The Way We Were: Hunter Mountain’s Family Success Story
In the early 1960s, I stopped to get gas in Glenmont, New York, near a construction site which was to be a future Howard Johnson Motel and Restaurant.
There was a tall man, who I assumed to be the construction boss, directing some workers. He stood out from the rest because he wasn’t wearing typical construction overalls and hardhat. Instead he wore a cap, a ski parka, and ankle-high after-ski boots. Could he be a fellow skier?
My curiosity got the best of me, so I wandered over and spoke to him. It turned out he was not only directing this project, but he was also developing a ski area in the Catskills called Hunter Mountain. Since that chance meeting with (the late) Izzy Slutzky, I have written many times about Hunter’s innovative contributions to the ski industry. I still marvel at what Izzy and his brother Orville created.
Many have wondered why Hunter has been so successful when so many other ski resorts have failed. Certainly the Slutzky family hands-on approach has to be cited, along with its legendary snowmaking expertise.
In the initial stages of development, Hunter acquired powerful Ingersoll Rand compressors that had the power to push air and water through its extensive snowmaking system. Today the area has over 1200 snow guns (mostly fixed to towers), and its trails and slopes can be covered within three to four days.
David Slutzky says that includes all 220 acres. “Actually we had the capacity to cover all our trails back in the late 1960s, and we did so as new trails were added.” David also said that Hunter was the first major New York State ski area to have 100 percent snowmaking, and recollects that Hunter was the first to offer top-to-bottom snowmaking anywhere.
Members of the Eastern Ski Writers Association (ESWA) used to attend an annual Hunter Thanksgiving weekend gathering, replete with a fun slalom. ESWA ranks then, as now, were full of talented media personalities such as Stan Benard, Don Metivier, Jay Hanlon, Janet Nelson, Dave Knickerbocker, Craig Altschul, Kenneth Maloney, Al Harvey, Bob Enzel, Roxy Rothafel, Richard Needham, and ski-writer and New York Post movie critic Archer Winsten.
Archer was a regular skier at Hunter, and after his death Hunter held a summit memorial service where his ashes were scattered. Late ESWA member Lloyd Lambert, founder of the 70-Plus Ski Club, stocked the Hunter Ski Museum with vintage skis, accessories, and apparel. The mountain named one of its snowmaking compressors after Abby Rand, one of ESWA’s former members.
Actually, Orville and his brother Izzy Slutzky always made time to sit with visiting press members to explain what they were doing. When he was at the helm, Orville, now ninety-five and residing in a nursing home, was known for arriving each day at 5 a.m. and being the last to leave. That dedication and a personal touch have always been present at this family-owned and operated resort. Today Hunter is still family owned.
Another facet to Hunter’s success is that it has been family owned and operated since day one, starting with Orville and Izzy and now their children.
Hunter’s Marketing and Communication Manager Trista Chiarulli explained the current Slutzky structure of involvement and management at the popular Catskill mountain resort. She said, “Paul, CB (Charles) and Davis are owners. CB and David are sons of Izzy, and Paul is Orville’s son.”
David handles the snowmaking operations while Paul and CB handle all the myriad details of other “behind-the-scenes” work. Hunter President Russ Coloton reports to them, and they are involved in the overall big picture and help guide the direction of the mountain.
But the owners are not the only family to be involved. Paul’s wife Amy has a passion for teaching and loves to share the sport with others so she works in the SnowSports School. David’s wife Jeanie helps with various special projects around the lodge. CB’s wife Natasha works with CB behind the scenes. Paul’s daughter Sarah Slutzky is the resort services manager and oversees a number of departments such as ticket sales, ski patrol, resort ambassadors and security. Hunter may well hold a record for ‘extended family’ involvement!
Four years ago ESWA had a meeting at Hunter. It was a mid-week gathering where we stayed at the slopeside Kaatskill Mountain Club, which offered easy ski-to-the-lifts access. We got to see how far Hunter has come, including its new Zipline attraction and learned that it is a bona-fide, four-season resort now. It has condos, family center, 58 trails, 10 lifts, 2 terrain parks, a tubing park with 9 chutes and 2 tows, and a full-service luxury hotel.
Orville Slutzky was ninety-two and still working when the National Ski Areas Association honored him and his late brother Izzy with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Their legacy is a terrific mountain that celebrated its 50th anniversary January 9, 2010, marking the rare occurrence of what has become one of the most successful and celebrated family-owned-and-operated ski areas in the country!
Photo: Orville (right) and Izzy Slutzky (Hunter Mountain)
This article appeared in Tips, Turns, and Tales, a book published by the Eastern Ski Writers Association (ESWA) in 2013 in honor of their 50th anniversary. The book celebrates skiing's history and milestones, along with fun memories from past and current members. The 330-page paperback (more than125 B/W photos) can be ordered by mailing a check (payable to ESWA) for $20 to: Pat Turner Kavanaugh, 935 Fernwood Ave., Plainfield, NJ 07062. Please include recipient's name and mailing address and allow 14 days for receipt of book.
Reprinted as part of SnoCountry.com’s “The Way We Were” series with permission from the authors and the Eastern Ski Writers Association.