Petitioning Governor Andrew Cuomo

Belleayre Mountain Needs More Than a Gondola

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Governor Cuomo has dedicated $8M to improve Belleayre Ski Center in Belleayre, NY.  This is wonderful news!  However, Governor Cuomo reportedly plans to spend $5M of the $8M budget on a gondola from the base lodge to the summit.  Not only is this lift unnecessary, but it will be detrimental to skiers' experience at Belleayre in several ways. 

1.  It will double or triple the length of the "runout" from the black and blue trails.

Anyone who skis Belleayre knows that the biggest problem with the mountain is the long runout from the overlook lodge to the main lift.  It is boring and crowded, and is really just a bit of a waste.  If the planned gondola were to be considered the "main lift" to the peak, the runout from the base lodge to the the gondola will be excruciatingly long and boring.  For intermediate and advanced skiers, anything below the overlook lodge is simply not worth skiing.  Many skiers will find themselves skiing this area every run.  

2.  It will ruin the beginner area for beginner skiers.

Belleayre has an excellent beginner area.  It is a true asset and revenue generator for the mountain. It has several green runs and two lifts to service the area.  The best part?  Intermediate and advanced skiers want nothing to do with it.  If the proposed gondola is installed, intermediate and advanced skiers will be flying through the beginner area all day long.  This cherished beginner area will be reduced to a crowded runout for better skiers.  This area will no longer be a place for beginners to learn at their own pace in a comfortable, suitable environment.

If the gondola is installed, it would be very wise to put a mid-station in near the overlook lodge, potentially where the 7-Lift Triple boards.  This would allow advanced and intermediate skiers to board at the overlook lodge and would allow beginner skiers to unload at the lodge and ski the beginner area.  A mid-station would address both of the points above.  However, there are still other reasons to reconsider the construction of the proposed gondola.

3.  The mountain doesn't require one.

If Belleayre installed a gondola it would have "the only gondola in the Catskill region".  While it has a nice ring to it, there's a reason it would be the only gondola in the Catskills.  None of the Catskill ski areas are large enough to require a gondola.  If investors wish to bring something unique to the mountain, please consider installing something similar to Park City's innovative "Orange Bubble Express".  A high-speed quad with heated seats and an optional shield to protect skiers from the elements would impress Eastern skiers just as much as a gondola would.  Many people would prefer it to a gondola, as they won't have to remove their skis and climb into a box with people they don't know.  Most people don't want to remove their gear after every run.  If installed, this chair could replace the Tomahawk Quad or the Superchief Quad.  If the Superchief were replaced, it could be relocated to replace the Tomahawk.  This chair is definitely unnecessary, but would bring in a similar "cool factor" and novelty as a gondola, but would be far more practical and fitting to the mountain. Skipping the heated seats and simply adding windshields to the Superchief would achieve a similar effect at a fraction of the cost.

The Orange Bubble in Park City also has a detachable mid station, which is a very cool feature.  See this link for pictures of the lift:    https://liftblog.com/orange-bubble-express-park-city-ut/

4.   It's $5M that could be spent on other much-needed improvements that will make the mountain competitive with Windham and Hunter.  Below is a list of suggested improvements:

a.  Replace the Tomahawk Quad with a high-speed detachable

The Tomahawk chair services an excellent area of the mountain.  Dot Nebel is arguably the best run on the mountain, and there are a number of other top-notch trails in this area, including the best glades in the Catskill Mountains.  The slow Tomahawk Quad servicing this area does not do the area justice.  A high speed quad would make this area competitive with Windham's "East Peak" with Hunter Mountain's "Hunter West", both of which are serviced by high-speed quads.  This improvement is essential if Belleayre wishes to keep up with Windham and Hunter.  If this lift were replaced, the Tomahawk could be relocated to the beginner area.  This is exactly what Windham did in 2006-2007 when they installed the East Peak Express Quad in the previously-mentioned East Peak area.

b. Properly repair the Superchief detachable quad

If you've skied Belleayre on a weekend this year, chances are the Superchief quad was experiencing difficulties.  On many occasions, this chair has had to be closed, sending the masses of skiers to the painfully-slow 7-lift Triple and Tomahawk Quad.  When this happens, a skiers day can be effectively ruined as lift lines and trails become overcrowded and skiers are less likely to return to Belleayre.

c.  Improve the snowmaking

The goal for Belleayre should be to compete with Windham and Hunter.  While a gondola would be unique and would separate the mountain from it's competition in a superficial way, what really matters (Snow!!!) will continue to be neglected.  Hunter currently holds the crown for the best snowmaking in the Catkills.  They have for a very long time.  Here is a quick rundown of their snowmaking history:

  • 1967: Hunter became the first area in the world to feature summit to base snowmaking
  • 1980: First area to achieve 100% snowmaking coverage
  • 2006: Over 1,100 snow machines installed. Most of the snowguns are mounted on towers to insure the maximum amount of "air time" for falling snow to freeze. Hunter has enough air and water available to run half of the snowmaking arsenal at once under marginal snowmaking conditions.
  • 2014: New pumping system added.
  • 2015: Automated snowmaking added to Hellgate, 7th Avenue, Kennedy Drive, and Fifth Avenue, automating a full top-to-bottom run. Previously, only Racer's Edge had automated snowmaking. New air compressor replaced original 60+ year old system.

Hunter remains the king because they CONTINUE  to invest in their snowmaking, making significant investments over the past 11-years.  Belleayre would be wise to follow-suit.

d.  As planned, expand the lodges and cut new trails

According to the proposed plan, renovations will be made to both lodges and new trails will be cut.  This petition supports these elements of the plan and encourages more funding be devoted to them.  Hunter and Windham both have large outdoor gathering areas in front of their lodges with outdoor fire pits, music, bars, and an upbeat atmosphere.  Something similar to what we see at these mountains would likely be a big attraction and income generator.

In Conclusion,

Those who have signed this petition strongly encourage Governor Cuomo and his team to meet with the team at Belleayre to determine what the mountain needs most.  This petition has offered some suggestions, but the team at Belleayre would clearly have the best understanding of the mountain's needs.  If the proposed gondola is constructed, many of the ski area's needs and sore points will continue to be neglected and the ski area will continue to require expensive renovations as the years go by.  We also believe that the suggestions above would be more likely to increase business at the ski area than would a newly-constructed gondola.

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