Bearpen: The Original Beast Of The East

Four months ago, we posted an interview with New York ski history expert Russ LaChapelle, in which he explained how his passion for lost Empire State ski areas developed over the years.

Of the many ski centers that had closed for good, none caught his imagination more than Bearpen — a mountain in the western Catskills that could have turned into the biggest resort east of the Rockies. Instead, it became a forgotten footnote. But this story must be heard.

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ThatNYguy: Russ LaChapelle

Belleayre Single Chair

I first became aware of Russ LaChapelle through his posts on the Snowjournal forum under the screen name “ThatNYguy.” In addition to his extensive nuts-and-bolts knowledge and outspoken opinions about New York’s rich ski history, I liked how he conveyed the emotions behind his passion for Empire State skiing. In 2002, Russ launched “Skiing History in New York” — a website designed to tell the stories of the state’s lift-served ski hills and mountains, both those still in operation as well as the many that had closed.

But what really fascinated me were Russ’s ongoing reports about the rise and fall of Bearpen Mountain, a ski area in the western Catskills that closed 50 years ago, and his efforts to make it accessible to skiers once again. Following is a discussion that details one man’s views of the changing landscape of NYS skiing from the late 1960s to the present.

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