Beloved Belleayre Lift Attendant Passes Away

These days, it’s pretty rare to find a person who, through sheer force of personality, becomes the unofficial face of a business by embodying certain key attributes.

Belleayre's Jerry Siegel at the Tomahawk Midstation
Belleayre’s Jerry Siegel

For years, Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills had one of these unique people — someone who radiated the ski area’s atmosphere of friendliness, fun, and lack of pretention. Here’s what I wrote about him in a 2008 article:

Despite Belleayre not having the biggest, deepest, steepest, longest, or most expensive anything, there are a handful of reasons why so many New Yorkers are passionate about this mountain. One of them is the lift attendant at the Tomahawk Lift mid-station. Instead of a bored post-teen with tattoos, lip piercings, and bad skin, you’ll find a cheerful older gent who clearly seems to enjoy his job.

If you’ve ever skied at Belleayre, I’m sure you’ve seen him he’s been there for years. I couldn’t even tell you his name; all I know is that while air-conducting to classical or opera music that blasts from his hut, he waves and smiles at people on every single chair that goes by the entire day. Whether it’s sunny or cloudy, dumping snow or pouring rain, ten below zero or in the low 50s, he’s always having a great time and his enthusiasm is contagious. Even hard-bitten New Yorkers have been known to smile back at him.

While his musical choices leaned toward the classical end of the spectrum, he sometimes mixed things up with a smattering of big band, Broadway show tunes, and 50s jazz. One time, I saw him clapping along to a Janis Joplin song. I even have one unconfirmed report of him air-conducting the string section of Electric Light Orchestra’s 70s cheese classic “Turn to Stone.”

This past season, he wasn’t at his usual post, and everyone was wondering where he’d gone. Every time people took the Tomahawk Lift and didn’t see him at mid-station, it was very deflating. Yesterday came the news that this remarkable guy, named Jerry Siegel, had passed away. Only in his absence did we realize how important he was to the overall gestalt of the mountain. He made people happy.

If Belleayre ever manages to get some capital funding for new terrain, I hope that they have the common sense to name a trail after him, or at the very least create a memorial lift shack.

Cheers Jerry, and thanks for the memories.

7 comments on “Beloved Belleayre Lift Attendant Passes Away

  1. Hey there James,
    I’m one of Jerry’s grandchildren. My father forwarded me this article via e-mail tonight; it’s always a bit of a weird feeling finding something about one of your family members on the Internet, and this was no less so, but not unwelcome.

    I never knew him very well, as we lived in different states and visits were sparse over the years, but he was always a character and any one of us could tell you the mountains were very much a part of him; he lived in the Phoenicia area as long as I’ve been alive, in a big two-story cabin a few miles outside town. He loved his job on the ski-lift and were he around, I’m sure he’d get a kick out of someone writing about him on the Internet.

  2. Here’s to you Jerry! Even though I didn’t know him it reminds me of a lift attendant I knew as a kid. We called him Heavy as he weighed at least 350lbs but it wasn’t meant as an insult and he liked being called that. He was a great guy and everyone loved him. Sadly he died way to young but the ski area did rename a lift after him.

    Nice tribute article.

  3. Thanks for writing this. I loved him…. At a distance obviously, he smiled, was funny and despite slightly questionable music taste was a joy every ride up that rather slow lift…

  4. I’ve been a patroller at Belleayre for five years now and I can tell you that he made my day every time I saw him. You could not help but smile. He was such a gift to the public, the mountain, and the patrol. I too hope they can name a future trail or lift shack after him. Jerry – Enjoy that last chair ride to heaven! The sound system & music collection will be waiting for you!

    Franz Alvarez, BSP

  5. Yes Jerry, I hope when I pass away, you will be there somewhere half way between here and heaven. And have a little lift shack where you can blast your music.

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