For the most part, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to shift Belleayre Mountain Ski Center from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to the Olympic Regional Development Authority makes sense. Running ski areas is part of ORDA's core mission and something it does well. For the DEC, it's a side job.
Now, running ski areas probably shouldn't be one of the state's core missions, either, and New York has to cut costs. Therefore, ideally, the state would sell Belleayre. But because it's part of the Catskill Forest Preserve, that would require a constitutional amendment, which requires yes votes of two successive state Legislatures and the people of the state. Plus, the state might have trouble finding a capable buyer. Higher energy prices and weather fluctuations - with the prediction of constant warming for many years to come - make ski areas a riskier investment than they used to be. More than ever, they rely on slope-side amenities like housing and lodging to make money, while the hill itself runs at a loss.
Belleayre could still be sold, but if, as New York state assumes, this mountain is going to remain government-run, ORDA is probably a better overall choice than DEC. ORDA's executive director came not from the political or business worlds but the slopes of Whiteface Mountain. And from what we've heard, ORDA probably is better at promotion than the DEC, although there would have to be huge improvement if ORDA has to compete with all the other Catskill ski resorts in the New York City market.
As ORDA gains marketing savvy, it could also overcome its geographical challenge - the 220-mile, four-hour driving distance between Lake Placid and Shandaken. Some Catskill residents worry that Belleayre would get less attention than the facilities closer to ORDA's heartland, as some say is already the case with Gore Mountain in North Creek, an hour-and-a-half drive south of Lake Placid. We believe, however, that ORDA would rise to the responsibility of being a statewide winter sports authority.
With that in mind, don't be surprised if those in Albany recommend changing ORDA's name to the Winter Sports Authority or some-such, since ORDA would be less about the Olympic Region specifically. We're not sure if this would be a good thing for our part of the state, but it seems possible if you try to think about it from a statewide perspective. Perhaps, too, by enlarging ORDA's mission, it could put New York in a better position to host more top-tier international sports events (perhaps another Olympics if the games shrink a bit), groom future Winter Olympians and get more New Yorkers out and active on skis, skates, etc. during the winter months.