To Ski or to Cross Country Ski

Hidden Valley, PA:  A Skiers’ Paradise

Hidden Valley, PA offers many wonderful opportunities for winter outdoor recreation because of its proximity to both downhill and cross country skiing areas.  

Many consider the well maintained downhill slopes of Hidden Valley Resort, Seven Springs Resort, and Laurel Mountain Ski Area to be centerpiece of winter's fun.  Downhill skiers have easy access to these three plus other nearby Pennsylvania ski destinations.  Details include:

1. Hidden Valley Resort – Family friendly! Hidden Valley Resort is an ideal winter destination for families. With 31 slopes and trails and three terrain parks on 110 skiable acres, a vertical drop of 470 feet, and a first-class snow sports school, Hidden Valley offers a comfortable environment to learn to ski or snowboard.  Nine ski lifts.

2. Seven Springs Resort - Pennsylvania’s largest ski and snowboard resort, Seven Springs presents 33 slopes and trails and seven terrain parks on 285 skiable acres. Ten ski lifts.

3. Laurel Mountain –Laurel Mountain boasts the highest vertical drop on the Laurel Ridge in Pennsylvania at 761 feet, and is famous for its double black diamond Lower Wildcat Slope, the steepest in the state that averages near 60% slope.  Laurel Mountain has 20 slopes and trails including the famous Wildcat Slope, a new quad chairlift, and over 70 acres of quality ski trains and slopes.  

4. Blue Knob – Claysburg (Blair County), PA -  Blue Knob offers 100 skiable acres, and 34 runs serviced by five lifts. With a vertical of 1,072 feet, Blue Knob has the highest skiable mountain in Pennsylvania.

5. Whitetail Resort – Mercersburg, PA - Whitetail offers skiing and snowboarding on 19 trails. The mountain boasts a 935-foot vertical drop, 6 lifts, a halfpipe and two terrain parks. 

Perhaps less familiar are the many Cross Country (XC) Ski areas and resources surrounding Hidden Valley.  People often ask three questions related to XC skiing: (1) how can we learn to XC ski?  (2) what equipment do we need? and (3) where can we XC ski?   

XC skiing is really very straightforward. One lesson is all you will likely need to get a good grasp of the basics.  There are two resources in the area that teach.  One is through Pennsylvania Cross Country Ski Association (PACCSA) at the concession at the Laurel Ridge XC Ski Center on Route 653.  A couple of times throughout the season they will provide group lessons.  They normally post these events on their Facebook page.  (    Venture Outdoors™ is another wonderful resource for learning to XC ski. Every winter they offer a variety of XC classes in the Laurel Highlands for adults, women & children.  (

For the beginner, it is probably best to rent your equipment for your first season.  The two places closest to Hidden Valley to rent are Thrifty's on Route 31 near Donegal, PA or the concession at Laurel Ridge XC Ski Center. You will need waxless skis, boots and poles.

Always dress in layers.  You want a wicking base layer, a middle layer that provides warmth such as a fleece jersey and a vest, and a waterproof shell to keep you dry & wind protected.  Polypropylene long underwear with hiking pants or fleece lined running tights are good for your legs.  It helps to have pair of waterproof rain pants on top to protect from wind and precipitation.  No jeans!  You will want 2 pairs of socks; a liner sock to prevent blisters with a heavier wool sock that provides warmth.  No cotton!  Gloves and hats should all be of materials that provide warmth and wicking.

XC skiing is a high-energy sport so always bring water and high-energy snacks with you. Sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm are nice to have.  If you will be out for a long time, it's wise to carry a day pack with some dry clothes, especially spare socks and gloves, just in case.

Now the fun part: where to go!

There are many places to XC ski around Hidden Valley, depending on your level of ability. For beginners, the two best places are Kooser State Park and Laurel Ridge XC Ski Center.  Both have groomed trails.  Kooser has a nice flat 3-mile loop around the lake. Laurel Ridge has a beginner’s trail that is gentler and shorter than some of the more advanced trails.

The trails in Forbes State Forest are ungroomed trails and are of various levels of difficulty.  XC ski trails are marked with a red blaze.  Many people like to start with Lookout Trail from Gardner Road at Hidden Valley.  There are a number of parking lots along Fire Tower Road that give you access to the XC ski trails in the Roaring Run area of Forbes State Forest (

On the north side of Route 31 you’ll find the North Woods trails. These are most easily accessed by the parking lots along Tunnel Road.  You can ski down to a warming hut via Schaffer Run Trail.  (  These trails are steeper and give you a great backwoods experience.

Laurel Ridge XC Ski Center has groomed trails for all levels of skiers and one trail that is ungroomed for advanced skiers.  They have two warming huts and a ski rental concession.  They also have hot food available to purchase. There is a fee for this area.

Last, but not least, is the Laurel Mountain XC ski area.  Trails are groomed & they have a warming hut with snacks and food to purchase.

One cannot write about XC Skiing without including one wonderful resource for the entire Tri-State area: Pennsylvania Cross Country Ski Association (PACCSA:  They provide all the links you might need: from Webcams, to directions, and contact information, to where to purchase equipment.  If you save one link, save this link!

That's it.....

Winter is coming! Happy Skiing!


What do you think?

Send us feedback!

Connect With Us

1900 South Ridge Drive, PO Box 4180

Hidden Valley, PA 15502

  • dummy+1 (814) 443 3001

  • dummy+1 (814) 443 3736

  • dummy



Hidden Valley

Humidity: 92%
Wind: E at 18 mph
Mostly cloudy
27°F / 38°F
Partly cloudy
25°F / 30°F
Partly cloudy
25°F / 44°F
32°F / 41°F
38°F / 46°F
31°F / 38°F
Mostly cloudy
29°F / 31°F