Highmount Ski Center (FTO file photo: James Michaud)

Belleayre Expansion Into Former Highmount Ski Area Approved

Highmount, NY – New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo this week announced that the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), which operates Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, has issued final approval for Belleayre’s plan for a major expansion and modernization of the facility, including tying in the former Highmount Ski Center.

With this approval, Belleayre can now begin the planning process for improvement and modernization projects, which are expected to provide a major boom to tourism in the Catskill Mountains and the region’s economy.

“Belleayre Mountain offers some of the best winter recreation in the state and, with today’s action, it’s only going to get better,” Cuomo said. “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.”

(image: Google Earth)
(image: Google Earth)

Belleayre’s comprehensive redevelopment plan, also known as a Unit Management Plan (UMP), includes: the acquisition of the lands of the 78-acre former Highmount Ski Center; the installation of three new ski lifts and the replacement of two existing ski lifts;  the addition of 16 new ski trails;  the construction of up to three additional parking areas;  expansions of the existing Discovery and Sunset Lodges and modifications to existing pumphouses; and the construction of the new Tomahawk Lodge, an Information Building, a salt storage building, an additional snowmaking pond, installation of snowmaking piping, and a lower pumphouse and compressor facility. A 2008 report from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation estimated the cost at $74.2 million spread over five years.

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The modernization of the facilities will also include measures to improve energy conservation, such as replacing diesel powered snow guns with electric compressors and incorporating green building principles into the new construction at the Discovery Lodge.

State Senator James L. Seward (R) said, “The Belleayre Mountain Ski Center UMP is a comprehensive strategy that will serve as a much-needed guide for future improvements. There are a number of exciting developments on the horizon and the UMP will help facilitate economic growth while ensuring environmental protection measures and other concerns are appropriately addressed.”

Highmount Ski Center in March 2015 (FTO file photo: James Michaud)
Highmount Ski Center in March 2015 (FTO file photo: James Michaud)

Highmount, located next to Belleayre, operated until 1992 when its lifts ran for the final time. Adventurous skiers have long been able to access Highmount’s dormant slopes from Belleayre’s Deer Run with very little effort other than a car shuttle back to Belleayre, although the runs have become overgrown in recent years.

ORDA President and CEO Ted Blazer added, “This is a sound plan which was carefully and deliberately developed to ensure optimum year-round use and enjoyment of these facilities while providing economic and social benefits the region. The plan minimizes the financial burden on state and local government by maximizing revenue opportunities. We’re excited about the world-class transformation of Belleayre into one of the Northeast’s premier winter recreation destinations.”

Also this week, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which owns Belleayre, issued its decision on a final Environmental Impact Statement for the Belleayre UMP, as well as for the The Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park adjacent to the ski area, proposed by Crossroads Ventures LLC. The decision approves the full build-out alternative for Belleayre and the applicant’s preferred alternative for The Belleayre Resort, which will provide hotel, lodging and amentities on 739 acres adjacent to the ski area via two separate developments, the Highmount Spa and Resort and the Wildacres Resort.

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“This is great news for Delaware County and the long-awaited (16 years) permits for the Belleayre Resort project,” said Delaware County Board of Supervisors Chairman James Eisel. “It will certainly create jobs for our residents and the spin-off will help enhance our small businesses. In these tough economic times this approval will expose more tourists to the Catskill Mountains and all of our towns and communities in the region fully support this venture.”

Not everyone is pleased by the approvals, however. The Catskill Heritage Alliance, which filed suit last month against the Department of Environmental Conservation to require an adjudicatory hearing on aspects of the proposed Belleayre Resort that DEC allegedly failed to consider adequately in its review of the project, opposes the approvals, indicating that they’re too grand in their scale and utilize state funds to support Crossroad Ventures.

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