Let's promote alpine skiing

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To The Editor:
The following is an open letter to the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA):

 I write in the hopes that ORDA will facilitate, encourage and promote alpine tour skiing and snow shoeing at Belleayre.  For those not familiar with alpine tour skiing, it is perhaps best described as the four-wheel drive of skiing.  The equipment employs a hybrid boot that can either lock into the ski-bindings, like a conventional downhill ski, or operate with a free heel, like a cross-country ski.

 You can ski uphill in cross-country fashion by lining the bottom of the ski with “skins” (a material with a directional nap that sticks to the bottom of the ski and allows you to glide forward and uphill, and resist going backward), which is a terrific and very enjoyable form of exercise.  Once you get to the top of the mountain, you remove the skins, switch the boots to stiff ankle position and lock in to the bindings.  Then, you ski downhill.  

My first experience in alpine tour (AT) skiing was out West, hut skiing in the Rockies.  I started at Belleayre Mountain about 15 years ago.  I would park in one of the lower lots, put on my skis, and a couple of hours later I’d be eating a snack at the summit.  Then, switching to downhill mode, I’d be back down from the hills to my car.  I’d have gladly paid for the privilege, but that option was not available.  My activities were frowned upon by the former staff, and ultimately prohibited.  In recent years, my AT skiing was banned altogether, putting an end to my skiing bliss.  

 I just want to be able to cross-country ski up-hill amidst the trees, ski back down to my car and get on with life’s other activities and distractions.  The climb up does not have to be in the center of groomed slopes.  A narrow area on the periphery of a slope can be set aside for this activity, or an ungroomed and otherwise unused trail would suit me fine.  I know others who enjoy snowshoeing.

 They should be allowed to traverse ungroomed slope areas, as well.  It’s great exercise, good fun, and yet another way to enjoy Belleayre.  I won’t get into the whole history of the ski center, how it was built on “forever wild” lands, or how certain State trailheads are only accessible from the top ski center area.  That would be missing the point.  The point is this – ORDA should sell me a non-lift day pass ticket – let me ski, snowshoe, or hike up, so I can ski down.  If you provide decent paths up and down the mountain, separate from the downhill skiers, I am confident that you’ll find many others are similarly desirous of summiting without the aid of a chair lift.  It’s good sport, good exercise and could lead to some good competitions.  It might also help allay Belleayre’s now five yearlong financial deficits.

And, no, the cross-country ski area is not a good substitute for the activities I’m suggesting here.  The cross-country ski area is often not traversable at all.  More often than not, the cross-country ski area has inconsistent snow and ice conditions, it is isolated and, at times, downright dangerous.  
The cross-country course at Belleayre is often barely suitable for its intended purpose, a poor stepchild to the downhill aspect of Belleayre, in decent condition for cross-country excursions, not enjoyable at all for Alpine Touring, and snowshoeing would rightly be prohibited there. Now that it is in control of Belleayre, I hope that ORDA will consider adding Alpine Tour Skiing and Snow Shoeing to its menu of activities.  We ATs and snowshoers belong there, too.  

We won’t detract from the boarders doing their tricks on the rails, or the downhillers traversing the moguls.  New promotional opportunities, such as races to the top, snow shoe calisthenics, and the like can expand interest in Belleayre and provide a new revenue base for the ski center.   I think it would appeal to the more mature skiing crowd, of which I count myself a member, who might be too bored or too cold to continue riding the lifts.  Best of luck to board of ORDA with operating Belleayre.  I hope to see you all at the summit.

Ron Kaplan,
Fleischmanns