Belleayre bucks back? Unofficial info says yes
DEC spokesman refuses $ comments but gives overview of operational plans
By Jay Braman Jr.
At press time yesterday the Catskill Mountain News was working to confirm reports that beleaguered Belleayre Mountain Ski Center has had its budget issues resolved and will be fully operational during the upcoming ski season.
“We’ll make an announcement soon,” was all Belleayre Spokesman Yancy Roy had to say Tuesday.
In the week prior to the United States facing its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Belleayre supporters announced that the region faced its worse economic crisis in decades. Belleayre, the source of hundreds of local jobs and the main attraction in the area during the winter months, was to severely cut back on its operations, cut 181 jobs and cancel the popular fall festival, which had become a Columbus Day weekend economic staple.
The news created a firestorm of resentment toward state officials with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said to be demanding the cutbacks.
But on Monday word began to circulate that those same officials had seen the error of their ways and were no longer demanding the cutbacks.
“We are hearing the same thing you are hearing,” said Joe Kelly of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, an organization devoted to protecting the ski center. “But we have not seen or heard anything official.”
Kelly optimistically awaits word, but also fears that Congress’ vote on Monday to kill the Wall Street Bailout Bill may end up playing a role in the final outcome for Belleayre.
In an ironic twist, it was announced to Belleayre staffers that even though the Columbus Day weekend Fall Festival has been canceled, Belleayre will now operate a chairlift that weekend to allow visitors to enjoy fall foliage views from atop the ski center, just as they always have.
The news comes against a backdrop of a New York State helicopter being spotted coming and going from the Belleayre vicinity last Thursday.
Roy was asked if DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis had paid a visit to Belleayre that day. Grannis had been invited to visit the ski center by State Senator John Bonacic, who wanted to show the commissioner that cutting back Belleayre’s operations would hurt thousands of people.
“I don’t know anything about your mention of a helicopter, but, no, Grannis did not visit Belleayre last week, helicopter or not,” Roy said. “Sounds like a wild rumor.”
Contacted by phone yesterday, Roy said that no official plans have yet been announced but gave an informal breakdown of the plans for Belleayre’s season. He did not have any specific dollar amounts and was unable to say how many jobs, if any, would be cut this year. According to Roy, six of the eight chairlifts will be running and the mountain will be operational seven days a week. Opening day is set for November 28 and Belleayre is expected to close in March instead of in April. Forty-one trails will have snowmaking this season, but the other trails will be open with natural snow only. The mountains halfpipe is also “weather dependant.” The popular “Kidscamp” program will be available this year as well as the adaptive ski program and the racing program.
The job fair for Belleayre employment is set for November 8.