Local businesses praying for snow

By Jay Braman Jr.
Crisp temperatures are helping maintain optimism in the region about Belleayre Ski Center’s tentative opening date of Nov. 14. With a cold front predicted for midweek it is possible that the snow guns can be fired up to begin blanketing select trails with enough snow to give early birds a shot at the slopes a full two weeks before the typical Thanksgiving weekend opening.
And a solid ski season can’t come soon enough. Many local business owners report a lackluster summer season and some, who are now looking for jobs just to make ends meet, look forward to better days in the winter months.
In an informal polling, some members of the Belleayre Region Lodging and Tourism Association reported that bookings were slow in the early part of the summer but picked up in July, but only after prices were dropped, some by as much as 20 percent. That, coupled with the fact that everything else seems to cost more, overall income is down, making a successful winter critical.
Others report that this has been the worst year for business since 2001, noting a 60 percent drop in occupancy. One lodge remained empty until the end of August this year.
Other factors play a role too. One establishment did well last year with overseas visitors due to the low dollar, but that market has dried up now.
Some business owners report a stressful year so far, having to rely on last minute bookings as opposed to the advance sales that have been common in past years.
Unfortunately for some, there was no business this year. So far at least.
Now that the leaves have fallen and temperatures are beginning to drop; Belleayre Mountain is waiting for just the right evening to kick start their snowmaking guns. That’s according to Belleayre Superintendent Tony Lanza who is eager to open for full-time operation on November 14.
“The mountain’s winter operation has proven to show its vital significance to the local region, because of its devoted returning visitors and countless recreational opportunities,” he said.
“The earlier Belleayre Mountain opens its doors, the earlier the local region can expect tourism dollars for the 2009-2010 winter season.”
Belleayre Mountain is introducing a new concept to its market this season, becoming known as Snow Therapy. On Wednesday, Nov. 4 Belleayre staff was scheduled to be at Bryant Park Grill in Manhattan, where the Ski Areas of New York will host Belleayre and present its upcoming winter season to national and local press and media.
“New, therapeutic on-snow experiences will be introduced, along with other ski school programs that encourage stress-less skiing and snowboarding, as well as back to basics and affordable vacation options for the 2009- 2010 ski season,” Lanza said.
Offerings include weekend activities such as complimentary morning meditations at the Summit Lodge to allow visitors to focus on their inner-calm, while being enveloped by the best Catskill landscapes.
Belleayre’s Snow Therapy concept is also partnering with Woodstock Physical Therapy and the Mid-Hudson Athletic Club, Lanza added.