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PLANS FOR TIMESHARE AT NEW YORK SKI RESORT

New York state and Crossroads reached an "agreement in principle" in 2007 for a scaled back version of the original resort plan. In December, under the terms of that plan, the state bought 1,200 acres of land on the east side of the mountain for permanent protection. The 2007 agreement also calls on the state to expand its ski center.

Now the project might be getting back on track, in part because of plans by New York state government to rejuvenate the Belleayre Mountain ski center, a state-run ski center in the Catskill Mountains that has been overshadowed in recent years by larger and glitzier ski centers in the Northeast.

New York is considering a proposal to boost the money-losing ski center by transferring the management of it from the state's environmental agency to the state authority that runs two Adirondack ski centers.  That could also help the Crossroads proposal for a high-mountain resort adjacent to Belleayre after years sitting on the drawing board.

Proponents of these changes think it could help Belleayre draw more visitors to a corner of the Catskills that depends heavily on tourism.  The idea is to shift Belleayre's management from the Department of Environmental Conservation to the Olympic Regional Development Authority, in the hope that the authority will beef up marketing to the New York City market to the south.

"We come pretty far down the ladder when push comes to shove, and I don't think that's going to happen with ORDA," said Joe Kelly, chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre Mountain, a citizens' group. "ORDA's in the ski business, they're in the tourist business, they're in the economic development business -- and that's what Belleayre and the region needs."

New York owns three ski centers: Whiteface and Gore in the Adirondacks and Belleayre in the Catskills.  Belleayre is the smallest, and one of the closest ski areas to New York City, about two-and-half hours from Manhattan.

"It's a little bit small, but that's definitely part of its charm," said Ellen Fauerbach, of nearby Denver, before heading to the slopes. Isabella Hofinga, a local college student sipping a Red Bull by the fire after a run, agreed. She feels comfortable enough to come here by herself.

"I've gone to this mountain since I was a kid," she said. "It's a lot nicer than the other mountains."
Belleayre averaged about 164,000 visitors in the past three seasons, but costs and expenditures there have been outpacing revenues by more than $3.7 million a year. Last winter, with the state under severe financial strain, Belleayre laid off 45 permanent employees and offered them seasonal employment.
Belleayre is run by the DEC, the state regulatory agency charged with protecting New York's air, land and water. Whiteface and Gore, on the other hand, are run by ORDA, a quasi-government agency created to manage facilities for the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid.

A commission created by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to find efficiencies in state government has proposed placing Belleayre under ORDA’s authority, too. The Spending and Government Efficiency Commission said an ORDA-run Belleayre could respond to the market better and eventually become self-sustaining.
DEC officials say they are reviewing the proposal, which would require legislative approval.
Though ORDA depends on state money for about 15 percent of its overall revenue, its Gore and Whiteface facilities earn a profit. ORDA has an expansive marketing program for its ski centers that includes billboards, print, television and radio and stretches into the New York City, Philadelphia, Montreal and Ottawa markets, according to ORDA president and chief executive officer Ted Blazer.

"We do World Cup events, we do other types of events that get us media exposure and sometimes that's not only nationwide exposure, that's world exposure," Blazer said. Crossroad spokesman Dean Gitter contends the state is committed to the upgrades, no matter which agency runs Belleayre.

The DEC says it is waiting for Crossroads to resubmit a key document necessary for environmental review, which could happen in the next few months. That would set the stage for public comments, a final decision by the state and review by the two local towns. That means two pivotal proposals on the future of Belleayre could be considered this year.



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