Skier Perceptions of Gore and Belleayre

Since joining the NYSkiBlog crew last fall, I’ve been initiated, from a distance, into the lively discussions about Gore Mountain.

Gore Mountain Snowmaking

Similar to the Alta crowd in Utah, knowledgeable and passionate Gore skiers can spout details about every single trail, lift, glade, and rock on command. Take a look at the reader comments to Harv’s Gore entries this season and you’ll see an array of detailed and divergent theories on everything from snowmaking, grooming, and midweek lift service to parking and placement of terrain parks. Very little seems to escape their laser-like scrutiny, including a growing impatience with the way that operational decisions have been communicated to customers.

Two hours south, Belleayre skiers are no less fervent about their home hill, but about completely different issues. As my interview with Coalition to Save Belleayre chairman Joe Kelly pointed out, the most heated discussions tend to revolve around the question of state funding and an ongoing debate about the long-planned Belleayre Resort.

Belleayre Bumps

But bring up operations, and everyone seems to be on the same page — that it’s the most dependable ski experience in the Catskills. There appears to be a high level of confidence in Superintendent Tony Lanza’s handling of on-mountain issues and particularly in Belleayre’s ability to bounce back from unpleasant weather events.

Part of the perceptional differences may be demographic in nature. Because Belleayre is more of an intermediate mountain with many skiers driving in from downstate, it isn’t under the same intense magnifying glass as Gore, which has a higher percentage of expert skiers, along with an outdoorsy mountain community that is very connected to the ski area. Also, to be fair, Gore’s terrain layout often forces management into tough (i.e. unpopular) snowmaking and lift-op decisions, particularly given New York State’s increasingly precarious fiscal situation.

I’d be interested in hearing opinions about the way these two “underdog” state-owned ski areas are viewed by their respective customer base.

7 comments on “Skier Perceptions of Gore and Belleayre

  1. James… this is interesting. Because I’ve spent most of my days at Gore, I never really thought about how Gore skiers different from those at other mountains.

    When chatting with Sick Bird Rider of The Real Jay Peak Snow Report he casually mentioned “ongoing complaints” about the way Jay Peak is run. I thought REALLY? Hard to believe people are cranky when you've got 350 inches to smooth things over.

    One question … you classify Belleayre as “more intermediate.” When we skied at Bell this year after the late January NCP event Bell was blowing on the expert terrain not the easier stuff. Maybe that approach has something to do with the contentment of the expert (and potentially most vocal) skiers? Would love to hear opinions.

    Also… snowmaking is obviously an issue at Gore. It does seem like Bell recovers more quickly from debilitating weather. I wonder about Bells ratio of snowmaking to total acreage. Gore can put out 15 acres/day vs 400 total acres. Would love to know the numbers for Bell.

  2. This will be an interesting discussion to follow. I am sure all ski areas with loyal followings have similar issues. IMHO, the big issue at Jay is the contrast between the new expansion (new hotel, golf course, ice rink, etc.) and the fact that many facilities remain pretty much the same as they were in 1968, when I first started skiing there (eg. Stateside Lodge and Sky Haus, the cool but under-utilized space at the Tram summit). Until the new Tram Haus base lodge was built (which is fantastic), there had been no change in base lodge facilities (read: lunch seating capacity) since the late 60s, even though skier capacity on lifts had increased many times over. Jay is spoiled rotten by snowfall, which they promote the heck out of, making many people think it is a powder day every day at Jay.

  3. Similar complaints from the locals at Greek Peak about how the management is focusing on the new waterpark resort and literally nothing has been done to the ski area infrastructure in many decades, with a lift system that is quite antiquated.

    I don’t have much to add about Belle because I’ve never skied there. If I’m going to drive 3-4 hours to ski, I’m more inclined to go to Gore. I can ski locally at Greek Peak which is comparable in difficulty and grooming to Belle anyway.

    Plus, if I go up to Gore, there’s a good chance I can ski with Harvey!

  4. Sick Bird brings up Jay as having a similar culture as Gore. I mentioned it in my early February Jay Peak TR. Without any prompting, I got the whole “love the mountain, don’t like the management” rap from several locals. It seems to be part of the tradeoff for ski areas that have developed a dedicated following. Longtime passholders become so intimate with everything there that they don’t feel any reticence about sharing their indignation with each other or others.

    PDQ makes an interesting point about Greek Peak and how skiers there are justifiably disgusted that management refuses to update the 40+ year-old infrastructure. Maybe the Gore complainers should go to GP and see what it’s like to get no improvements whatsoever.

    Harv also has a good observation about the strategy of keeping upper-level skiers happy, because they’re the ones who bitch the most. 🙂

    Another thing to consider is how season passholders get annoyed when policies are enacted that work against them (gold parking at Gore was the classic example). They feel that they’re the ones who keep the place going during the lean times and deserve some sort of recognition. However, as Harv mentioned in one post, maybe the passholders aren’t as important to the ski area’s bottom line as they think they are.

  5. I used to ski Belleayre Christmas week for a few years and thought they also suffered from a lack of early season snowmaking. But Belleayre’s prices were (are still) so good that it was hard to complain. Gore prices now rival southern VT and in general they are much more aggressive with snowmaking.

  6. Every major ski mountain has its core of ardent regulars. And every major ski mountain has a weakness. It’s only logical that the weaknesses are most apparent to those who ski there most frequently. As Harv mentions above, Gore’s achilles heal is snowmaking. That issue has been discussed ad nauseum in the recent Gore Mountain Summer Update post and elsewhere here on HR. At Belle, it appears that snowmaking capacity relative to terrain is at an acceptable level, so other issues emerge. The same can be said for Jay and Greek Peak. But at Gore, all roads lead back to snowmaking capacity. Want more mogulled trails?… Ain’t gonna happen without more snowmaking firepower. I support the decisions that have been made to increase terrain (Burnt Ridge, Ski Bowl) before snowmaking upgrades. We’ll get the snowmaking capacity eventually. But next time we get a mid-winter NCP event, it’d be nice to get the guns going on the summit BEFORE re-blowing the mountain’s ENTIRE beginner and intermediate terrain. 🙂

  7. Gore may get the hand me downs from Whiteface. Belleayre on the other hand gets the left overs. For example Gore recently got a new base lodge. Belleayre’s new lodge that was months away from ground breaking was put on hold. Belleayre’s Overlook lodge may condemned in a few years, which would be a serious problem for Belleayre.

    IMHO the mountains in NY State have always had the potential to far exceed the skiing experience of Vermont. Unfortunately for skiers and riders most of the land with the best skiing/riding potential is protected by forever wild law. Unlike national parks and forests, NY state can not lease land to private ski companies to build resorts on NY state owned mountains. NY state ski areas have do not do a good job of providing the 4 season vacation experience that Vermont ski areas provide.

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