By Brian Sweeney
Belleayre Mountain in Highmount is gearing up the 2022-23 ski season, and snowmaking got underway on Sunday, Nov. 13.
At the time of this story, mountain personnel were unable to state a projected opening date until an official announcement from Governor Kathy Hochul’s office, which was expected on November 17.
Marketing Director Joe McCracken commented, “Depending on Mother Nature delivering us the cold weather to make snow, opening day is within sight.” He encouraged ski and snowboarding enthusiasts to stay tuned to Belleayre.com or the mountain’s social media accounts for official opening day announcements.
As has been the focus in recent years, Belleayre has placed a strong emphasis on improving snowmaking capacity and efficiency. Mr. McCracken said that, over the summer, 60,000 feet of new pipe was installed to feed snow guns. A new, energy-efficient pump was added to the fleet and 300 HKD low-energy snow guns were added.
These upgrades are just the latest advancements to the mountain’s snowmaking capabilities. Mr. McCracken noted, “Over the past few years, Belleayre has been working hard to update the aging snowmaking infrastructure at the facility; a multi-year, multi-phase project. Our upgrades last year tremendously helped our snowmaking capabilities (new snowmaking pumphouse, more than 230 snow guns, and 13,000 feet of new snowmaking pipe. For the 2022/23 season, we’re continuing to invest in snowmaking to get trails open quicker.”
Mountain officials are anticipating that the ongoing investment in snowmaking will help Belleayre continue to grow its skier visits. Mr. McCracken said last season saw record-breaking season pass sales and increased midweek ticket sales, adding to overall skier visits.
Despite the devastating impacts of the coronavirus pandemic that was officially declared in March 2020, Belleayre, like numerous businesses has made innovations that have proven beneficial.
Mr. McCracken said that being forced to make changes to improve safety protocols in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in “the ability to change, adapt and learn.” He pointed out that Belleayre’s e-commerce platform and guest experience enhancements are examples of the facility’s response that will help guide the mountain into future seasons.
The marketing director said guests are being encouraged to purchase their ticket in advance of their visit to secure the day of skiing and riding. He noted that walk-up tickets are not guaranteed (especially during holiday periods) and may be available in limited quantities at the discretion of management. Buying tickets online in advance also offers the best available value.
“The earlier you buy your tickets – the better the pricing,” Mr. McCracken explained.
Regarding COVID protocols for the upcoming season, Mr. McCracken provided an outline of policies:
• GENERAL — While mask mandates have been lifted, face coverings are recommended and as a precaution to protect and prevent contagious disease spread. Please stay home if you are sick or experiencing symptoms.
• PURCHASING TICKETS — It is recommended that tickets be purchased online in advance.
• GONDOLA AND LIFTS — Face coverings are recommended on chairlifts and in the gondola when riding with unknown individuals. Please be respectful of personal space and leave windows open in gondola cabins.
• SHUTTLES, BUSES, AND PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION — Face coverings are recommended on shuttles, buses, and public transportation.
• LOST & FOUND — We will discard any face masks, hand coverings (gloves, mittens, etc.), and any items other than hard goods.
• SNOWSPORTS LESSONS & PROGRAMS — Face coverings are recommended for participants during lessons including while riding on chairlifts and in the gondola.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE — Crock pots, cooking devices, and coolers are not allowed. Food cannot be stored at tables, locker rooms, or other public spaces. If you are bringing your own food, it should fit into a personal pack and not be left in the lodge. At high-capacity time periods please be respectful of fellow skiers and boarders and limit your time at tables.
• OUR TEAM — At Belleayre, we adhere to the same health and safety protocols as we expect of our guests. We operate with an increased frequency of cleaning procedures and a deep clean at night and maintain hand sanitizer stations throughout our venues for guests and employees. Each team member also undergoes a daily health screening prior to every shift.
Our venues follow state and local guidelines, and we appreciate everyone’s understanding if guidelines evolve. Your safety, our safety and the safety of our community is a priority for us. Thank you for your cooperation and we look forward to a healthy and safe season here at Belleayre.
• UPDATES — Any updates to our Health and Safety information will be posted on our website at belleayre.com/health-safety-information/
• SPECIAL EVENTS — Belleayre will be bringing back several of it staple events and a bunch of new for the upcoming season. These include the Holiday Bazaar on December 10, the Annual Mogul Mash and Pond skimming in the spring, and theme weekends all winterlong. The calendar of events can be found at Belleayre.com.
As testimony to the mountain’s snowmaking capabilities, Belleayre’s crew has been selected as a finalist in SAM Magazine (Ski Area Management Magazine) snowmaking competition. The mountain will be submitting a 2-3 minute video in late December showcasing its snowmaking team, focusing on sustainability, efficiency, mentoring, staff bonding, and the mountain environment — a unique behind the scenes of the Belleayre snowmaking team. After the submissions, the magazine will release the videos to the public and open the voting to determine the winning entry.
With snowmaking ramped up and cold temperatures in the long-range forecast, Mr. McCracken expressed optimism for the new campaign.
“We are looking forward to welcoming back all our guests for the start of the 2022/23 season,” he stated.