Cold temperatures, frequent snowfalls boost the season at Plattekill

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By Joe Moskowitz
It was a Wednesday, usually a quiet day at Roxbury’s Plattekill Mountain Ski Center. Plattekill is not usually open midweek, but as much as a foot of new snow was expected. When that happens, it doesn’t matter what day the calendar says, it’s a “Powder Daize” at Plattekill and the lifts are filled with skiers and snowboarders.

But only a couple of inches of snow fell and the temperature rose into the mid-30s and it turned out to be just a gray, drippy winter day. But, in spite of his disappointment last Wednesday, Plattekill owner Laszlo Vajtay says business overall this year is up 100 percent over last season. With a smile he says, “That’s easy because last year, there was no ski season.”

There has been only one major snowfall this winter and that was around Christmas. But there have been a number of three- and four-inch snow events. That snow, plus temperatures that have consistently remained below freezing, have kept Plattekill trails covered all season.

Vajtay says they have increased the amount of snow they make themselves, but he says they have to be very careful, as making snow is a very expensive proposition. There is the cost of labor, the cost of fuel, and there is a new, unexpected , installation expense. Natural gas drilling, or ”fracking” has turned steel, at least when used for pipes, into a precious metal. Vajtay says drillers and snowmakers use the same grade, high-pressure steel pipe. The drillers have increased the demand by so much that the same pipe that used to cost $4 to $6 per foot is now $24 to $28 per foot. But business goes on and Laszlo says it’s better.

For this season Plattekill, which is known as a challenging mountain, added a new beginners’ area.
Vajtay says it always had a two-mile-long novice trail, but that was hidden and people see the tough trails as soon as they arrive. The new beginners’ trail has allowed Plattekill to expand snow tubing from just a Friday-night activity to an all-day activity.

Plattekill, Vajtay says, may also benefit from something that is happening at another mountain. He has long portrayed himself as being a “David,” a small private winter park, battling a “Goliath,” the State of New York and its Belleayre Mountain. But Goliath has a new face, the Olympic Regional Development Authority. He says he likes what he sees so far. He says ORDA appears to want to develop skiing and snowboarding in all of the Catskills. He says the old New York State Department of Environmental Conservation management was trying to hog all of the business for themselves.

Before long, the snow will melt and the ski season will be over for another year, but Plattekill won’t just sit idle until next winter. It soon becomes mountain bike time. It’s been said before, at Plattekill. It’s all downhill from here.