Monthly Archives: April 2013
Belleayre Mountain holds a prominent place in the history of skiing in New York. It was the first lift-assisted ski area in the Catskills, and boasted New York’s first chair lift — a Roebling single that was installed in 1950. Carved out of the forest preserve, the creation of the ski area required constitution amendments to allow creation of an “intensive use area” at Pine Hill.
Belleayre’s fortunes have ebbed and flowed. As early as 1929 the mountain was viewed as the place to ski in the Catskills. The legislative bills and public referendum that were required to allow the construction of the ski area faced relatively little opposition.
But over the last 30 years it seemed that the state of New York had wavering commitment to the area. In the mid-1980s Governor Cuomo considered decommissioning Belleayre when his efforts to privatize operations were stymied. And the New York State DEC always seemed to struggle with the conflict between it’s primary mission of conservation, and Belleayre’s role as a driver of development on the Route 28 corridor.
With Belleayre’s recent incorporation into ORDA, the Olympic Regional Development Authority, this seems like a turning point for the mountain and good time to tell the story of Belleayre. We’d appreciate it if you’d take time to click the link below and read NY Ski Directory’s history of Belleayre Ski Center. Feedback, additions or corrections are welcome as comments beneath the piece:
NY Ski Directory:
A History of Belleayre Mountain
NYSkiBlog began in 2008 as a personal blog about adventure in the Adirondacks. At that time, the site focused much of it’s energy and content on trip reports, conditions and improvements at Gore Mountain. While our focus and audience has expanded beyond these roots, they run deep. We estimate that nearly one-third of our audience calls Gore home, and Gore threads posted in our forums still generate a lot of interest and discussion.
For the last five years NYSkiBlog has recorded snow totals published by Gore Mountain. While the mountain is consistent in reporting daily snowfall, they don’t publish cumulative seasonal totals or historical records. During the 2008-2009 season, we noted this and began to keep a running total of reported accumulations.
At times we’ve take some liberties with reporting. If we have a reporter in the area (we often do) and official mountain totals in our estimation under- or over-report those totals, we’ll record a modified amount.
In addition, we report any measurable amount that falls from July 1 to June 30 regardless of whether or not lifts are spinning. It’s our opinion that decisions to spin lifts are independent of the natural phenomena of snowfall.
Orville Slutzky was born in 1917 and developed a love for skiing early in life. Raised on a farm in the Catskills, he and his brother Israel made their own skis and slid down the gentle slopes of the farm owned by their father Isaac.
In the 1950’s the sport of skiing was gaining popularity in New York. A group of businessmen, lead by Orville and his brother Israel, developed plans to create a ski resort at Hunter Mountain. When plans to work with New York state didn’t materialize, the brothers sought other investors to advance the project. They created the Hunter Mountain Development Corporation, the first operator of the ski area.
The brothers were pioneers in snowmaking technology which was new at that time. The Slutzky Brothers’ Construction Company built the resort from the ground up. On January 9, 1960, Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl opened for the first time.
The Hunter Mountain Development Corporation faced adversity and bankruptcy. But the Slutzky brothers were not deterred. In the middle of the 1961-62 season Orville and Israel took full control of the ski area.
The brothers were relentless innovators, always willing to try new things. In 1964 Hunter became the first area in the world with top-to-bottom snowmaking with the completion of water lines to the summit. By the mid-1960s skier visits increased dramatically and the brothers reinvested profits to grow the business. New trails were cut and more snowmaking was installed. In 1980, Hunter Mountain became the first ski area to have snowmaking coverage on 100 percent of its trails.
The story of Hunter Mountain is a tale of determination and Orville Slutzky was a driving force behind skiing in New York State. Today Hunter is one of the most successful ski resorts in the northeast.
Orville’s Slutsky passed away peacefully, in the company of friends and family today at the age of ninety-six. He had an indomitable spirit and will be missed. A celebration of his life and funeral services will take place on Sunday, April 21, at 10 A.M. in the Colonel’s Hall of the main base lodge at Hunter Mountain.
NYSkiBlog sends our sincere condolences and best wishes to the Slutzkys and the entire Hunter Mountain family.
Photo courtesy of Hunter Mountain.