State officials downplay costs cited for Belleayre snowmaking
By Jay Braman Jr.
Recent allegations that state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski is wasting money by making snow this late in the season are inaccurate according to the state‚Äôs Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
A recent story published in the Albany Times-Union stated that Belleayre was the only ski center in the state still making snow. The information was presented in the context of a story about how nearby private ski centers like Hunter and Windham in Greene County are complaining that Belleayre does not need to worry about its bottom line.
The article implied that making snow costs Belleayre about $1,000 an hour.
But this week DEC spokesman Yancey Roy said that figure was way off. He also disputed claims that Belleayre was making snow only to have it melt away.
‚ÄúAt this point in the season, Belleayre makes snow only after a rain or ice event and does so to provide for the safety and enjoyment of its visitors. Belleayre does not make snow just to make snow,‚Äù Roy said.
As for the most recent snowmaking, Roy said, DEC operations has estimated it cost approximately $104 per hour, not anywhere close to $1,000 per hour as claimed in the Times-Union story.
One hundred and four dollars an hour is way less than what the owners of Hunter and Windham say it costs to make fake snow on their respective mountains. Hunter‚Äôs General Manager Russ Colton says it can cost between $1,500 and $2,500 per hour. Tim Woods, the President of Windham, said making snow at his facility runs ‚Äúwell over $1,000 an hour.‚Äù
It was Woods, who is currently at odds with the state about Belleayre that first suggested the $1,000 an hour figure as a conservative estimate of what it would cost any ski center.
Woods scoffed at Roy‚Äôs statement.
‚ÄúFor someone to say they can do it for $100 an hour tells me they don‚Äôt know what they‚Äôre doing over there,‚Äù he said.
But according to Roy there are variables that make a comparison to the private slopes difficult.
‚ÄúIt should be pointed out that Belleayre has less pumping capability (as measured by output per hour) compared to other ski areas,‚Äù he said.‚Äù This means Belleayre is making snow at a rate of half (or less) of others. That fact can contribute to Belleayre running snowmaking equipment at different times than others. Also, Belleayre strategically plans when to operate the equipment, making sure it uses power efficiently.‚Äù