LaValley: Big Tupper ski price was overstated

Chair 2 at Big Tupper Ski Area, seen Dec. 13, is expected to open at the start of the 2018-19 season.
(Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

Chair 2 at Big Tupper Ski Area, seen Dec. 13, is expected to open at the start of the 2018-19 season. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — Some skiers anticipating the reopening of the Big Tupper Ski Area, scheduled for the start of the 2018-19 season, were shocked to hear the lift ticket prices would be 80 percent the cost of a Whiteface ticket, but developers now say the prices will be much lower.

An article reporting on the reopening last week included information from mountain caretaker Cliff Lemere on that ticket price; however, resort real estate official Jim LaValley said Lemere was not up to date on the latest pricing discussions. The anticipated price for the fully operational mountain, LaValley said, is likely to be closer to $35 to $40 a day, comparable to rates at Titus Mountain Family Ski Center near Malone.

“We’re very sensitive to the local pricing structure. We’re going to want to provide a pricing structure that is extremely attractive to bring people back to Big Tupper,” LaValley said. “‘Is that going to be at, or well below Titus?’ This is the sort of bantering we are doing right now.”

LaValley said the developers have also considered price incentives for local skiers and students with perfect attendance.

Big Tupper is part of the Adirondack Club and Resort development, which this year got some traction on selling housing lots around the ski center and starting to build a road to some of the lots.

Construction on a road leading to the lots has slowed during the winter months but will continue through the spring when crews are able to work more in better weather.

Though Big Tupper has not formally been open since 1999, the 100-member-strong volunteer group ARISE operated the recreation center from 2009 to 2014, cleaning the trails and maintaining the machinery. ARISE set one-day lift ticket prices at $25, drawing Tupper Lakers of various economic classes and tourists looking for a rare cheap ski vacation. Due to a lack of snow and a subsequent lack of funding, ARISE ended its annual fundraising for the ski area in 2014, much to the disappointment of Tupper Lakers and skiers across the Tri-Lakes area.

Lamere said it is unclear who will run the mountain in 2018.

The Big Tupper Ski Area, which cost at least $130,000 for maintenance and diesel annually while operated by ARISE, will be funded by the sale of the Adirondack Club and Resort’s “great camp” luxury housing lots.

LaValley said Chair 2 is expected to open in 2018, servicing trails on the right side of the Mountain including Logger, the Snowboard Park and Sugar Loaf. Chair 1 is to be rebuilt through the 2018 summer. Chair 3, which is surrounded by ledges that don’t receive much powder, may open in 2018 if weather provides adequate snow.

“I love Big Tupper but $72 dollars is a bit steep unless the whole mountain is open and functional again,” Brian DeBadts of Malta commented through Facebook on the news of the mountain’s reopening. “I fondly remeber [sic] the days when the Town owned it and season passes for high school students were $100.”

According to LaValley, when the payroll and maintenance costs rise with the mountain’s number of lifts, employees and amenities, ticket prices will have to follow.

“Obviously, as they grow, adding snowmaking and all this other stuff, the ticket grows with that,” Elliot Day, who worked as a lift operator under ARISE.

Day said he currently picks up a Whiteface season pass every year but will trade that in for a Big Tupper season pass instead next year. He wants to work again at the mountain his father Peter had owned, along with Leroy Pickering, until 1999.

“I’ll probably want to go ski Whiteface every once in a while, but I wouldn’t be skiing anywhere else if I’m working at the mountain [Big Tupper],” Day said. “Big Tupper has a unique terrain. The features of the mountain are great.”

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