Thursday, September 9, 2010

Belleayre, Whiteface & Gore: Together Under ORDA?

If you live in or spent any time in New York this year, it was impossible to escape talk of the state budget crisis, extender bills, state furloughs and park closures. Finding ways to streamline state government should be a top priority of our officials. One way might be to combine Belleayre with Whiteface and Gore under the ORDA umbrella.

The three state-owned ski areas are currently the responsibilities of ORDA (Gore and Whiteface) and DEC (Belleayre), and have two completely separate reporting lines. Some level of administrative efficiency and cost savings should certainly result from a single management structure. But the benefits would likely be more than just cost savings. Knowledge and resource sharing should produce a better overall ski product, resulting in an increase in skier visits and economic impact from operation of the state-owned ski areas. After all, if the State of New York is going to be in the ski business, shouldn't it do so in a coordinated manner? It would seem to be a win/win for everyone.

Belle would get more budget and infrastructure (hopefully), Gore/WF would get more people from the NYC region spending money in the Adirondacks with their season passes, skiers would have more options and value from their passes. There are potential obstacles. For one, ORDA was created by the State of New York to manage the facilities used during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid. However, ORDA has operated Gore for many years, which has few if any ties to Lake Placid and the Olympic facilities. I see no reason why ORDA's mission couldn't be expanded to include operation of Belleayre. While some Gore stakeholders have criticized ORDA as being too Lake Placid focused, Gore has certainly gotten its fair share of improvements and promotion.

Belleayre skiers might understandably be concerned about Belleayre losing some of its uniqueness and identity. Plus, Belle has achieved an admirable track record of success on its own under the current management structure, more than doubling skier visits from 75,000 to 175,000 over the past ten or twelve years. So if it isn't broken, don't fix it. But Gore and Whiteface have been successful in retaining their own personalities under ORDA, and in the end I think the benefits outweigh the potential disadvantages.

Back when all three ski areas were under DEC management, a Gore/Whiteface pass could be used at Belleayre, and vice versa. I'd love to see that opportunity available again to New Yorkers.

What do you think? Add your thoughts to the discussion here. Of course, it's hard to have this discussion without also raising the question of whether New York State should be in the ski business at all. Since that's a complex issue, we'll save that topic for another time when all facets of that question can be explored.