Bearpen: The Beast Resurrected

With the future of winter in doubt, what makes someone open a ski center in a remote part of the Catskills?

“Insanity, I guess,” said Bearpen Sports Center owner Howard Rennell. “Kind of a childhood dream. I fell in love with the mountain, as well. It’s been a long, arduous process.”

Bearpen fat bikes

Growing up on the east end of Long Island, Rennell recalled, “Talk about the era of global warming, out there the chances of snow were slim and none. The sledding aspect, as a kid, you and your friends would gather together and make a kind of luge track. Pack it down and go out with watering cans and douse it with water, hoping it would freeze and last a little longer. This is a bigger scale of it.”

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Bearpen Mountain Hike with Ben Lane

In the four years since we posted an interview with Russ LaChapelle, about the Catskills’ enigmatic Bearpen Mountain — the one that got away — that article has become far and away NY Ski Magazine’s most popular, both in page views and comments.


Between my conversations with Russ, his many forum posts on the Snowjournal website, a feature article on his Lost New York website, and a 2014 trip report from Matt Lucas here on NYSB, I felt like I already knew Bearpen even though I’d never been there.

The closest that I’d ever come to the former Princeton Ski Bowl was seeing it from afar while at other Catskill ski areas, after which I’d always post photos in trip reports captioned with “Bearpen Mountain In The Distance.”

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Bearpen Mountain: Going the Distance

Change is a constant in New York and exceptions will only prove that rule. Through the foggy goggles of memory, we skiers like to reminisce about the past, but someone else will always remember the story differently from a time before we lived it.


Bearpen is like that for me, as I can play “remember when.”  Still, I learned about the mountain from NELSAP, but that was well after the halcyon era for the bygone resort.

I suppose my own glory days at Bearpen were spent assisting the owners and the caretaker, Russ LaChapelle in maintaining the property and learning of its storied past.

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