West Mountain ski area to present plan for resort village (with three images)

An aerial view of the north end of the West Mountain ski area in Queensbury, where the owners propose to construct a ski-and-stay resort.
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An aerial view of the north end of the West Mountain ski area in Queensbury, where the owners propose to construct a ski-and-stay resort.

QUEENSBURY The owners of West Mountain will put their ambitious plan for a ski-and-stay resort out for public consumption Sunday morning, with a site walk-through and information session.

“The Woods at West Mountain” plan is in a very preliminary stage and would need extensive approvals to move forward toward reality. It might also take a full decade and $140 million for full buildout.

But it’s part of what needs to happen to keep West viable, said co-owner Spencer Montgomery, who has led extensive upgrades of the ski area and expanded its business model since buying it out of bankruptcy a decade ago.

New York state is dotted with the remains of ski areas that went out of business, he said, some with their lift chairs still hanging in midair, others stripped down and reverting to woodland. 

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”69″ display=”basic_imagebrowser”]His strategy to keep West going has been to expand its operating season beyond winter and its revenue stream beyond skiing/boarding/tubing.

The plan, which has many details subject to change, would place a small village at Northwest Base, the north end of the ski area.

In the lower area, there’d be a conference center, spa, athletic club, 60 to 80 unit hotel, 60 townhouse units, 72 condo units, an amphitheater, a lodge, shops and restaurants, and 180 apartments. This would likely be the first phase, and could be completed in three to five years.

The upper area would consist of 46 custom single-family homes. Buildout might take another five years.

Luizzi Companies and BBL Construction Services are working with West on the plan.

The first step would be designation of a planned recreational development zone, which Montgomery is now seeking from the town. He expects a decision within two months.

With that in hand, he would turn the next phase, design and approval, over to Luizzi and BBL, which have done extensive work in project planning.

“Obviously, there’s an incredible number of approvals for the site plan,” Montgomery said.

There has been pushback.

Montgomery said the master plan has already been redesigned in response, with the parking lot and highest-density portion of the village relocated.

But that was enough for some neighbors.

West Mountain posted a diagram of the master plan on Facebook last week along with the announcement of Sunday’s open house.

Commentary ranged from complimentary to concerned to critical.

“I’m having trouble getting my mind around some of the criticisms,” Montgomery said.

Other concerns cited are valid, he said, but not necessarily fatal flaws.

The worry about losing the small family atmosphere of the ski area is a two-sided coin. The vibe of the existing main base lodge wouldn’t change because the resort village would be out of sight a thousand yards away. And at full buildout, the village would occupy only 60 of West Mountain’s 1,700 acres.

But overall, yes, it would be a big change. 

“These types of operations don’t grow on their own. We do have extreme competition,” Montgomery said.

Since taking over, the current ownership has invested millions in upgrades and boosted West Mountain’s annual payroll from $862,000 to more than $2 million, he said, but there’s more to be done.

West’s advantages are proximity and convenience — it’s a three-mile, six-minute drive from Northway Exit 18, an easier trip than the larger resorts in Vermont and the taller mountains in New York for people who live in the Capital Region or farther south. At 1,000 feet, it has more vertical drop than any of the other regional ski areas nearby.

But it has fewer trails and less vertical than the destination mountains in Vermont and the Adirondacks. It doesn’t have the financial resources that come with public ownership, like Gore and Whiteface do. And there are no slopeside accommodations.

Montgomery addressed some of the other criticisms:

  • It will increase traffic. Yes, but the increase will be spread out over the day.
  • It will change the character of the North Side. Yes, but for the better. It was decrepit when the current ownership took over.
  • Lift ticket prices will increase. They might, but additional revenue streams reduce the need to boost prices.
  • The target price range of the single-family houses — $750,000 to $1.2 million — is unrealistic. Yes, that’s a lot of money, but there is a market for them. The condos and townhouses will cost much less, and fractional ownership will be available.

Montgomery is convinced the market exists for a ski-and-stay resort, as there isn’t one in this part of New York.

The presentation starts at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

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