Category Archives: Catskills
In April of this year the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) unveiled the most recent unit management plan (UMP) for Belleayre Ski Center. It included a recommendation for $74M in upgrades over the next several years. At the same time they released a revision of the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Belleayre Resort development.
The UMP for the Belleayre Ski Center calls for the construction of three new lifts, refurbishing two others, cutting 16 new ski trails (primarily at Highmount) and upgrading the ski center’s snowmaking infrastructure. The plan also includes a new lodge, expansion of both the Discovery and Sunset Lodges and several parking lots.
In its current form, the Belleayre Resort project includes plans for two hotels, 270 hotel rooms, 250 fractional units and an 18-hole golf course. The most recent proposal is about half the size of the original and would be privately funded.
The EIS estimates that the Belleayre Resort would create 771 full-time and seasonal jobs with $25M in annual payroll. It’s also estimated that an additional 264 jobs would be created from the economic impact of the resort. Precise numbers aside, no one would argue the point: this public and private investment is going to produce economic development along the “Onteora Trail.”
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
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.
No two ski seasons are ever the same, even if the locations remain a constant. I spent another closing day at Plattekill this year, but I didn’t wear my Yankees hat, or even ski in a t-shirt like so many other times.
On our first ride up, the trees were encased in thick ice, evidence of a freezing mist that had blown through a couple of days earlier. Conditions started relatively fast but were quick to soften. There was no White Ribbon of Death, the snow was simply too forgiving.
Beyond the unseasonable weather, it was classic Plattekill. We were practically alone on the hill. The other cars in the lot certainly didn’t add up to lift lines or entangled skiers on the slopes.