First Part of the Project Completed to Build the Catskill's Burgeoning Tourism Industry
January 2, 2018 – On December 30, 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the opening of the Catskill Thunder high-speed gondola at Belleayre Mountain's Ski Resort. The project is one part of New York's investment in the Highmount ski area designed to increase year-round visitation, enhance customer experience and provide a major boost to tourism in the Catskills and the region's economy.
"The Catskills are home to some of the beautiful mountains and outdoor recreational activities that New York has to offer and Belleayre Mountain is one of its crown jewels," Governor Cuomo said. "The opening of this gondola is an investment which will not only boost the region's growing tourism economy, but it will also allow New Yorkers to experience some of the best views and attractions in the world year-round."
Skiers and snowboarders began loading the 60-cabin gondola and were carried from the lower mountain's Discovery Lodge to the summit in seven minutes. The new Catskill Thunder Gondola is able to transport up to eight guests per cabin, approximately 2,000 people per hour, at a maximum speed of 1,000 feet per minute. Photos of some of the first rides can be found here.
One part of the plan to overhaul the entire ski resort and elevate Belleayre to a higher level of resort experience, the Catskill Thunder gondola will provide more efficient, logical, and necessary access points to skiers and riders. The Gondola will also provide additional revenue opportunities as the use of indoor cabins allows for the following offerings:
· Nordic and Cross Country skiing at the expansive summit of the mountain which will soon be launched;
· Scenic gondola rides similar to Whiteface and Gore Mountains;
· Mountain biking from the mountain summit; and
· Wedding and private party rentals at mountain summit.
ORDA President and CEO Mike Pratt said, "The Catskill Thunder is a world-class gondola. Belleayre skiers will now experience the ski area's entire vertical drop in a single seamless experience. We are excited to bring this modern accessible transport system to Belleayre."
Belleayre Ski Resort General Manager Tim Maxwell said, "This has been an all hands on deck project. It's exciting to see all of this hard work come together. We've taken a tremendous amount of pride in this project and this will be a tremendous asset to not only Belleayre, but the entire Catskill region."
Senator James L. Seward said, "Belleayre Mountain Ski Center is a vital component of the economy in the Catskills and one of the many reasons people visit our region of the state. The new high-speed gondola was identified as a priority project by local officials and I was proud to partner with them in advocating for state support. This investment shows New York's commitment to the Catskills and will give rise to new jobs and year-round economic growth throughout the region."
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein said, "Governor Cuomo's historic commitment to tourism in the Catskills will expose more people year round to the natural beauty and recreational activities that we in the region have always enjoyed. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo in further expanding economic growth in the region and improving visitors' experiences at Belleayre Mountain."
The Catskill Thunder Gondola required 16 lift towers to be installed to enable transportation from the resort's base to the mountain's summit covering 6,272 feet horizontally and 1,354 feet vertically. In addition to the gondola install, the resort's entire electrical service was also modernized and expanded, a new trail was cut, and a skier bridge was installed to connect the west side of the mountain and the lower base Discovery Lodge.
Tourism in the Catskill Region
Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has worked to grow New York's tourism industry in the Catskills region. Last year, the Governor hosted the Catskills Summer Challenge to highlight the world-class attractions and activities readily available in the Catskills with the goal of driving tourism and boosting the region's economy.
In 2015, the total economic impact of tourism industry in the region reached $1.83 billion, an increase of more than 13 percent since 2010. Visitation is up 14 percent since 2010 with more than 11 million visitors to the Catskills in 2015. In addition, tourism is vital to the region's economy, representing more than 15 percent of the region's employment, or over 17,000 jobs.