Private ski areas in New York’s Catskill Mountains are not sitting quietly as neighboring Belleayre Mountain is approved for $74 million in state money for capital improvements over five years.
Windham Mountain wasted no time sending out a dissenting press release. “Windham Mountain is concerned that the proposed expansion will take business away from the remaining three private resorts,” it read.
The Kingston Daily Freeman newspaper disagreed in an editorial. In part, the publication wrote, “We reject the idea that any increase in skiing in the Catskills can only come at the expense of other skiing in the Catskills.”
Greene County, home of Windham Mountain and Hunter Mountain, is officially opposed to the expansion.
“We have four great ski areas in the Catskills (including smaller, privately-run Plattekill),” Windham President and General Manager Chip Seamans told SnoCountry.com. “But it’s tough to compete with someone who gets free money and no taxes. We want them (Belleayre) to succeed, but not at the expense of us. I am not aware of any resort that can invest that kind of money.”
Seamans had previously noted in the news release: “We love competition, but only on a level playing field. We don’t see spending taxpayer money on an expansion with a questionable return on investment as a level playing field.”
The issue has been an underlying theme in the public-private ski area debate over the past decade or longer. What irks the private resorts is how private centers must either turn a profit or borrow money to execute improvements, while taxpayer money is turned over by the N.Y. State Legislature to ski resorts such as Belleayre, Whiteface, and Gore for upgrades.
Hunter Mt. Agrees
“Talk about spending $74 million of taxpayer money when other aspects of the community are hurting, doesn’t make sense,” Hunter Mountain President Russ Coloton told SnoCountry.com. “Belleayre is projecting another 120,000 visitors (after the improvements). I question those numbers. But if they achieve it, it will take 62 years to repay that investment. If we took that to our banks, they would laugh at us.”
The Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) managers of all three state ski areas, offered no comment at this time on the Windham Mountain press release when contacted by SnoCountry.com. ORDA is mandated by the state to develop unit management plans every five years to keep their venues evolving. SnoCountry.com also reached out to Plattekill owner Laszlo Vajtay for comment, but he was unavailable.
Locals Welcome ORDA Investment
The Town of Shandaken, where Belleayre resides, has welcomed ORDA and the expansion that the area feels will make the mountain a true economic engine. Plans call for over five miles of additional trails, more chairlifts, lodge space, parking facilities and an outdoor concert venue holding nearly 3,000 patrons.
When finished, the ski and ride capacity would potentially see some 9,000 visitors daily, or double the current maximum.
“They’ve done no research on this,” said Hunter’s Coloton. “Their premise is if they build it, people will come. But where are they coming from? We think they’ll come from the three of us.”
Top Photo: Belleayre Mt. (Facebook); Right: Windham Resort; Bottom left: Hunter Mountatin