The budget includes transferring the Belleayre Ski Center from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA). Citing ORDA's expertise in managing the other state-owned ski centers (Gore and Whiteface), Governor Cuomo proposed this transfer to improve operations, achieve efficiencies, and enhance opportunities for tourism in the Catskills and the Adirondacks.
To me, the transfer is good news for skiers and taxpayers alike. I've long been a supporter of the concept of unifying the State's three ski areas under ORDA (Saratoga Skier, September 2010 and Adirondack Almanack, June 2011). Critics argue that Belleayre's inclusion in ORDA could cause a diversion of funds and attention away from Gore, Whiteface and ORDA's other Olympic facilities.
It is anticipated that Belleayre's funding under DEC will be transferred to ORDA. In addition, Peter Minde of Oxygen Fed Sports reports that the state has allocated $5 million for capital improvements at ORDA, with $1 million specifically for improvements at Belleayre. ORDA's 2012-13 budget was adopted prior to finalization of the state budget, and does not include Belleayre's operating results. According to state documents, Belleayre loses $4 million annually (see page 37 of the linked document).
The authorizing language in the budget agreement includes a number of provisions that were agreed upon by the Legislature. Specifically:
- Belleayre must receive a level of capital investment so that it can be operated, maintained, and improved in a similar manner to Whiteface and Gore
- Two members will be added to ORDA's board, one each for Delaware and Ulster Counties
- One of two ORDA Vice-Chairs must be a resident of Ulster or Delaware Counties
- ORDA’s Community Advisory Board will be increased from 15 to 19. Two additional members will be appointed by the Delaware County Board of Supervisors and two by the Ulster County Legislature
- A local ORDA office will be established at Belleayre