Friends of Bobcat hope to review Andes ski center
Group seeks input to help redevelop historic ski area
By Brian Sweeney
Nearly 200 people who are interested in the return of skiing and other activities to Bobcat Ski Center in Andes turned out for a public meeting Saturday at the ski area.
As a fitting backdrop to the event, a steady snowfall covered the mountain, known for its low-key atmosphere and family-friendly charm. It was a perfect setting for the mix of longtime residents, business owners and newcomers who all expressed an interest in seeing Bobcat back in business.
The event was a mix of reminiscing and looking ahead as visitors recalled Bobcat‚Äôs 45 years of history and provided input about the ski center‚Äôs future.
The Friends of Bobcat will soon become an official entity and will be the organization that assists with planning the ski center‚Äôs redevelopment.
The Margaretville-based MARK Group (formerly the M-ARK Project) has agreed to facilitate the process for exploring the options for reopening Bobcat. The MARK Group organized Saturday‚Äôs meeting and will incorporate the public feedback into a plan for the ski center.
The MARK Group is hoping to secure grant funding for a feasibility study to determine the best direction for the mountain. Another public meeting will be held in about three months to provide updates.
Toward this goal, the meeting included visitors contributing their thoughts on three key topics regarding Bobcat‚Äôs potential renewed operation: recreation, social and educational activities.
In addition to skiing, the options to be explored for Bobcat include year-round recreation such as hiking, biking and camping. The facility is also being viewed as an ideal spot for environmental education study for schools and colleges and for social events such as weddings and banquets.
Comments received at Saturday‚Äôs session were enthusiastically positive in regard to the importance of Bobcat as a ski mountain that provides reasonably priced skiing and as a business that can play a key role in the local economy.
Many ideas regarding Bobcat were received at last week‚Äôs meeting and via e-mail to the Friends of Bobcat.
‚ÄúI learned to ski at Bobcat. It‚Äôs a home away from home. I want to share that experience with my children,‚Äù commented Andes native Matt Woodin.
Kimberly Rockefeller, formerly of South Kortright and now living in California, e-mailed, ‚ÄúI would love to see Bobcat used to its full potential, for skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, special events, and education.‚Äù
Lee Melahn, a non-skier who owns the Mercantile shop in Andes, noted, ‚ÄúBobcat has the potential of being a beacon for this wonderful community. It has represented a wholesome family activity that has given pleasure to generations.‚Äù
The spirit of community excitement over the possibility of Bobcat reopening was typified by two Andes businesses, Hogan‚Äôs General Store and The Andes Hotel, both of which sent food and well-wishes to the meeting.
Bobcat Ski Center is located on Mt. Pisgah, the highest peak in Delaware County at 3,345 feet. The business was started in1963 by Waldemar Durke of Germany and Delhi, along with Andes residents Paul and Emma Grommeck. The business was originally known as Catskill Ski Center.
After a strong initial season, the lodge for was doubled. The debt accumulated, combined with a lack of snowfall led to a very poor season. An offer was extended to Charles McIntosh Sr. of Bovina Center to purchase a half-interest in 1965. The McIntosh family purchased the remaining half-interest in 1971. They ran the business until 1987 when it was sold at public auction to Seymour Schuman of Long Island.
The McIntosh family continued to play an active role in the ski center and provided management for the Schumans. The deaths of Mr. Schuman and his son-in-law, Jack Brennan, in recent years led to uncertainty about Bobcat‚Äôs future. As a result, Bobcat has not operated for the past three seasons.
The organizers of Friends of Bobcat are hoping that Saturday‚Äôs event will be the first step in bringing skiing (and possibly other activities) back to Bobcat.
The day featured a wide-ranging display of the history of Bobcat. Among those in attendance was Bob Reynolds who helped install the lifts at the ski center. He recalled those early days at the mountain, as did dozens of other visitors. Andes resident Vicki Winner gave a slide presentation that included photos of her father, Ray, who also helped build the ski center and who later worked there.
Letters of support for the redevelopment of Bobcat were received from state Senator John Bonacic and Assemblyman Clifford Crouch.
The primary organizers of the Friends of Bobcat are Abby Brannen-Wilson of Delhi and Bonnie Rockefeller of Bloomville. Anyone wishing to join the Friends of Bobcat, or who wishes to add comments is welcome to send ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Ms. Brannen-Wilson at 607 746-8866.