Regional ski pass gets chilly reception from officials at Greene Cty. resorts

By Jay Braman Jr.
Ulster County Legislature Chairman David Donaldson proposed last week that Ulster, Greene and Delaware counties team up to institute a “Catskill Regional Ski Pass” that would allow skiers to ski at any of the resorts in the Catskill Region.
But so far the idea has received a chilly reception from one of the region’s biggest ski centers and only a curious look from another.
Donaldson, who earlier this year called for a public boycott of activities at Hunter and Windham ski centers, now thinks that leaders of the three counties should meet with tourism leaders and ski center operators to develop and promote a Catskill Regional Ski Pass.
“This type of ski pass and promotion are long overdue,” Donaldson said, noting that he had already written letters to Greene and Delaware county officials asking them to join forces with Ulster in promoting skiing this winter. “We should be competing with Vermont, New Hampshire, Colorado and Utah, not with each other.”
But this year there has been bad blood between Ulster County’s Belleayre Ski Center and Greene County’s Windham and Hunter, both of which pressed for a study of Belleayre’s operating budget because those area’s owners feel Belleayre has an unfair advantage by being run by the State of New York with taxpayer funds.
Tim Woods, president of Windham, said Donaldson’s idea has been discussed at length within his organization since it was proposed and Windham is not interested.
Woods described Belleayre’s ticket rates as “predatory pricing” and therefore saw no benefit to such a deal.
“First we’re subsidizing Belleayre (with taxpayer dollars),” Woods said. “Then we’re loaning them our customers?”
In the short term, Woods looks forward to more skier visits this season anyway, saying that he expects high gas prices to keep skiers from the metropolitan area closer to home than Vermont and New Hampshire.
Hunter Mountain’s President Russ Coloton said Monday that he doesn’t know anything about the regional ski pass plan.
“No one has contacted us yet. Our only understanding of it is from what we read in the paper,” he said, adding that he at least would be interested in hearing more about it.
Donaldson said that leaders of the three Catskill Region counties should work together to promote the whole region and raise awareness of the fact that there are more ski centers in New York State than in any other state in the country and that there are more ski centers in the Catskill Region than in any other region in the state.
“This type of approach makes more sense than Greene County attacking Ulster County’s number one tourist attraction or Ulster County calling for a boycott of Greene County’s ski resorts, which in the long run is detrimental to the region as a whole and to both counties,” Donaldson said.
Donaldson said the owners and management of Belleayre, Hunter and Windham ski areas should meet to discuss ways to bring more skiers to the area instead of fighting over the existing numbers.
“As leaders, it is time for us to lead the way to more positive and cooperative efforts,” Donaldson said.