May 21, 2008: Belleayre is an unfair competitor

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To The Editor:
In the May 14 letters section we were offered a nostalgic trip by a sincere traveler down memory lane, who, as it turns out, is a stout supporter of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. I applaud his remembrances of things past but realize that at our age (here I assume that we are peers) memory is not always correct. The Catskills were buzzing in summer activity, when we were young, catering to the escapees from the cities’ sweltering heat. This went on until attrition took its toll on that generation.
I am neither rich nor wealthy, nor do I ski, but I believe I can still spot an injustice when I see it. The mountain was shared by the Belleayre and Highmount ski centers. One was created with private money and the other with taxpayers’ money. Now tell me, which one had the business advantage? Belleayre Mountain Ski Center has had a reputation for predatory business practices from day one. The off-handed dismissal of complaints made by privately owned ski centers is cavalier in the minimizing of their real problem. When we examine the differences of the Belleayre operating tax supported budget and a private enterprise budget we see a glaring disparity. Private ski centers have pointed out that they cannot afford $3 to $5 million lifts or yearly replacement of grooming equipment. They, the private owned ski centers, can’t sell $15 tickets and stay in business carrying the burden of expensive capital updating costs.
Belleayre Ski Center can in that if they can operate in the red the state’s taxpayers foot the negative balance. It was said that, “If Hunter and Windham are suffering, it isn’t because of what Belleayre is, it is because what they are not.” I could not agree more. It certainly is because of what they are not. They are not using taxpayers’ money to operate their ski centers. I have no problem with seeing Belleayre Ski Center remain to serve the public but I do recognize its favored position in the ski business. What I do not favor is turning it into a state-sponsored real estate development.
Should we be part of such a scheme, a scheme that is being played out across our country by developers and banks to the detriment of the nation’s economy? Has the current real estate bust not taught anything? Have the investors not learned anything?

Stuart E Buswell,
Margaretville