ELLICOTTVILLE – How does a ski area that employs 34 full-time, year-round employees justify their jobs when the hills are green and the temperatures are in the 80s and 90s? The answer is easy for a ski area in Cattaraugus County – off-season improvements.
That is exactly what officials at Holimont Ski Area are planning for the rest of the summer. With projects totaling around $400,000, the private-public resort is looking for a leaseback from the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency to make the projects a reality.
In the arrangement Holimont is seeking, the IDA would hold title to the property that is part of the project, to exempt the ski area from sales and property tax, making it eligible for a payment in lieu of taxes agreement. It would allow for abatement of state sales tax.
The developments that are planned for the summer include many pieces that will not be seen by those that enjoy the powder of the hills in the winter, such as air and water line improvements for snowmaking, switching a diesel-powered generator from electricity to gasoline and road repairs around the facility.
The improvements to the snowmaking system would include the removal of corroded air lines, according to David Riley, general manager of Holimont. The original lines were steel; they will be converted to plastic, which will last longer.
The improvements to the facility include the construction of a warming cabin at the top of the Cascade run, Riley said. The idea for the 24-by-30-foot building with an 8-foot porch came to him after seeing something similar at a Montana resort. “The runs at the resort have mid-mountain cabins that are very nice,” he said. “The thing is, they are always empty. All of the people are in little sugar shacks along the sides of the hill. They are nothing special, a small cabin with a wood stove in the middle with someone cooking sandwiches over it.”
Riley wants to bring that atmosphere to Holimont with the warming cabin. It will be a rustic place where skiers can get a sandwich and soup, and something to drink, but will not have the luxury of a full-scale lodge, he said.
He said the projects on the hills, including the full renovation of the restrooms in the main chalet, not only will add to the ski area but also ensure the jobs of the 34 year-round staff at the complex.
“We always use our people to do these projects,” he said, noting that the only exception is in the Westmont Ridge development where J.D. Northrup, a local construction firm, has been used.
The $401,954 project is not expected to add any more jobs, but will preserve the 34 full-time positions and will enhance the on-hill experience, Riley said.