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Big Tupper would need early snow to open

TUPPER LAKE – There is a chance Big Tupper Ski Area will open this winter if the Farmer’s Almanac forecast holds true.

“If we get a ton of snow early December, we would work very hard at raising the capital needed to open,” said Jim LaValley, chairman of the volunteer organization ARISE (Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving Their Economy) that has been running the mountain since 2010. “If we get to the holidays and the snow still isn’t there, we probably won’t be able to open. We have not concluded one way or another yet.”

The facility does not have snowmaking equipment, which leaves it dependent solely on the elements.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the Northeast can expect an “ice cold and snow-filled” season full of active storms that could bring snow by mid-November.

ARISE has no money, LaValley said, although he declined to get into detail about its finances. Even though it runs the mountain with a cadre of volunteers, yearly operational costs can run from $75,000 to $150,000 for insurance, inspection costs, electricity and equipment maintenance. Without income from lift tickets last year, the organization cannot pay for the electricity to open, LaValley said.

But snow can be a great motivator, and should it arrive before the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the organization would try to make it work, he said.

To that end, he said, a fundraiser ARISE traditionally holds each December, the fancy-dress gala Snowball, may still be in the works, but it and the other fundraising events don’t raise nearly enough to to operate a ski hill.

“Although we don’t make as much off it as you think, it’s still one heck of a party,” LaValley said. The board is currently mulling whether or not to organize it, he said.

Big Tupper Ski Area reopened during the 2009-10 ski season after 10 years of lying dormant. Each year since then, it has struggled not only with the whims of Mother Nature but also with operating costs. The mountain did not open during the 2012-13 ski season because of a lack of funding or last year due to lack of snow.

ARISE is has operated the 1,152-vertical-foot ski slope while waiting for a new resort destination called Adirondack Club and Resort to be built. Plans call for a 6,200-acre luxury housing development with a renovated Big Tupper as its centerpiece. When construction will begin remains a big question mark while developers still need to apply for requisite permits, build a road, buy land and pay back taxes.

In the meantime, LaValley said he just received notice this week from the state Department of Labor that all ski areas in New York must now provide verification of adequate safety before opening.

“I am talking with engineers that are big supporters to see what we can do with no money,” he said.