Skiers flock to region to enjoy fresh powder
By Jay Braman Jr.
When it comes to skiing and all things related to skiing in the Catskills, it is a sad reality that, after Presidents’ Day weekend, the annual decline of the industry begins. The number of visitors starts to drop off, ski centers begin laying off part-time help, there is less traffic in local eateries and shops, and eventually, in April, it all winds down to nothing.
So it was with open arms that area ski center operators last week welcomed what is being called “snow-pocalypse” or “snowicane,” the back-to-back series of storms that dumped mammoth amounts of the white stuff on the trails at Belleayre, Plattekill and Hunter and Windham.
Nearly 100 inches of snow hit the ground in the course of a week, all leading up to the weekend, which saw cleared roads that created an easy path for downstaters to get up to the Catskills for the fun of skiing on conditions usually reserved for out west.
The weather caused an unusual event at Belleayre on Highmount, where the mountain’s superintendent, Tony Lanza, is well-known for having no problem articulating his excitement about skiing.
“I’m speechless,” was his first response Monday when reached by the Catskill Mountain News.
Gaining composure, the excited Lanza noted that it was not just one storm, but also the fact that it was several, and the fact that it received national media attention that generated the enthusiasm for late-season skiing.
“We got 91 inches here,” he said. “These are numbers that rival Utah. It wasn’t the storm of the century, it was the weather pattern of the century and we were sold out to the lights.”
According to spokeswoman Jessica Pezak over at Hunter Mountain in Greene County, the weekend was one for the books.
“We had an incredible weekend at Hunter,” she said Monday.” Tons of people from just about everywhere... I think we certainly saw some new faces as well as our many regulars. This was an epic weekend for the Catskills; I’m glad we were able to offer so many people such awesome skiing and riding. We hope to see some increased traffic midweek, too!”
At Plattekill Mountain in the Delaware County Town of Roxbury, owner/operator Danielle Vajtay was all smiles when asked about the weekend.
“We had a great weekend for sure,” she said. “Near record crowds for a non-holiday weekend. All the new snow got people excited to flock to the Catskills where the most snow fell from the storm. We are reporting a record 98” total from the storm. Plattekill is well known to be the place to go when there’s lots of great natural snow especially because of our steeper pitch the deep snow skis better. This weekend was no exception, skiers showed up in droves. Goes to show the skiers go where there’s snow!”
It is expected that “snowicane” has set up the region for a very different late season.
“After ending February with nearly eight feet of natural snowfall over five days Belleayre is primed for a monumental March,” Lanza said. “With moderate temps, longer days, fun events and tons of snow there is nothing like spring skiing.”