LAKE PLACID - The state Olympic Regional Development Authority has already made some investments at the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center, and officials say they're ready for the upcoming ski season.
ORDA's Board of Directors convened at the Lake Placid Conference Center on Tuesday, Sept. 18. The authority's president and CEO, Ted Blazer, said ORDA is working to complete the transfer of Belleayre, located in Highmount in the Catskills, from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to ORDA.
"We had our staff go down and start to integrate so that they get to know us so that it makes it more comfortable," Blazer told the News. "It's kind of a gradual move. We said that in the beginning. We're going to spend a good amount of time watching how things work, and then we're going to make adjustments as we see necessary moving forward."
Blazer said ORDA and DEC have to work out a few "finer points" before the transfer process can begin. He said those talks should wrap up within the next month.
ORDA began taking over Belleayre operations earlier this year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the transfer. The governor's proposal followed a report by the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission that revealed fiscal problems that persisted under DEC's management.
Blazer said taking over operations at a ski mountain downstate won't be easy. He said there will be challenges, but he's confident that ORDA staff will be able to handle them.
Blazer added that Belleayre could open up opportunities for the Lake Placid region.
"Obviously, we're going to look after the Belleayre ski area," he said, "but there's other ski areas in the Catskill region that if we work together with them, and we can draw a bunch of people up from New York - all those ships rise as the water comes up.
"One of my big missions is working together with the private ski areas there to come up with a really nice plan to get the Catskills really punched and moving. And then from that, we move them up. Instead of going up to Vermont for maybe one of their ski vacations that they all do, to go north, to Gore, to Lake Placid, to Whiteface, to Wilmington."
Two new board members, Ulster County Legislator John Parete and Joe Kelly, chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, were appointed in June; both attended ORDA's meeting.
Kelly toured the Olympic facilities in and around Lake Placid last week. He said he was impressed by what he saw.
"What you've done up here, and what you've done for your region, and what you've done for New York state, is amazing," Kelly said. "You truly get the feeling up here of the richness of the history of the Olympics and things like that. The other thing I was impressed about is how up-to-date the Olympic training facilities are."
Kelly said Belleayre officials are excited about the transition to ORDA management. He said the last three or four years have been difficult.
"I think what you give to us is the Olympic tradition, the expertise that you've shown here," Kelly said. "I think what we provide, besides Belleayre and all of its rich traditions, is the connection with the New York City metropolitan area that is very strong at Belleayre and in downstate communities.
"We're happy that this has been done, and we look forward to working together."
Blazer said ORDA staffers have made multiple trips to Belleayre to work on things like capital projects, operations, marketing, technology, financing, payroll and human resources. He said Belleayre staff was also given information on ORDA policies and procedures.
Belleayre will also be signing up for ski shows, Blazer said, and the mountain is again part of I SKI NY, an organization that promotes ski areas throughout the state.
ORDA will purchase new groomers and snowmaking equipment for Belleayre, and is planning improvements at the ski lodge. Blazer said a new ticket scanning system will be implemented, too.