Last week's letter was not for print

in

To The Editor:
The letter to Liz Mezzetti from me, which was printed in the Catskill Mountain News last week, was supposed to be an internal memo between the members of our lodging bureau and Liz, who is marketing director of ORDA. I did not give permission to the paper to print the memo nor would I if asked. The letter was not meant to be directed at Liz but rather to the policies of ORDA in regards to the ski packages that we were given this year.

I have known Liz since her high school days when she attended the National Sports Academy in Lake Placid with my daughter and I was also friends with her dad who raced in my midweek race series. Before the ski season, Liz and our members hammered out what we thought were fair and equitable ski packages for both our members and the management team at Belleayre. However, Liz’s superiors rejected the proposed ski packages to the detriment of our members.

Our lift ticket prices for our guests went up 40 percent and our family kids ski free program was eliminated on holiday weeks. As a result, our occupancy rate dropped drastically with a 37 percent rate during the all-important Christmas week.

In defense of ORDA, they were mandated to improve the financial state of Belleayre and increasing our guest’s ski tickets was one solution. However, we argued that a smaller increase would increase our occupancy and therefore increase the total revenue to Belleayre from the area lodges and greatly increase the total revenue to the community. The last thing our community needs is turning Belleayre into a day-trip center with skiers driving up and driving home. By my estimation at least 80 percent of our skiers are the dreaded day-trippers. We need to offer them an incentive to stay over and enjoy not only the great sport of skiing but the total package of a little wine, some great food, friendly people and a warm bed.

I know this can be accomplished by developing ski packages that form an alliance between the skier, lodging properties, and Belleayre that give the skier an incentive to ski and stay more often similar to an awards program. This would satisfy the need to increase revenue for Belleayre and at the same time fill more rooms for us. We just have to sit down and figure it out for next year.
In regards to the mandate to operate Belleayre at a profit or at least break even, I think we have lost site of the original purpose of the ski center. That purpose was to create jobs and stimulate the economy in a very regulated region. Since the great recession of 2007, the state as drastically cut salaries and employment at the ski center at a great cost to the employees and community at a time when we are still economically depressed and recovering from Irene.

From my own observation, when the rest of the country goes into a recession, we go into a depression. I would much rather see a larger percentage of my taxes go to parks than to the M.T.A. with their tens of millions in annual losses.

Robert Konefal, Pine Hill Arms Hotel
President BRLTA