ORDA officials are reportedly in talks to take over operation of Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in the Catskills.
Chris Knight reports.
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Belleayre is on state forest preserve land and is currently run by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Located on 2,100 acres of Forest Preserve land, Belleayre Mountain has 1,400 feet of vertical terrain, 55 trails, eight lifts and four ski lodges.
State officials said no decisions have been made but some believe ORDA would be a better fit to run the ski center. ORDA already operates Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, Gore Mountain in North Creek and the 1980 Winter Olympic venues in Lake Placid.
DEC spokesperson Michael Bopp said the idea of transferring Belleayre to ORDA is something that's being explored through Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission. While no decisions have been made, he said it makes more sense for ORDA to run the ski center than DEC.
"I think our feeling is for the agency (DEC) to be operating a ski center is a little bit of an outlier in terms of our normal management systems, budgeting, staff management and marketing scenarios," Bopp said. "ORDA's built to do this."
Bopp said a legal analysis, financial planning and other work would have to take place before anything moves forward.
Should it assume operation of the ski center, ORDA would be running a facility whose operating costs have regularly exceeded revenues, sometimes by more than $1 million, according to budget information provided by DEC. ORDA would face the difficulties of running the ski center from their headquarters hundreds of miles away with a budget stretched thin by recent state cuts.
ORDA board Vice Chairman Serge Lussi said the possibility of the Olympic Authority taking over Belleayre has been talked about for several years but has come into focus now, he said, because former ORDA board chairman Joe Martens is now DEC's commissioner.
"He has seen what a good job (ORDA President and CEO) Ted Blazer has done running Whiteface and Gore and all the Olympic facilities, so it would be a natural evolution," Lussi said. "I think it's probably a good idea, if the money's available for ORDA as it had been in the past for DEC."
"We're just at the beginning stages of raising this as something that could be looked at, but ultimately we'd envision something like the operating memorandum of understanding we have with ORDA with respect to Gore Mountain," Bopp said.
Lussi said he "would not be surprised if ORDA was running Belleayre next winter."
ORDA spokesman Jon Lundin referred questions about the possible transfer of Belleayre to Gov. Cuomo's press office. A message left there this week wasn't returned.