Page 1 of 1

Belleayre, NY 04/01/18

PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:22 pm
by jamesdeluxe
After reports of a 50-degree Saturday followed by a cold Sunday morning, we were expecting things to take a while to soften up on Easter Sunday, so my wife, son, and I showed up at 10:30 to a very quiet Belleayre. There couldn't have been 20 cars in the lower parking lot and maybe 30 in the upper one.

With the wife deciding to stay in the lodge and finish our taxes, my son and I found the upper mountain mostly locked up and scratchy except on trails that had a bit of traffic, so we did a handful of laps on the perfectly soft lower-mountain beginner's terrain, which worked for him. He'd never been on a gondola before so he was excited to check it out. We got on with a few other people and heard from them as well as several others later how much they loved it. I couldn't figure out the reason for an expensive lift like that to cover 1,400 vertical feet (and I'm not a fan of gondolas in general), but it seems to have made a lot of veteran customers happy -- people who ski Belle a lot but aren't the type to post on a ski forum -- and attracted a bunch of new ones.

By early afternoon, we were getting a bit tired of the loud snow on the upper mountain (even on flat trails like Deer Run) and gray skies, and contemplating packing it in for the day, but after finishing lunch at 1:15, the sun came me out, softened the snow, and brightened our mood.
Image


The trail right under the HSQ, Belleayre Run, was in perfect shape, did it five times in a row.
Image

Image


Especially fun was taking advantage of a nice market differentiator for Belle: lots of low-angle bumps. Always great to see skiers of all skill levels and ages enjoying themselves here and making noise as if they were skiing through a foot of fresh powder.
Image


Kids as young as five were out ripping them, often with impressive technique:
Image

Image


So while the first half of the day was forgettable, the afternoon made up for it and was what I'd hoped for driving up.

Re: Belleayre, NY 04/01/18

PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2018 3:50 pm
by Tony Crocker
jamesdeluxe wrote:I couldn't figure out the reason for an expensive lift like that to cover 1,400 vertical feet (and I'm not a fan of gondolas in general)

I suspect you don't mind a few of them in the Alps. And we wouldn't have been skiing at Kicking Horse at -13F without that one.
As one of the state owned ski areas in NY it does seem strange to have an expensive gondola covering 1,400 vertical feet.

Re: Belleayre, NY 04/01/18

PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 5:08 am
by jamesdeluxe
Tony Crocker wrote:I suspect you don't mind a few of them in the Alps. And we wouldn't have been skiing at Kicking Horse at -13F without that one.

I'm not someone to complain about lifts or how fast/slow they run. I'm grateful for anything that saves me from humping long distances uphill. Generally in the Alps: gondolas, trams, cog railways, and funiculars are used as what Germans would call a "Zubringerlift" -- something that transports you from the base area to the actual skiing terrain a couple thousand verts higher -- rather than something you use to lap trails or sectors. I guess the two Snowbasin gondolas and Kicking Horse's would fall somewhere in between; however, Belleayre's definitely falls into an area where a chair would've been the traditional choice. Ski-wise: the gondola has the unwanted attribute of forcing you to click out of your skis after every run and encouraging more advanced skiers to tuck through the lower mountain's gentle green terrain, home to lots of beginners.

Tony Crocker wrote:As one of the state owned ski areas in NY it does seem strange to have an expensive gondola covering 1,400 vertical feet.

If you go to the NY Ski Blog forum, there are hundreds of posts where people complain about how much was spent on the Belleayre gondola. The vagaries of why the three state-owned ski areas (Belleayre, Gore, Whiteface) do things are often predicated as much upon politics as on usefulness. As government-supported amenities for NYS citizens and more importantly as an economic stimulus for the host regions (the western Catskills and the Adirondacks), they don't have to operate in the black like a privately-owned ski area, and none of them do. At the same time, they aren't allowed to exceed trail mileage or have money-making entities like onsite hotels that would help attract people ("forest preserve lands shall not be leased, sold or exchanged, or be taken by any corporation, public or private"). You can argue about the for-profit vs. guberment-subsidized issue all you want (I'm sure that our libertarian site owner has an opinion :lol:); however, it would take a highly unlikely constitutional amendment to privatize these ski areas.

The NYSB forum's group opinion seems to be that Belleayre got a gondola because the governor wanted/needed a shiny prestige object to show that he's serious about helping out the struggling Catskills economy and as part of the long-planned Belleayre Resort that would go on nearby private lands.

Re: Belleayre, NY 04/01/18

PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 7:06 am
by Harvey44
I'll try this again, a shortened version to match my patience. (When I try to post I get logged out, losing what I'd typed?)

Improvements to NY state-owned ski areas are often driven by politics, versus operations. Not to say that some of the improvements made over the last ten years haven't been valuable or needed.

What NY areas need to compete is snowmaking. Vermont is the primary competitor for visits and VT's biggest advantage is natural snow. Not only natural totals, but the all important upslope that often comes at the end of a rain event. But when you consider the amount of money that has been spent, snowmaking has been one of many initiatives not the primary focus. NY has several advantages of her own (clearly important to me) but snow is where she falls behind.

jamesdeluxe wrote:The NYSB forum's group opinion seems to be that Belleayre got a gondola because the governor wanted/needed a shiny prestige object to show that he's serious about helping out the struggling Catskills economy and as part of the long-planned Belleayre Resort that would go on nearby private lands.


James is correct about the NYSB Forum group think, but I don't think it is precisely accurate. Why was such a major project announced relatively late in the season? If you look at the original plan, it showed a quad in that alignment right up until the project was announced. If you look at the timing of the event and the big announcements that came earlier in the same spring you see evidence that the governor was responding, not driving this decision. In reality it's probably too fine a point to matter.

Re: Belleayre, NY 04/01/18

PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 9:08 am
by jamesdeluxe
Thanks for the clarification, Harv. Another part of the story (my editorial/Harv may not agree) is that until five years ago Belleayre was run by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, while Gore and Whiteface were run by the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA). Long story short, the ORDA ski areas got a *lot* of budget attention from the state to make themselves more attractive to the skiing public while Belleayre's main gambit was to give away free or highly discounted lift tickets, which was not a big hit with the nearby privately-owned ski areas: Hunter, Windham, and especially Plattekill.

Who knows; the gondola -- whether it was needed or not -- may have been a bit of political payback for decades of the state skiing money flowing north even though Belleayre's ostensible market (downstate NY/NYC) was providing the majority of tax base.

Re: Belleayre, NY 04/01/18

PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 4:25 pm
by Tony Crocker
jamesdeluxe wrote:I guess the two Snowbasin gondolas and Kicking Horse's would fall somewhere in between;

There are lots of those in the Alps too. Sometimes they are two stage gondolas like Mammoth's, one out of the base and the other extending to upper mountain skiing with mid-loading: Gressoney in the Monterosa comes to mind as a recent example. Both stages there were 2,000+ vertical though. It's definitely the most comfortable ride if it's cold or your legs/feet need a break, so I bet the typical Alps vacationer loves gondolas.