With a major expansion of the mid-mountain Saddle Lodge and the conversion of the old mountain top gondola station into a summit lodge facility, there is a lot of “new” at Gore this winter.
New, too, is top area management. Mike Pratt, who worked at Gore since 1986 and had served as the mountain’s general manager for the past 20 years, is now president of the Olympic Regional Development Authority, the Lake Placid based organization that has responsibility for Whiteface and Belleayre in the Catskills, as well as Gore.
Taking his place is James “Bone” Bayse.
“It is from a summer job I had as a teenager” he said in a conversation last week.
“There was a spill in the kitchen one day and it was my fault: sort of a bonehead mistake.”
It stuck. He has been “Bone” ever since.
Now 53, Bone has been the person in charge of operations at Gore Mountain in North Creek since last summer. The nickname may have originated with a slip-up, but the appointment Gore was no accident.
Bayse has lived in the North Creek area for more than three decades, and he comes to the position after 20 years as head of Gore Mountain operations for the New York Ski Education Foundation (NYSEF), the Alpine and Nordic youth competition training program, headquartered at Whiteface.
NYSEF is no casual operation. It runs year-round training and competition programs for young competitors. Current US Ski Team members Andrew Weibrecht, a two-time Olympic medalist from Lake Placid, Tommy Biesemeyer from Keene, and Cecily Decker from Saranac Lake did their early racing for NYSEF; the program has grown from 60 participants to 165, with 30 coaches since Bayse became involved.
Racing is just a small part of the new assignment. Bayse is now in charge of the whole bundle, which typically accounts for more than 200,000 skier days a winter, a majority of those by people living in the Capital Region. Most who come to Gore are not racers. They just want ample snow on the trails, a smooth ski rental and lessons program, a good experience for their children, and food in the cafeteria is that is tasty and coffee that is fresh.
Now Gore Mountain is not a start-up operation. There has been skiing in North Creek since the early 1930s, and the state’s opened “Big” Gore in 1964. With the combination of long-term service and a low-key personality, Mike Pratt was popular and able to accomplish a lot during his term at the mountain. Bayse is equally low-key and, in succeeding Pratt, he comes in with the wind at his back.
“Mike has been incredibly helpful” noted Bayse, who worked for Pratt for two decades. “This was his place, and he still takes a special interest.”
Now it is Bone’s turn to drive the bus: “This has been a very busy time for me. There is a lot of learning to be done even through I have been here a long time. I have a great staff who share the goal of making the product we offer good for everyone.”
There are on-the-hill projects ahead, like a new water pump house to support enhanced snowmaking and some heavy duty landscaping, especially in the beginner areas of the layout.
Not everyone who comes to Gore is a hard-core skier. Renovations to the base lodge including expansion to make Gore a year-round operation is under consideration. Summer activities such as a zip line, ropes courses, mountain tubing, and additional mountain biking are other attractions that should bring tourists in the bad sliding months, and amenities at the base lodge could include a coffee shop, enhanced dining, faster wi-fi and facilities for weddings and receptions. These are common at many other ski areas that work to become year-round attractions.
Certainly there is considerable local interest in all of this. And Bayse knows the community. He is a former school board member in neighboring Minerva and he has been active in local community theater productions for years. And if you happen to see the country-folk music duet “Bone Doctor” playing locally, you’ll recognize the guy playing guitar. For many years he has been a leading figure in the area white water rafting business. He is married and has two daughters.
There hasn’t been a lot of natural snowfall so far this winter but an active snowmaking agenda so far has “Bone” Bayse off to a good early start in his first year as the general manager at Gore.
Gore Mountain officials recently showcased its large-scale solar installation located 60 miles east of the ski area on 20 acres in Whitehall. The 14,589 ground mounted panels are expected to offset 85% of Gore’s electricity costs which amount to about $1 million per year. It is the largest solar farm in the country dedicated solely to a ski area.
You should be hearing more soon about the proposed New York Museum of Skiing and Ski Hall of Fame. A feasibility study and economic blue print done by Camion Associates of Saratoga Springs is expected before Christmas, according to Bob Nessel of Johnsburg, the prime mover of the project.
It is still “call-ahead time at most local areas. Snowmaking works best at temperatures less than 27, degrees and recent warm evenings have slowed the process. Royal Mountain in Caroga Lake expects to be open this weekend, and Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam is shooting for Saturday, too. Willard Mountain in Melrose, West Mountain in Glens Falls and Oak Mountain in Speculator are planning for next weekend.
Phil Johnson call be reached at [email protected]
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