Owner of Pirates, Seven Springs acquires Hidden Valley
By Thomas Olson and Sam Spatter
Published: Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 1:03 p.m.
Hidden Valley Resort, long-rumored to be on the block, is getting a new owner experienced in the ski resort business and one who is no stranger to Pittsburgh residents.
The Nuttings of West Virginia agreed Tuesday to acquire the Somerset County resort from The Buncher Co. and add it to their holdings, which include the Pittsburgh Pirates, Seven Springs Mountain resort and a publishing company. The purchase price was not disclosed.
Hidden Valley and Seven Springs, which The Nutting Co. bought in July 2006, are about 13 miles apart in the Laurel Highlands in Somerset County. The deal with The Buncher Co. is supposed to close at the end of September.
“Clearly, this fits very nicely with Seven Springs, and I believe over time we'll find opportunities to market the two resorts to bring more people into the Laurel Highlands,” said Robert “Bob” Nutting, chairman of Seven Springs and the Pirates, in a telephone interview.
The 1,200-acre Hidden Valley Resort includes 29 ski slopes and trails, as well as an 18-hole golf course and a lodge. The acquisition includes Buncher's 80 units of the 88-unit, Four Seasons Condominium, a four-building complex.
Known for decades as a family vacation spot, Hidden Valley had been “in a state of decline” before Buncher bought it in 2007, said Robert Davis, resort editor for the online publication EpicSki.com in Sarver in Butler County.
Davis said that Buncher made “first-rate improvements” to Hidden Valley's ski facilities and the golf course in particular.
Nutting would not disclose plans for any specific changes at Hidden Valley but said that his company planned to make investments to help attract more business. He pointed to improvements at Seven Springs, including a complete renovation of the resort's hotel and upgrades to the chair lift to increase carrying capacity.
“We intend to invest in and help both resorts grow,” Nutting said. “It's important that they are strong five, 10, 15 years from now.”
The significantly-bigger Seven Springs has 5,500 acres, consisting of 33 slopes and trails, eight terrain parks, the region's largest tubing park, an 18-hole golf course and 60,000 square feet of meeting and convention space.
Both Seven Springs and Hidden Valley depend on business from families and vacationers from Pennsylvania and neighboring states. Nutting said that his company plans to develop a marketing strategy to draw visitors from farther away.
Hidden Valley employs about 35 regular staffers during the offseason and hundreds more during peak ski season. As to their status after the deal is completed, Nutting said, “our goal is to continue growth.”
Buncher purchased Hidden Valley from the Kettler family for $12.4 million, according to deeds filed in Somerset County. Buncher president Thomas Balestrieri declined to say whether the company will make a profit from the sale.
Balestrieri said Buncher decided to sell the resort primarily to refocus on its “core business” of real estate development in Pittsburgh and the six surrounding counties. The company has been in commercial real estate leasing and development since 1954. The company owns several industrial parks in the region as well as an office complex in the Strip District.
“We have accomplished our objective of improving the resort to the extent it is one of the premier resorts in the region, and the right buyer came at the right time,” Balestrieri said.
The sale of Hidden Valley does not include approximately 850 acres that abuts the golf course in Jefferson Township in Somerset County.
Before the Nuttings began acquiring Pittsburgh names, they made their mark in publishing. The family holdings include about 40 smaller-market newspapers in 11 states, including ones in Altoona and Lewistown.
They also own about 70 telephone directories and several specialty magazines, including Mother Earth News and the Utne Reader.
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