DEC extends Belleayre ski season
By Jay Braman Jr.
At a time when every dollar counts, the owners of local lodges and eateries received welcome news this week when it was announced that Belleayre Mountain Ski Center would remain open longer than originally planned.
Last fall those same business owners cringed when the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which operates the ski center, said it would not only open the facility later in the season than usual but it would also shut it down in March. Aware that Belleayre brings thousands of visitors and their wallets to the region during a time of year that is otherwise economically bleak, those business owners braced themselves for a tough winter, and worried about making springtime mortgage payments.
But Monday they got a break. DEC has decided to let those visitors keep coming to Belleayre, at least until mid-April. The extension is expected to give a bill paying boost to the local private sector by making the stretch to summer, the region’s other money making season, a little shorter.
“Winter has left Belleayre Mountain with such good conditions this year that Belleayre has announced that operations will continue as long as the snowpack hangs on and the skiers keep coming,” said Belleayre spokesman Jonathan King Monday. “People who have been here in spring know that Belleayre is the place for great spring skiing and riding with warm temperatures, soft bumps and sugary groomers.”
At the same time that Belleayre Superintendent Tony Lanza was discussing a longer season with the DEC brass, members of the Belleayre Region Lodging and Tourism Association launched a drive to convince the DEC to reconsider plans to close Belleayre early.
Skip Malley, a member of the association, distributed a newsletter urging readers to pressure state officials to allow Belleayre to stay open.
“I sent out the newsletter to a total of 4,800 email subscribers asking them to write to their legislators,” Malley said Monday. “That might have helped.”
Malley’s call to arms included a message of the harsh reality that he believes faces the local tourism industry.
“This area has been struggling for the past few years,” he wrote. “The decision to shorten Belleayre’s season only adds to that struggle. As a lodging owner located five minutes from Belleayre, we rely upon every visitor to this area in the winter to be able to pay our bills and mortgage for that time period. With the one-month shortening of the Belleayre season, the state has taken away our ability to pay one month’s mortgage. With the decision to open Belleayre for four weeks less, this state has taken thousands of necessary dollars out of our pockets that enable us to stay in business.”