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ORDA ponders zip line at Whiteface

November 3, 2014
By MATTHEW TURNER ( , Lake Placid News

WILMINGTON - The state Olympic Regional Development Authority is still considering putting a zip line at one of the facilities it manages.

The idea has been many years in the making. First, back in 2008, the authority planned to put a zip line at the Olympic Jumping Complex, but it fell through. Now they have been considering one at Whiteface Mountain Ski Center.

The plan for a zip line is still just an idea, Whiteface manager Aaron Kellet said. The authority is looking at places where the zip line could be located. Ideally, the authority plans to put it at the top of the mountain, near the gondola, he said.

Article Photos

Whiteface Mountain
(File photo — Andy Flynn)

"It's just an idea we have been mulling," Kellet said. "We want to do it. We just have to figure out if we can do it."

Proponents of the zip line over the years have said it would draw in tourists and be another stream of revenue for ORDA. Zip lines are often a type of attraction at ski centers. Regionally, there is a zip line at Bolting Landing, North Creek and mostly recently a zip line proposal passed Adirondack Park Agency approval in Lake George.

"I think it's amazing," town of Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston said. "I know our local visitors bureau is questioned about it all the time. I think it would be a huge revenue generator."

Last year at an ORDA board meeting, ORDA's Senior Vice President Jeff Byrne estimated a zip line could generate "anything from $100,000 to $500,000 a year" for the authority. Byrne said a zip line could bring in 20,000 rides a year at $25 per ride.

"If we can get 20 percent of the people who visit our venues in the summer to do the zip line it would be worth it for us," Kellet said. "We've been talking to vendors, and we haven't really reached out to the regulatory agencies yet. But we are nowhere near any major phase of construction. It will take a considerable capital investment."

Kellet estimated the capital project would be north of $1 million. The previously planned zip line at the Olympic Jumping Complex was set to cost ORDA around $800,000 but never happened due to budget constraints.

Zip lines in the Adirondack Park have often been met with concern from people who say that they take away from the scenic beauty of the region. The Adirondack Park's mountain ranges and landscapes are debatably its greatest tourism draw, and part of a marketing push from the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, based in Lake Placid.

The state Adirondack Park Agency and state Department of Environmental Conservation would both have a hand in the regulatory oversight of construction at the ski center. The APA has approved zip lines in the past at other places in the Adirondack Park and back in 2008 ORDA's zip line proposal was approved by the agency. However, Whiteface Mountain Ski Center has its own Unit Management Plan and, because of that, a proposal could be denied, Kellet said.

"If the plan moves forward, it would take a couple years," he said. "There is just a lot of steps to the process, and it's time consuming."

Ashley McKenelley, ORDA's public relations assistant, said the authority hasn't submitted a plan to any state regulatory authorities yet.

Preston suspects the proposal was already shot down.

"I do know there is extreme push back from Ray Brook all the way to Albany on it," Preston said.

Visibility concerns were considered by the APA in 2013 when they approved plans for a new ski patrol building at Whiteface Mountain Ski Center.

DEC spokesman David Winchell did not return a request for information about the status of ORDA's proposal by press time.



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