Escape from Paradise with Ingrid Lemme-Chalut

Seven Springs Mountain Resort & Fallingwater, PA

While most travelers will probably associate Seven Springs in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands region with winter sport (no surprise as it’s been voted Ski Magazine’s #1 Ski Resort in the Mid-Atlantic region) let us assure you that these picturesque mountains offer many more interesting as well as fun year-round attractions to travelers throughout the year. The area is a cultural and historical smorgasbord with sites going back to the French & Indian War, a dozen beautiful, covered bridges and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater practically in the neighborhood. The Seven Springs Mountain Resort is the perfect base to experience all of these, but reserve some time for a few others. My husband came for the golf and I for a facial, zip-lining and a romantic dinner at Helen’s. We did it all, and more, and still managed to leave as friends!

Our check-in turned out to be a surprise! WE HAD NO RESERVATIONS, at least not for the day of our arrival, but two days later. Yup, it turned out that our room reservation, the facial, zip-lining and dinner reservations and my husband’s tee-time had indeed been confirmed by email — but I’d mixed up the dates and so here we were at the busy front desk two days earlier than anticipated! Has that ever happened to anyone of you? I must say it was more than slightly embarrassing. However, the way the ladies at the front desk and service desk handled our mishap was extraordinary; a few assuring smiles and phone calls later we were not only able to check into our accommodations but had all our appointments re-scheduled, like this was an everyday occurrence!

My husband actually tee’d off on time and called me shortly before I left the room for the spa to rave about the magnificent views at Seven Springs’ mountain top golf course. Lucky me; he wasn’t a happy camper when we’d arrived at the resort on the wrong date which could have possibly jeopardized his highly anticipated golf game. Seven Springs features a spectacular 18-hole golf course that sits majestically atop the Laurel Mountains, offering breathtaking views of the countryside!

After hearing about how beautiful the golf course was I took the elevator down to the 2nd floor and followed the path to the Trillium Spa behind the curved hotel building. The spa had been named after the Trillium flower, a species native to temperate regions of North America and Asia, with the greatest diversity of species found in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the southeastern US. My first impression as I entered the spa building was: clean, classy and serene and that feeling accompanied me from the locker-room to the relaxation room into the facial room. Even after my check-in faux pas I still had the time to relax with a nice cup of tea and read a little bit about one of the original founders of Seven Springs, Herman Dupre, who passed away last year at age 87. Seven Springs was opened to the public in 1937 by Mr. Dupre’s parents. Herman Dupre built a double-chair lift for the resort and is credited with building the first snowmaking system in 1960. My deep cleansing facial with Aaron was just what I’d hoped for; exfoliation and rejuvenation to the max. Btw, the steam-room at Trillium is one of the most powerful instant steam facilities I’ve experienced since the good old Gurney’s Sea Water Spa days in Montauk.

My husband returned from the golf course with a big smile on his face just in time for a quick shower and dinner. He said that what impressed him most was the superb condition of the golf course: “from the Greens to the Tees —very well maintained”. I was forgiven! Slopeside Restaurant grants beautiful views of Seven Springs’ slope side, and dining in a casual, relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere while enjoying the mountain views in addition to creative menus that feature a broad variety for all palates. Our waitress, Sydney Ehrhardt, a charming young lady, born and bred in these beautiful highlands, did a terrific job keeping us well fed and entertained. I tried the Chef’s famous Mountain Chili and my husband the chicken over quinoa special, both delicious and nicely presented.

Waking up early and looking at these beautiful green mountain slopes inspired us to imagine what it might look like here in the winter. We’d learned that Seven Springs has 14 slopes for downhill skiing and 17 groomed trails for cross-country skiing. The widest range of terrain and lifts in the state of Pennsylvania are found here, along with 275 acres that are available for skiing, snow tubing, sledding, snowboarding and wintertime fun. The hotel, or Main Lodge, where we stayed was close to all the action, restaurants and lounges and we were happy with the layout of our balcony suite on the 5th floor and the views of the mountains from our king size bed. Btw, the fabulous bedding and sheets made for a magnificently restful sleep!

The doors to a bodacious breakfast buffet at Slopeside opened already at 7am allowing us to kick off the day with made-to-order omelettes and all the other breakfast staples. We enjoyed the stunning views from our table and meeting our new friends, “Turkey” Staub and his charming wife Ann. John ‘Turkey’ Staub is the director of operations of ‘Run for the Wall’. “We ride for those who can’t”- the largest and longest cross-country motorcycle run in the world since 1989.

After a scrumptious breakfast we were good and ready for a day of fun, starting with a high-adrenaline adventure at the Adventure Center, located in the lower level of the Ski Lodge. At the Screaming Hawk Zipline Adventure desk we completed our registration, met our guides Cody and Olivia, listened to the orientation, got geared up and drove with our group of 8 up the mountain to the course. When we arrived, I tried to let those teetering towers not intimidate me too much. The course began with the Spider Web Cargo net that we had to climb up in order to conquer nearly 2,000 feet over four zips, a sky bridge and an auto belay. All hyped up from an incredible adrenaline rush we didn’t even take a break and walked right over to the Alpine Slide. To be honest, we got a little rest during the scenic chairlift ride up the slopes preceding the excitement that set in the moment when we placed our sleds onto the tracks of the Alpine Slide. Once aboard we sped 1,980 feet downhill on a two-wheeled sled equipped with a handle-brake for speed control. It was exhilarating and so much fun but we decided at this point to skip climbing up the 50-foot Alpine Tower and get some lunch instead.

Though there are several restaurants and bars at the resort serving whatever your tastebuds might desire we decided to go for a sandwich from the Highlands Market. On our way up to the resort we’d spotted a boutique style country market offering lunch specials, fresh meats, cheeses, breads, as well as anything one might need for an extended stay at one of the cottages at the resort. Our house-made chicken salad sandwiches on toasted sourdough bread were the bomb – juicy, chunky, and so delicious!
Seven Springs is only a short drive away from many great attractions in the Laurel Highlands Region of Pennsylvania. We briefly visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Ohiopyle State Park and The Flight 93 Memorial and wished we had more time! The adored National Historic Landmark, Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, was built between 1936 and 1939 and perfectly positioned over a beautiful 30-foot waterfall. It is a must-see for any visitor to the Laurel Highlands. Fallingwater was the weekend home of the Kaufmann family from 1937 until 1963, when Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. presented the house, its contents, and grounds to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Fallingwater is the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright house with its setting, original furnishings, and artwork intact. Reservations are essential before visiting.

We had decided to finish our exciting and inspiring day with a special dinner at Helen’s, Seven Springs Mountain Resort’s flagship eatery. Helen’s is located in the original, historic homestead of Seven Springs Mountain Resort, and as we entered the beautiful building we were kindly greeted by the restaurant manager who’d patiently put up with my reservation disaster. The whole dining experience at Helen’s was exactly what I expected, fine dining with attention to details, gracious service and exceptional cuisine. Take it from a seasoned traveler, Helen’s is a true destination restaurant.

Until next month from another interesting location.

~ Love, Ingrid

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