When Hurricane Irene ravaged the eastern states last summer, numerous communities in ski country were devastated by overflowing rivers and streams.
I watched on television as bridges washed out and cars tumbled down swollen creeks, and wondered what was happening at nearby ski areas.
In a worst-case scenerio, I imagined trails washing out, lift towers toppling over and base lodges winding up in parking lots. Thankfully, that didn’t occur, and while a number of resorts did suffer damage, it was minimal compared to what happened to nearby communities.
And it should be pointed out that many ski areas pitched in and did what they could to help communities in need around them.
Here’s just one example.
Probably no area in the East was more involved in helping than Belleayre Mountain, the state-owned resort at Highmount in the Catskills.
High ground saved the ski area from serious damage, but down below, the Esopus Creek and its numerous tributaries overflowed into communties in their path, among them Fleischmanns, Margaretville, Arkville, Pine Hill, Big Indian, Phonecia, Mt. Tremper and Boiceville.
That’s when Belleayre, operated by the Department of Environmental Conservation, stepped up in a very big way.
Belleayre superintendent Tony Lanza said with its three lodges, the ski center was in a good position to help.
“We were the evacuation center [FEMA Delaware County Flood Recovery Center],” Lanza said. “We had 21 state agencies set up on computers in the lower lodge.
“We also served as a medical facility. We had an ambulance station up here, and at one time, we had as many as 16 people on oxygen. We have our own EMTs, nurses and paramedics on our staff in the winter, and we were able to bring them in.
“We even have oxygen and hospital beds, and we got great support from Delaware and Ulster counties, bringing in public health nurses and things like that.”
Housing families that were displaced from the flooding took some thought.
“We had 40 kids under [age] 10 staying with us, so we had the responsibility of finding baby food, pampers and diapers,” Lanza said. “We had 160 adults and 40 pets, so we had to find things like dog food.”
Temporary showers had to be installed in the lower lodge.
Because of possible allergies, people with pets were housed in a different area than those without pets. And there were different sections for elderly persons who were sick and those who were not.
“Besides feeding those folks, we were providing about 1,250 hot meals a day to others who were able to stay in their homes, but had no way to cook,” Lanza said. “There were days when we fed as many as 3,000, including workers, volunteers and the National Guard people who were here. We’ve got the big kitchens and, again, it’s what we do.”
Lanza said a number of employees stayed at the area for two straight weeks to deal with any emergencies that might arise at night. He said volunteer help from nearby communities — church groups, schools, firemen and police — was wonderful.
“Some people came in at 6 a.m., and they left at 9 p.m. after we had fed everyone,” he said.
Following the storm, the region was cut off from the east and the west, and a food pantry was set up at the Overlook Lodge, which was also the medical center. The Longhouse Lodge became a food and clothing outlet.
“Folks who came in were given a box to fill with what they needed.” Lanza said. That included everything from shampoo and deodorant to food and other staples. “We would fill their box and give them lunch while they were here. They would go back to their houses and the next day do the same thing.”
For those without cars, a free shuttle bus service ran back and forth from nearby communities.
“We also had a bulk distribution point where we gave out pallets of water and pallets of food,” Lanza said. “The lower parking lot was like a small airport for awhile. We landed nine Chinook helicopters and 35 Black Hawks that brought in supplies and emergency stuff.”
Besides the military choppers, private helicopters dropped off people rescued from the floods.
Along with flood victims, the Recovery Center housed 61 National Guard members and some 80 pieces of their equipment.
“Our own heavy equipment, bulldozers and excavators, were out helping in rescue and rehabilitation in certain areas,” Lanza said. “We built one bridge that I know of, and we were the staging area for 34 Bailey Bridges that were used.”
Staff from the ski area actually crossed streams and hiked into the back country to provide medication to people who were cut off from main roads.
“We picked up their prescriptions, sent runners to the hospitals to get their meds and then brought the medicine back to the people who needed it,” Lanza said.
Lanza said once the roads to the east opened, cars and vans began pulling up to the resort’s loading dock to unload enormous amounts of food.
“People in places like Kingston were collecting money and food at supermarkets and bringing it to the Catskills,” he said.
After the storm, a Belleayre Music Festival concert featuring Bella Fleck and the Flecktones raised $45,000 for area victims of the storm.
“We just happened to be the central spot,” Lanza said, praising the efforts of everyone involved in the rescue efforts at Belleayre from Gov. Andrew Cuomo on down.
FEMA branch director Sean Waters had high praise for Belleayre Mountain.
During the rescue effort he said, “I’ve been doing this for
15-plus years, honestly, and it’s probably the best operation I’ve seen. They’re state folks who normally just do the management of this facility, and they’re doing an exceptional job of disaster support here.”
And Robert Stanley, superviser of the town of Shandakan, said, “We can’t thank ENCON, Tony Lanza and the rest of the Belleayre staff enough for what they did for the community.
“We were without power for a week, and for some people just to have a place to get warm or take a shower was wonderful.”
ENOS USSA COACH
Bill Enos, a 1982 graduate of Schalmont High School, is the newest member of the United States ski and snowboard coaching staff.
Enos, who grew up skiing and snowboarding at Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam, will coach the first U.S. snowboard slopestyle team. In slopestyle competition, skiers or riders perform acrobatic maneuvers on a course filled with obstacles such as jumps, rails and tabletops. USSA decided to create the team after the International Olympic Committee approved slopestyle as a discipline in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“It hasn’t been officially announced yet, but I’ve got my first paycheck, and I’m leaving Monday to go to Breckenridge [Colo.] to start coaching some of the team,” the 47-year-old Enos said in a telephone conversation from Park City, Utah.
He said he expects an official announcement will be made early this month after all of the athlete contracts have been signed.
Enos began his competitive career as a freestyle skier at Maple Ski Ridge, performing in aerial, mogul and ballet events.
“In those days you did either racing or freestyle,” he said.
In 1989, he moved to Waterville Valley, N.H., where he took up snowboarding and coached the sport at Waterville Valley Academy for 12 years. He also raced on the snowboard pro tour for several seasons, winning a national overall title in 1991. In the mid-1990s he raced on the U.S. snowboard racing squad, working his way up from the “B” team to the “A” team.
Enos’ selection as coach of the new U.S. slopestyle team comes as no surprise to those in the snowboard world.
In an interview with Snowboarder Magazine, pro snowboarder Chas Guldemond called Enos “one of the most underrated snowboarding coaches ever.” Guldemond said Enos produced some of the most “well-rounded snowboarders around the world.”
And pro racer Pat Moore, in a Transworld Snowboarding interview, credited Enos with using his racing knowledge to help students compete on a higher level in other snowboarding disciplines “by holding an edge in the flat-bottom of the pipe or knowing how to take off on a jump properly.”
Enos said the team will train in Colorado until the first event on the winter DEW Tour, the NIKE Open Dec. 15-18 at Breckenridge.