Regional ski cooperation plans starting to take shape

By Jay Braman Jr.
After months of Hatfield and McCoy style feuding, the ski centers in Ulster and Greene counties are warming to the idea of working together to attract more visitors. And along the way one ski center in Delaware County has gotten involved too.
Since January, a series of meetings began under Ulster County Executive Michael Hein. At those sessions the representatives of Greene County’s Hunter and Windham Ski Centers, Ulster County’s Belleayre and Delaware County’s Plattekill Ski Center began talking about ways to make the Catskills a unified ski destination. In other words, instead of competing with one another for skiers the four facilities would offer themselves as a part of the same ski experience, encouraging visitors to take advantage of the offerings at all four locations.
Similar discussions have been held before but fell flat because Hunter and Windham did not feel the state-owned Belleayre could be an equal partner with their private enterprises. Last year that attitude took a turn for the worse with Hunter and Windham successfully calling on Greene County government to try and convince Albany to reduce funding for Belleayre. In turn Ulster County government, led by county legislator Dave Donaldson, called for a boycott of those Greene County facilities.
But, according to Joe Kelly of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, that was then, this is now.
A vocal critic of Greene County’s attacks, even Kelly admits that these recent sessions have yielded progress, albeit small.
“They are taking baby steps, but at least they are steps in the right direction,” Kelly said Sunday.
According to Belleayre’s Superintendent Tony Lanza, all sides have found common ground in a hope to attract more skiers to the region, skiers that otherwise travel to Vermont.
Preliminary plans call for a billboard blitz along the routes to and from the Vermont slopes announcing discounts to those that try the Catskills instead.
“It might not be ready for this year, but at least we have an agreement about what we want to do,” Lanza said.
The campaign would be paid for the four ski centers, and the three counties would contribute as well, Lanza added.