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Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
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Reviewed April 9, 2013

In February 2013, my family spent a long winter weekend at Nemacolin Woodlands - our first visit to this very large resort in the Laurel Highlands area of southwest PA. Overall, we had a Jekyll-and-Hyde experience, and would sum it up by saying that Nemacolin is a resort that is a 2- or 3-star for consistency in execution of a variety of 4-star offerings and amenities, all at 5-star prices. There may be few resorts with this breadth of options, but many with far better execution and overall service.

Some examples of this:

- Dining: Nemacolin has a wide variety of dining options, from the casual counter-style Elements Cafe to the high-end Aqueous steakhouse. Most options are fairly pricey – even simple wraps and small side salad for 3 of us at Elements topped $70! Service at Aqueous was stellar, but we had the opposite experience at Apex in the hip, modern setting on the upper floor of the new Sundial Ski Lodge - servers gossiping about each other and diners, mediocre food quality, inconsistent seating rules ... and ultimately, we are pretty certain that 2 out of 3 in our family contracted norovirius after dining there.

Despite Nemacolin's claim of having several well-trained executive chefs, we still wonder whether any big resort like this can avoid the fact that all of the food is ultimately supplied by the mass-produced, big chains, like GFS.

- Downhill Skiing and winter sports: The immediate area does receive more snow than most parts of the rest of the region - as we left, it was snowing hard with 3 new inches, while just 5 miles west on Rt. 40, no new snow had fallen on the nearly bare grass.

Nemacolin offers a wide variety of winter activities, which is great - including downhill / cross-country skiing, tubing and even dog-sledding! But, it seems clear that the resort is spread too thin, and didn't do either of the activities we tried well.

The downhill ski area (aka Mystic Mountain or Sundial) is very small, with a half-dozen runs centered around one quad chair lift. The sole green run, Geronimo, is actually the longest, most consistent and nicest run. All the others basically start relatively flat, then drop off quickly near the bottom of the hill - definitely nothing to write home about.

On one side, we took advantage of their nice Friday afternoon deal - $25 for an 8 hour lift ticket and full ski rental package with new equipment (otherwise, they charge an unreasonable $38 for an adult lift ticket - the same you'd pay at much nicer and larger places). But, on the flip side, the line waiting for the quad lift became so excessively long that we cut our day 2 or 3 runs short to avoid the 20-minute lift line another time. The real problem here - no attendant loading the lift to ensure maximum seating usage of each chair's 4 seats. This is a basic execution error that caused big inconveniences for the skiing guests.

Same for tubing – actually a pretty good deal costing $15 per person for 2 hours. The run was fun, and a nice addition beside the ski hill. But, our two-hour session was way over-booked - approximately 40 people using exactly the same number of available tubes - several of which were leaking and unusable. This again resulted in a long line at the top and bottom of the tubing hill, to catch the rope tow back up. As a result, several groups seem to give up and leave within the first of the two hours - this shortened the lines, but clearly was frustrating to guests.

- Activities: Like any big resort, Nemacolin offers many, many activities. They have a world-class spa, a wide selection of recreation (both summer and winter), shopping, dining, and even a gallery scattered throughout the meandering hallways of the hotel and conference center. This is all great.

But, again, like the skiing experience, it seemed that resources were spread a bit thin to manage and perform all of these services well. One experience we had was the kids program.

As we have many times at other high-end resorts, we spent a chunk of change to enroll our daughter in the Kidz Night Out program, giving ourselves a nice date night. The Nemacolin staff had an exciting agenda of activities planned for the kids that evening, including crafts, dinner, outdoor games, indoor pool swimming, indoor gym, and board games.

However, at pick up, we learned that the kids had actually spent nearly 2 and ½ hours watching movies – which we could have done back in our condo for free! Why? According to the frustrated staff with whom we inquired “the kids just weren’t listening to us tonight” (so they skipped the outdoor games), and “there was another party already scheduled to use the pool at the same time” (so the pool wasn’t available for the kids care program). What? How could this be missed – a major kids care program for 20+ kids, and they couldn’t figure out that the only usable indoor pool was double-booked!?! Again, a very basic execution error.

- Service: Generally, the staff were nice enough. However, on our first morning there, as we explored the vast and sometimes confusing halls of the main hotel buildings, we came to the lobby area to get some resort information. Much to our surprise, there was no concierge available – in middle of the morning on Friday! Another frustration was the telephone reservationists – most of them were quite curt and, in many cases, couldn't find our dining or activity reservations.

- Shuttle Service: Any resort of this sheer size must offer a shuttle service, especially if they claim to be year-round. Nemacolin did do that, and overall, it was nice service operated by friendly staff. But, amazingly, one of the shuttle vans had a door that barely closed and was held together by tape! It was unnerving to have our daughter sit anywhere near it. Also, on one of the trips, we were dragged all over the campus shuttling other guests for what, for us, should have been a short-distance segment. Clearly, also not 5-star level execution on either count.

- Architecture: Again, inconsistency rules the day on the mish-mosh of architecture of the primary buildings at Nemacolin - everything from neo-classic to alpine lodge to zen asian to Frank Lloyd Wright inspired to ultra modern, and so on. It gives the place a very cheap feeling, and you can tell that none of the owners have carried through with a consistent design strategy or approach.

In conclusion, many of the reviews we had read here on Trip Advisor compare Nemacolin to The Greenbrier. This was one of the key things that peeked our interest, as we have visited and enjoyed the hallowed halls of White Sulfur Springs (WV) many times. We can assure you – Nemacolin is no Greenbrier! The level of beauty, service and consistent execution at The Greenbrier, even on its worst day, surpasses what we experienced at Nemacolin. If you’re going to spend 5-star money to visit a big resort in the hills, we would recommend The Greenbrier over Nemacolin every time!

  • Stayed: February 2013, traveled with family
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3  Thank Traveldogg18
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Guest S, Manager at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, responded to this reviewResponded April 12, 2013

Thank you for taking the time to share feedback regarding your February 2013 stay. First, on behalf of the entire staff of Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, I would like to apologize for the challenges you faced during your visit and assure you that the incidents you described do not reflect the level of service that we wish to provide our guests. Each issue detailed in your review, will be addressed with the appropriate departments. Again, please accept my apologies as we obviously fell short in a number of areas during your stay. We very much appreciate your feedback, as it is invaluable in ensuring that the resort and our associates continue to offer each guest an exceptional experience. We do hope that you took the time to fill out our Departure Survey, so that we may gain additional insight into your stay. Thank you again for your review and we hope that you will give Nemacolin Woodlands Resort another opportunity.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 9, 2013

Recently visited Nemacolin for business conference and was suprised how vast and wonderous this place was. Located in the Laurel Highland in Pennsylvania in over 2,000 acres the property was beautiful. I brought my husband and teenage daughters with me and we stayed in the Townhouses located about 1.5 miles from the main lodge area. Free suttle is provided to the main hotel and conference center. The townhouses had two bedrooms and three baths with a full kitchen and laundry facility. Very clean and modern. We enjoyed the view out the back deck of the outdoor animal park. We saw camels, zebras and buffalo. We woke to lions roaring everyday. Do to the busy conference schedule I was unable to use the spa facility but it is on my list of things to do next visit. The family did enjoy the miniature golf course and walking the grounds and retail shops. The prices for many activities they provided are costly for a family of four and limited for teens. Would of like the price of the room to include use of the indoor pool and fitness center however this was an additional cost per person. Planning on attending the business conference next year and enjoying the casino that will be opening this year.

  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled on business
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Thank jclee64
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 9, 2013

This was our third trip to Nemacolin in the past year....and it will not be our last...already booked it again for six months from now. The spa is great! It is the service that is just OVER the top. If you can, book the Club level. I have stayed in hotels with Concierge floors--this is much more than concierge level. Can't say enough!

Room Tip: If you can, stay on Club Level in the Chateau side. Amazing special services.
  • Stayed: April 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank Kim H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 9, 2013

Go to Nemacolin every chance you get. A visit here recharges your inner battery and rejuvenates ones soul. The place is world class and the staff is eager to make your stay perfect in every way. I highly recommend the Falling Rock staff . Come as a guest, depart as friends.
Thank you Nemacolin staff.
Thomas Barr

  • Stayed: April 2013
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Thank Tbarrzoutdoors
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 8, 2013

This was my first time at Nemacolin Resort and I was not disappointed! The grounds are beautiful, the service outstanding, the spa is fabulous! My 3 high school girlfriends decided to do a getaway weekend on St.Patrick's Day weekend. The resort was not busy, and the grounds are great for walking and enjoying the beautiful scenery. Would definitely go back, and may take my kids next time to enjoy zip line, mini golf, and the outdoor animal park. Lots to do, and beautiful to boot!

Room Tip: If you want to splurge and pamper yourself-then stay in the Hotel. The rooms are magnificent!
  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled with friends
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Thank Janet L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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