Editorial: Investing in ski areas a good idea

Whiteface Mountain
Whiteface Mountain

Normally it’s not a good idea to throw good money after bad, especially when you’re talking about taxpayer money.

But if state taxpayers have any chance of seeing any return on their current investment in winter properties run by the Olympic Regional Development Authority in the Adirondacks, then they’ll have to kick in for improvements.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his budget proposal, recommended spending $20 million to bring aging, outdated facilities at Gore Mountain, Whiteface Mountain and Mount Van Hoevenberg up to date in order for them to compete with similar venues nearby and to expand their amenities to entice visitors during the off-winter months.

Among the projects planned include a mountain coaster ride at Mount Van Hoevenberg, a mega zip line at Whiteface, modernization and expansion of facilities at Gore, and other improvements to all three venues to make them more attractive to visitors and economically competitive.

ORDA regularly operates on an annual defi cit that must be supplemented by state taxpayers. Over the past year, operating revenues dropped 25 percent, in large part because last year’s mild winter kept winter enthusiasts away. With climate change, it’s possible the area could experience more such winters in the future.

So one might suggest that rather than pouring more money into these venues, the best solution would be for ORDA and the state to get out of the skiing business and sell all its Adirondack property to the highest bidder.

After all, who better to run a business than someone whose only goal is the bottom line, right? Not so fast.

A major problem with selling any of the ski centers and surrounding land to a private developer is that it would likely require amending the state constitution, which prohibits the sale or lease of forest preserve lands.

Given the reluctance to develop environmentally sensitive areas of the Adirondacks, selling the property to a private developer would likely invite condominiums and other undesirable property enhancements to supplement revenue from the ski areas.

Is it worth the destruction of the natural beauty of the Adirondacks to save a few million dollars? Some taxpayers might think so, but amending the state constitution is no easy endeavor, requiring passage from two separate state legislatures and a public referendum. We don’t hear very many people clamoring for it — yet.

No, the best way to keep these venues viable and to help supplement taxpayers’ investment in them is not to let them fall into further decline. Offering visitors new and more modern amenities at these facilities is the best way to ensure taxpayers get the most bang for their buck.

In the end, the additional $20 million we spend now will be worth far more than if we spend nothing.


Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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