Side-country skiing is taking skiers off the beaten path, and most major manufacturers are selling the lighter skiers to meet the demand, said Patrick Ross, shop manager at Ski Den Sports, 1231 Scalp Ave. in Richland Township.
"It's going back to the roots of skiing," Ross said.
Side-country skiing usually is done on the outer fringes of resorts, away from lifts and crowds. Ross said skiers hike up the mountain to get the thrill of skiing between trees on ungroomed surfaces.
Neither Seven Springs no Hidden Valley resorts in Somerset County offers side-country skiing, which Ross said can be done at Timberline Resort near Elkins, West Virginia.
"This is growing by leaps and bounds," he said.
Another change in the industry, he said, is a movement away from snowboarding toward skiing.
"Some say they're tired of snowboarding and want to get into freestyle skiing," he said. "Others say the tricks just look cooler on skis.
"There's a definite shift happening. Fifteen or 20 years ago, it was just the opposite."
It's been an off-season of upgrades at Seven Springs and Hidden Valley resorts in Somerset County.
Seven Springs recently was selected by readers of TransWorld SNOWBoarding and SKI magazine as having the top terrain parks and pipes on the East Coast.
“Being selected for the fourth consecutive year as the No. 1 terrain park and pipes on the East Coast is quite an honor,” Joel Rerko, director of action sports at Seven Springs, said in a statement. “We are demonstrating our commitment to winter sports.”
The resort is creating the new Riglet Park in partnership with Burton Snowboards. The introductory park, designed for children ages 4 to 7, will feature full- and half-day group lessons with certified instructors.
The Riglet Park’s overall design will have the look and feel of a baseball field.
Inside the park will be a diverse selection of features like a cone zone, where the kids will learn to weave in and out while being towed by their coaches; a giant-sized first base; oversized baseball bats for jibs; a dugout for an on-snow chill-out zone; a T-ball area for kids to hit snowballs off the tee; and a home plate fort.
“The addition of the Riglet Park is another example of our dedication to the growth of winter sports,” said Iwan Fuchs, Seven Springs' Snowsports School director. “By participating in this program, the kids will have a chance to test their balance and try out some new skills in a specially designed park.”
The Olympic-size Superpipe, located in the resort’s flagship terrain park The Spot, will make a return for a second consecutive year. The halfpipe will feature 22-foot walls and will be a prime location for snowboarding and skiing events, as well as a remarkable experience for guests to the resort.
Other improvements include new snowmaking and grooming equipment and sprucing up the mountain.
At Hidden Valley, Voyager Trail has been widened to double its original width and snowmaking and lights have been added to provide an easier way down the North Summit slopes.
Snowmaking has been added on Charger trail that will create additional reliable advanced skiing terrain; new seat pads on the Avalanche quad chairlift have been installed; and Tracker Tow has been improved to adjust the height for easier use.
Many of the resort's Four Seasons rooms and suites have new furniture, and the lodge has received a fresh coat of paint with new flooring and carpeting in many areas.