ORDA board OKs $38.3M in new projects

LAKE PLACID — The state Olympic Regional Development Authority Board of Directors on Tuesday approved $38.3 million in new capital projects at ORDA’s winter sports facilities in Lake Placid, Wilmington, North Creek and in the Catskills.

Among the newly-approved projects are renovations to the Castle at Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway; sliding track improvements at Mount Van Hoevenberg; snowmaking pipeline improvements, trail and electrical upgrades at the Whiteface Ski Center in Wilmington; masonry repairs to the 1932 Jack Shea Arena at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid; lodge and lift improvements at the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in the Catskills; snowmaking infrastructure at Gore Mountain in North Creek; and new snow grooming and snow guns at ORDA-managed facilities.

The state Legislature, through the new state budget, approved $92.5 million in state funding for ORDA in the 2023-24 budget. With the projects approved Tuesday, around $72.7 million of that has already been earmarked for upcoming projects.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, ORDA’s board of directors had already approved some other upcoming projects, in the amount of $34,550,000. The board approved $5.55 million for lift improvements at Belleayre Mountain; $14.5 million for a solar system and a new lift at Gore Mountain; and $14.5 million at the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center for a lift from the Bear Den Lodge to the Legacy Lodge and a gondola haul rope replacement.

Ahead of the 2023 Winter World University Games in January, ORDA funneled around $550 million in state funding it had received toward “fields of play” for the games, according to ORDA CEO Mike Pratt — including $104 million in upgrades to the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, upgrades to the Whiteface Ski Center and at the Olympic Jumping Complex and the Olympic Sports Complex at Mount Van Hoevenberg in the town of North Elba.

For many years, local officials touted the World University Games as a catalyst for making improvements to the local winter sports venues that would bring them up to date and allow ORDA to continue to host large-scale, world class competitions.

Now that the games are over, Pratt told the Enterprise on Tuesday that the authority is largely shifting its capital funding to upgrading venues and buildings that haven’t gotten as much attention in the last several years — namely, at Belleayre Mountain and Gore Mountain — especially as the authority looks to bring all of its winter sports venues up to regulation for more “prestigious” competitions like this year’s FIS Ski Jumping World Cup. However, some venues that were upgraded for the FISU games — including the Whiteface Ski Center, Mount Van Hoevenberg and the Olympic Center in Lake Placid — are slated for another set of upgrades with the new funding.

Lake Placid, Wilmington improvements

Upgrades at ORDA-managed facilities in Lake Placid and Wilmington make up $15,260,000 of the capital funding identified in Tuesday’s resolutions.

At the Whiteface Ski Center, ODRA plans to spend $1.3 million on the replacement of problematic pipelines to improve the reliability of modernized snowmaking guns; $1 million for race trail improvements — essentially, widening race trails to allow for simultaneous competitions and training in a controlled and secured area; another $1.9 million for Bear Den Lodge improvements, including updated gutters and drainage, a new patio with radiant heat, and “code compliance matters”; and another $660,000 for mountain electrical improvements, which includes reservicing the summit’s 35k volt distribution with an underground distribution line and installing a new transformer to service the Silo, the Round House, and the Castle.

ORDA will spend $2.5 million on repairs along the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway. Improvements at the summit include Castle exterior repairs and improvements, potable water and wastewater systems improvements, and master planning and design for electrical/mechanical systems and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act’s regulations. At the Toll House, ORDA will invest in infrastructure improvements to wastewater, potable water and electrical systems, as well as abatement and remediation evaluation, electrical improvements, and stabilizing the exterior of the


The Olympic Center will get around $3 million more in improvements from Tuesday’s funding, which includes some masonry work on the Jack Shea 1932 rink, drainage and maintenance garage roof repairs, and food and beverage storage upgrades.

The Olympic Jumping Complex is slated for $1.9 million in improvements across three projects: The construction of a new maintenance garage with a single bay for a grooming tractor; repairs to the Judge’s Tower; and the installation of a new summer surface on the 48-meter jumps to provide year-round jumping.

Mt. Van Hoevenberg’s sliding track will get $3 million for a refrigeration plant piping evaluation and sliding track improvements.


Around $14.915 million of the funding approved on Tuesday will go to Belleayre Mountain. Combined with the previously-approved $5.55 million for lift improvements at Belleayre, ORDA is expecting to spend at least $20.465 million of its 2023-24 capital budget at Belleayre.

Around $7.3 million of the funding approved on Tuesday will go toward improvements at Belleayre’s Discovery and Overlook lodges.

More than $3 million of the new funding will go toward snowmaking improvements at Belleayre, including $565,000 to modernize the Pine Hill Pumphouse with pump, intake, manifold and drain improvements; a $2 million pipe replacement on the lower mountain to meet the demands of high water pressures required by modernized snow guns at Belleayre; and $450,000 for design and permitting for the future construction of an underground snowmaking reservoir. The cost of the construction of the reservoir would be determined by these design processes and paid for separately.

ORDA is also setting aside $3.2 million of the new funding for building improvements at Belleayre, including a gondola grip room so crews can work on gondola grips, hangers and carriers, as well as a remodel of Belleayre’s administrative building.

The board also amended a previous agreement for Belleayre’s Lift 8 modernization. In April of last year, ORDA allocated $700,000 for a new Lift 9 and $400,000 to renovate Lift 8’s electrical system. However, after evaluating Lift 8 — which was discovered to be in need of more work than anticipated — ORDA has decided to pause its plans for a new lift, instead shifting the funding for the new lift to renovations of Lift 8, including an overhaul of the Lift 8’s 1980s-era electrical system and replacement of three operator buildings. On Tuesday, ORDA also allocated $250,000 in new funding for Lift 8 to cover the extra scope of work.

ORDA will spend $400,000 on a new electrical distribution and services upgrade project, which includes the installation of a new 13k volt underground distribution line to supply new services and reduce loads on older services.

Another $750,000 in new funding will go toward Belleayre trail improvements, including improving access to the base of new Lift 7 and improvements to the trail network to provide a more difficult trail near the top of new Lift 7.


ORDA’s board of directors set aside $3,060,000 in new capital funding for Gore Mountain on Tuesday. Combined with the previously-approved $14.5 million for a solar system and a new lift at Gore, ORDA plans to spend at least $17.56 million of its 2023-24 capital funding on Gore improvements.

ORDA will spend $2.3 million of the funding approved on Tuesday on snowmaking infrastructure improvements at Gore — including improving mainline water distribution and correcting problematic areas to improve efficiency and snow production.

Around $760,000 will go to improving Gore Mountain’s Hudson River Pump House, including pump refits and reservoir pump house modifications and systems upgrades.

Snow grooming/making equipment

ORDA has also allocated $5,085,566 of its 2023-24 state funding on new snow grooming and snowmaking equipment for its different winter sports venues.

Around $2.43 million of that funding will go toward the purchase of 438 new snow guns — 396 Impulse R5 low energy, high-performance snow guns and 42 Impulse low energy, high-performance snowguns — as well as 12,000 feet of 1.5-inch snow hose, 12,500 feet of 2-inch snow hose, and “related equipment.” On Tuesday, Pratt said that most of the new guns — around 230 — would be installed at Bellayre. Around 150 guns will go to Whiteface, and another 40 or 50 will go to Gore, Pratt said. The new guns are permanent, high-efficiency guns that will replace the mountains’ current portable guns — meaning less staff time to move around portable guns and more snowmaking in a shorter period of time, according to ORDA Director of Communications Darcy Norfolk. She said that switching out the portable, less efficient guns for the permanent, high-efficiency equipment is akin to changing out traditional light bulbs for LEDS.

“The high-efficiency pumps, motors, drives and snow guns all work together to make more snow, faster, with less energy,” she said.

Another $2,652,000 of ORDA’s new funding will go toward five new snow grooming machines.

State budget

This past December, the authority expected to receive at least $80 million in state funding for 2023-24, an expectation reflected in ORDA’s 2023-24 budget, which passed in December with a projected $80 million capital fund. The board of directors on Tuesday also rectified its previously-approved 2023-24 budget to reflect the $12.5 million increase in state funding.

ORDA has two separate budgets: An operational budget and a capital budget, the latter of which is funded through the state budget each year. ORDA’s capital budget is most often used to fund major improvements at its winter sports venues.

ORDA’s new capital projects will be paid for with the authority’s $92.5 million capital budget for 2023-24. The state allocated $90 million for ORDA in its enacted budget for 2024, which passed May 2. That’s $2.5 million less than Gov. Kathy Hochul’s executive budget, which carved out $92.5 million for the authority. However, funding for the New York Works program in the enacted state budget earmarked an additional $2.5 million for the authority, according to Norfolk.

This year’s $92.5 million in state funding for ORDA is a $12.5 million drop from the last two years’ state budgets. ORDA’s state funding dramatically increased over the last several years as the authority prepared its winter sports venues for the FISU Winter World University Games this past January. ORDA got $105 million in the 2022-23 and 2021-22 state budgets, $147 million in the 2020-2021 budget, $80 million in the 2019-2020 budget, $62.5 million in 2018-2019 and $20 million in the 2017-2018 budget.

The complete list of new projects approved, including cost estimates for each project, can be found in Tuesday’s Board of Directors meeting documents, available online at tinyurl.com/bdhe8w4w.


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