Letter to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
November 6, 2018
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo,
Please accept our sincere THANK YOU for your active and public support of New York’s tourism industry and particularly the Catskill Region. Your recent announcement of $9.1 Million to support the expansion and modernization of Belleayre’s Discovery Lodge is the next best targeted investment in making New York the snowsports capital of the east, and in assuring growth in Belleayre Mountain as the year-round economic driver for the great Western Catskills!
In addition to our thanks, we need to celebrate the success of recent investments. In the first year of operation the Catskill Thunder Gondola helped increase skier/boarder visits. New families discovered winter sports and ORDA’s southern most venue! The enthusiasm generated had a dramatic impact on sales and visits, moving Belleayre well along the way to profitability, despite poor early season weather. New snowmaking compressors and guns will have a positive impact on the length and quality of the coming winter season. This is already evident in the dramatic increase in in pre-season sales. With these limited examples in mind, we urge you to review several other crucial steps to accelerate the FULL FUNDING of the Unit Management Plan for BELLEAYRE MOUNTAIN SKI CENTER, thus mitigating the damage underinvestment over several decades.
Additional investments on the horizon we hope to see accelerated include:
Expansion of water sources and improvement of infrastructure for water distribution
New trail development with the acquisition of the former Highmount Ski Center
The updating of the existing, aged chairlifts
Improved parking capacity
The expansion of the Sunset lodge
The comfort station at the top of Catskill Thunder
You captured the situation perfectly in your December 4, 2015 announcement of the Unit Management Plan’s final approval as follows: "Belleayre Mountain offers some of the best winter recreation in the state and, with today's action, it's only going to get better," You went on to say; "Once these projects are completed, visitors to this majestic region hoping to hit the slopes will have an all new Belleayre Mountain to enjoy with friends and loved ones."
Again, thank you for your leadership and support. We look forward to visiting with you at Belleayre this season!
Tom White, Coalition for Belleayre Chairperson
Update from the Coalition for Belleayre Mountain
Submitted September 19, 2018
With Appreciation! Although not widely shared, many exciting things are taking place at Belleayre Mountain this summer and early fall! In the midst of summer, it is wonderful to start thinking about the coming fall and winter. Belleayre is beautiful in green… but so much more spectacular when fully dressed in winter white! Here’s what we know right now.
THE TRAILS! More snow-making, later into the season, at less cost! The mountain has invested in four new high-volume compressors to replace the rented units that were typically shipped back in mid-February! And, while “electrical upgrades” may not seem exciting, the work done on the electrical service will increase reliability and capacity of operations across the mountain. To assure the snow being blown is top shelf, new high efficiency snow guns are also on line. Getting the mountain up and running early in the season will be easier now.
CATSKILL THUNDER GONDOLA: Scenic rides are growing in popularity this summer and have added a whole new element to summer in the Catskills. In addition, tons of earth were cleaned and trails regraded as you come down to the Discovery Lodge and Gondola Entrance area. Badly needed drainage has been installed so that the natural slope run-off does not turn our skiing into a pre-mature pond-skimming event! It’s the little things that don’t necessarily show up at first glance that really enhance the experience at Belleayre.
SKIER BRIDGE GRADING: Much of the earth moved from Discovery Lodge/Gondola Entrance was relocated to the skier bridge on Lower Deer Run. The trail will be widened and regraded, reducing the pitch on the downhill side of the bridge. This change will help spread traffic out across the trail and make for a safer and more enjoyable descent. THE PARKS: Kids love the challenge of riding the rails! Both terrain parks will see new and improved jumps, ramps, rails and pipes. We’re glad to see an upgrade where the youth of all ages like to play!
INSTRUCTION: Getting new skiers off to a good start got a lot easier with improvements to the learning areas. The former Kidscamp magic carpet will be moved to link the Discovery Lodge to the Teaching Area and Running Bear Carpet. Gone are the days where just getting to the learning area left one exhausted and frustrated! So what about the Kidscamp? Additional space is cleared and some careful regrading has made the area more accessible, and more lesson friendly. A new, longer 220’ magic carpet is also on tap.
THE COMPETETIVE EXPERIENCE: The New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) is expanding its partnership with ORDA through the addition of competitive alpine and freeride programs at Belleayre. This will be an exciting year for those who want to take their skills to a whole new level!
OVERLOOK LODGE IMPROVEMENTS: The long-awaited deck expansion is planned for use this winter. Underneath the new deck will be expanded and improved locker facilities sure to shorten the waiting list. What sounds like a simple enhancement was actually complex and costly. We’re excited to see this investment in our historic Draper Lodge.
MEDICAL BUILDING: A new state of the art ski patrol building will be constructed in the lower area next to the Teepee Flats teaching area. The main floor will include a trauma room, waiting area with nurse’s station and additional bed space for patients. The building will also contain a locker room and storage for much needed supplies. NEW THIS SUMMER – MOUNTAIN BIKING: Getting the summer activities up and running required coordination with required mountain work. New this year are Mountain biking and bike tours. Riders can bring their own bikes or rent from an impressive new fleet purchased to support the expansion of year-round Belleayre adventures! Additional planning has been commissioned for growth in mountain biking in coming summers.
BELLEAYRE BEACH: New at Belleayre Beach this summer are Aqua Trikes. It’s been fun to see families and friends laughing as they pedal across the beautiful Catskill Mountain waters.
AND… THE QUESTION OF THE SUMMER: Members of the Coalition have been approached by the Belleayre faithful about the status of Mountain Leadership. The Mountain Manager Position is currently vacant, and the search is ongoing. ORDA CEO Mike Pratt is providing oversight with the local leadership of Tom Tar. While this is not the perfect scenario, mountain personnel have worked at an incredible pace this summer and are enthusiastic about their accomplishments. We appreciate the importance of landing the right person in this crucial role and look forward to working with the next General Manager with the vision, knowledge, skills and passion to lead Belleayre into an exciting future. Meanwhile, if you know a real gem out there send him or her Mike Pratt’s way!
THANKS FROM THE COALITION: Coalition members have been busy this spring and summer meeting with various individuals and groups interested in supporting continued improvements at Belleayre. Thanks to members of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce, The Margaretville Business Association, the Greater Roxbury Business Association, and the many individuals who have jumped on board to be sure we work together so that Belleayre can provide a world-class experience that continues to bring people to the Catskills on a year-round basis.
JOE KELLY – COMMUNITY HERO: The Delaware County Chamber of Commerce announced honoring our own Joe Kelly as a Community Hero! The recognition goes to those whose tireless effort and commitment has made the region a far better place. While Joe has stepped down from his role on the Olympic Regional Development Board he continues to support and cheer Belleayre into the future! Many thanks Joe! The recognition takes place on October 10th at the Delaware County FoodWorks, 27905 State Highway 28, in Andes. 5:30 - 8 p.m. Reservations are appreciated via the Chamber at 607-746-2281.
FALL FESTIVAL: We look forward to seeing you at the Discovery Lodge for this year’s Fall Festival Celebration on October 6 & 7 from 10am – 5pm.
Here’s to another GREAT year at Belleayre Mountain!
Update from the Coalition for Belleayre Mountain
Submitted March, 2018
Good to Great at Belleayre Mountain!
Significant investments made last year at Belleayre Mountain have made for an exciting 2018! Leading the way is “Catskill Thunder,” the new base to peak gondola completed in December. Long time Belleayre skiers and border have become enthusiastic fans. The gondola has also attracted new winter sports enthusiasts to Belleayre making it the perfect vehicle to jumpstart the renewal and revitalization the Catskill Mountain Ski Region.
Snowmakers and groomers have taken their game to a whole new level, with excellent early season conditions despite limited natural snow. Then March blew in with over 6’ of the natural stuff leaving Belleayre Mountain with the best snow conditions in years.
This season has brought many new faces and families to Belleayre, and they have fallen in love with the mountain and the “Belleayre Vibe.” Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement of an additional $10 million in capital investment for 2018 will position Belleayre Mountain as the place to ski and board in the Catskills.
The Coalition for Belleayre continues to define and advocate for changes and investments necessary to build on recent successes. With the recognition that there are priorities at other ORDA venues, we stand ready to advocate for the flow of appropriate funding to continue the progress that provides this exceptional gateway to the winter sports industry in New York State.
It’s time to ski and board our way into April with excitement for great things in 2018-2019!
CELEBRATE PROGRESS: ENCOURAGE ON-GOING INVESTMENT!
Submitted August 21 2017
The Coalition for Belleayre applauds Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature on the commitment of $8 million in additional investments in Belleayre Mountain Ski Center for 2017!
The celebration was made possible by the numerous and determined friends of Belleayre Mountain. Collective efforts to assure that Belleayre was not forgotten by legislators and taxpayers across the state are paying off in summer/fall projects slated for completion in December 2017.
A trip to the mountain reveals progress on the Catskill Thunder Gondola; providing year-round bottom to top mountain access. Super Chief has undergone an extensive overhaul, with additional investments to assure reliable operation. The Tomahawk lift is being painted as new waterlines are being installed to enhance snowmaking on Tongora, Winnesook and Yahoo. Trail work includes development of a connector that unites the upper and lower mountains. All trails will ski and board a bit sweeter with the addition of new grooming equipment.
Behind the scenes, an engineering firm is preparing the design of the Overlook Lodge deck replacement scheduled for 2018. Electrical upgrades in and around the Discovery Lodge this summer will benefit the entire mountain while plans are made for updating and expanding the Discovery Lodge in 2018.
With the excitement of a new season just around the corner, the Coalition continues to shine a spotlight on the importance of keeping the investments coming. We continue to reach out to the Governor and members of the state legislature to encourage the full funding of the UMP with a continued flow of investment funds in 2018.
We encourage you to check the Coalition website regularly at www.coalitionforbelleayre.org. You can stay informed by clicking “Contact us,” and providing the information requested so that we might update our email list in case important news needs to be shared quickly. You can also keep up to date on mountain projects via the Belleayre Mountain Website at www.belleayre.org.
Thanks for your on-going support of Belleayre Mountain and the beautiful Catskills!
COALITION URGES GOOD FAITH!
The Coalition for Belleayre applauds the NYSDEC’s staff for its recent conclusion that all of the environmental issues surrounding the development of the Belleayre Resort have been adequately addressed and that the adjudicatory process that the project has undergone for the past 14 years should be dismissed. The DEC staff has also concluded the Belleayre Ski Center Unit Management Plan to be complete and ready for release and adoption. In accordance with NYSDEC regulations, organizations that have been party to the adjudication process have been given until November 17th to study and comment on this decision.
This NYDEC conclusion caps 14 years of study, negotiation, compromise and refinement of the Resort plan and expansion of the ski center. The basis of the plan is in the Agreement in Principle signed in 2007. This agreement, brokered by New York’s Governor, was the result of good faith bargaining and compromise by many local and national environmental groups, the developer, New York City and New York State. In the ensuing seven years there has been more polishing and downsizing of the resort component. The Coalition urgently calls upon all the parties to recall and continue the good faith that created the 2007 Agreement and that has brought us to this point. It is now time to demonstrate that the Agreement in Principle was truly a good faith effort and not part of a ploy toward endless delay and postponement. Failure to do so would be shocking and shameful.
What undoubtedly has been a casualty of these 14 years is the viability of our communities, the vibrancy of our tourism industry, the critical mass for our schools, the tax base of our towns and the faith of our citizens in the processes of government. . Each year we slip closer to a tipping point and the faith of our citizens that government and the process of law cares about them and their well-being erodes further. For a dwindling and marginalized minority, over these years, opposition to the resort component of this plan has become a cult. Like a cult this opposition has become devoid of reason and lacking any sense of proportion and ability to see beyond a narrow focus and self-interest.
Let us be clear: the ski center and the resort plan, as now configured and presented, has overwhelming support in our communities. It has been studied, endorsed and supported by virtually every elected state and local official, every neighboring elected county and town governing body, every Chamber of Commerce and tourism or lodging group, every civic group, the City of New York, The New York Times, most school boards, The SUNY Delhi President and on and on.
Will the Resort and the plans for the expanded revitalized Belleayre Ski Center fix our economy, towns and communities? Of course not, but they will be a huge step in the right direction, spurring tourism, additional investment and jobs and stemming the perception that our region is hostile to investment.
Those who are still critical of the Resort and the Ski Center expansion have a clear and definitive choice before them: agitate and manipulate for ever more delay, studies, review and comment or embrace the spirit of the 2007 Agreement and move toward rebuilding our communities and our neighbors’ faith in the processes of government. Make the responsible and moral choice.
After fourteen years, there are no new issues, only minutia. The projects are right- sized, the need is great and the time is now. We need to move on without delay.
The Coalition for Belleayre
Thomas H. White
POSITION ON THE PROPOSED BELLEAYRE SKI CENTER UMP AND REVISED RESORT AT CATSKILL PARK
COALITION TO SAVE BELLEAYRE
TOM WHITE , CHAIR
The UMP proposal and the revised Resort at Catskill Park shape our future and the future of our towns, villages, schools, churches, hospitals and other institutions. No jobs, failing and closing businesses, rising taxes, falling population, closing schools all point to a region in crisis. The prospect of a $75 million State investment coupled with a private investment of nearly $400 million must be encouraged. The creation of hundreds of permanent and part time jobs, the influx of tourists and the inflow of millions of dollars in real estate and school taxes to our local communities cannot be ignored. The need is great, the situation is dire, the project is right and the time is now. The Coalition to Save Belleayre most strongly endorses both the full build out of The Belleayre Mountain Ski Center and the positive review of the Modified Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park.
The Coalition to Save Belleayre is a grass roots group of skiers, business owners, elected officials and taxpayers who have worked together for more than 30 years to highlight the fact that Belleayre is our economic driver. That has been the mission of the Coalition since the Center was slated by the State for closure in 1984. Since that time, the Coalition has been a constant advocate, fighting an uphill battle to get needed resources and attention. We point out that the purpose for creating the ski center more than 60 years ago was for it to serve as an economic catalyst in the region and to provide a top quality recreation experience in the Catskill Forest Preserve. By all measures, it was a smashing success. However, lack of investment, aging facilities and a limiting trail design and layout have taken a toll. Despite the skillful and determined efforts of its employees and supporters, the ski center has struggled to get its share of visitors and our tourism industry has been on a long slide down. Helping Belleayre reach its full potential is critical not only for the future of the ski center but for the future of everyone who lives in, works in and visits this region. We support the full build alternatives in the Unit Management Plan because three decades of experience tells us that any other alternative will leave us where we’ve been left since the mid-70’s – always struggling, falling behind, losing population, losing businesses, fighting to keep hopeful and optimistic.
The UMP is being reviewed in conjunction with plans for the private sector proposal for the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park, and a review of the cumulative impacts of both, if each is built to full potential. We are also advocating for the permitting and construction of the Belleayre Resort. Again, the reason is obvious. Without a public/private partnership, neither the ski center nor the region will be able to achieve what our region needs them to be. You can’t have one without the other because individually, neither can succeed. Together, they make sense – economically and environmentally.
At Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, capital improvements would provide for new, challenging trails, a new main lodge, expanded auxiliary lodges, new lifts and parking areas. Much of this work would occur at the former Highmount Ski Center, a historic and storied ski center just adjacent to Belleayre. The plan also includes upgrades to most of the existing, structures and lifts as well as new low energy snowmaking systems. Additionally, the build out will include the Performing Arts Center as part of the Overlook Lodge, enhancing the summer and fall tourist drawing power of the mountain.
These upgrades will allow the use of state of the art design and engineering techniques to maximize energy efficiency and reduce fossil fuel use. Full information and complete details can be seen online at www.dec.ny.gov/permits/54704.html and show substantial advances in every area of air quality, GHG emissions and carbon footprint, specially in per skier visit.
The Modified Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park proposal calls for a world-class resort, situated next to the expanded State-owned ski center now operated by the NYS Olympic Regional Development Authority. As currently proposed, it will become a premier, four-season resort directly serving the New York metropolitan area. It will also be the most environmentally advanced development project the region has ever seen.
The Resort will consist of two hotels: the Highmount Spa will be a 5 star spa and wellness centered property; Wildacres will be a 4-star family and recreation oriented hotel located next to the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. All the resort’s facilities will be open to the public increasing the number of recreational options available to local residents and visitors including a Wilderness Activities Center, Golf Course, indoor swimming, tennis facilities and more.
It is critical to note that deed restrictions will prohibit the operation of any Casino-style (Class III) gaming on the Resort properties.
The project would create hundreds of construction jobs, and when finished will create over 500 permanent, full-time jobs and 200 part-time and seasonal jobs. The project will attract almost $400 million in development money for the local area. The buildings will be LEED certified, environmentally sensitive and will include an organic managed golf course. The construction will be phased and coordinated with the build out of the ski center.
The Belleayre Resort can dramatically increase the tax base for local municipalities and have a large positive economic impact, which should result in stable or even lower taxes for residents.
Upon full build out the project will pay $3.7 million in annual property taxes to local municipalities and school districts. The project will create $24.85 million in annual on-site resort wages. There will be $10.6 million in annual off-site spending by resort patrons. The project will have a $168 million total annual economic effect on the regional economy.
Belleayre Mt. Ski Center and its immediate environs were designated long ago as an Intensive Use segment of the Catskill Forest Preserve. It makes great sense to build up and around an already existing Intensive Use area. The regional infrastructure and environment have demonstrated an ability to attract and serve in excess of 12,000 people in a single October Festival or Martin Luther King weekend without undue burden on the environment or residents. The ability to attract substantially more skiers from the Northeast’s greatest urban center provides huge opportunity for all local lodging and tourism businesses and will attract more investment. We believe that adding these new hotel rooms and more slopes and trails to the existing infrastructure will not overburden anyone. Especially when the projects are as well planned and extensively reviewed as these projects have been.
The new operators of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, the Olympic Regional Development Authority, are in the tourism business and have demonstrated success over decades. There should be no doubt that they know how to market and draw the numbers of tourists needed. A drive through Lake Placid and its environs shows the extent of the economic impact that is possible with the right facilities and infrastructure and a skilled experienced operator.
Our friends at Hunter and Windham Mountains should be enthusiastic at these plans. Both have successfully completed major expansions in housing and lodging and have done so without hurting the other. Their success is in attracting new skiers and visitors to the area. So too will it be here. A revitalized Belleayre and a revitalized tourism industry in our corner of the Catskills will help us all.
This plan is not by itself a savior or all that is needed but is a step in the right direction toward rebuilding our true Catskill heritage – a thriving and growing, green, sustainable tourism industry.
This project has been in review and modification for nearly 15 years. It has been shrunk, improved, moved, lowered from the ridgeline. It has responded to all suggestions with modifications. It is a far better project than when first proposed. However, during this review-which far exceeds that of the World Trade Center- our tourism industry has steadily declined.
For all of these reasons, the Coalition to Save Belleayre urges approval of the full-build alternative for the Ski Center and the Resort at Belleayre Mountain. No more delays and no more review extensions.
"DON'T MESS WITH BELLEAYRE" RALLY - Dec. 31th 2010