. Call (814) 352-7777, or write Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Champion, Pa. 15622.

For snow conditions, call (800) 458-2313.

Seven Springs is located near Champion, Pa., about an hour's drive southeast of Pittsburgh off Exit 9 or 10 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

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