EDITORIAL: Common ground
There’s a surprising thaw that’s come over the region’s ski areas of late and it turns out to be very good news, indeed.
No, it’s not a premature onset of the spring skiing season. It is, rather, a thaw in the unproductive cold war recently waged over what could be seen as divergent tourism interests.
Representatives of ski resorts and Ulster, Greene and Delaware counties met earlier this month to discuss a unified marketing plan for skiing in the Catskills region.
Among the immediate marketing ideas they discussed were billboards to promote all local ski resorts and a discounting program to attract skiers from outside the region. Also discussed was the long-range possibility of creating a broad marketing campaign for the 2009-10 ski season.
It’s fair to say there are some fundamental differences between the state-owned and -operated Belleayre Mountain in Ulster County and the other ski areas. Dwelled upon to the exclusion of other considerations, those difference can create tension.
As a state operation, Belleayre enjoys the full faith and credit of the state of New York and has received considerable state investment.
Belleayre also is exempted from having to pay the workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance and sales taxes to which the privately owned ski areas are subject. Add to that provocation the 2007 development agreement between the state and the private Crossroads Ventures for a $400 million Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park.
Private capital, which underwrites the likes of Windham and Hunter mountains in Greene County and Plattekill Mountain in Delaware County, operates in a more strictly constrained economic environment.
It should not be forgotten, however, that Ulster County citizens and leaders chose to bet their legitimate political capital on Belleayre as an economic engine. The county has that right.
It’s also hard to argue against the state operation of a recreational amenity on state lands for the enjoyment of its citizens. Try as we might, we can’t get that to sound like a bad thing.
In any event, the war of words and political infighting that recently had escalated — especially between Greene and Ulster counties — ill-served what should be the region’s powerful common interest in developing the tourism industry.
The smart money is not in fighting one another, but in creating a critical mass of recreational amenities. That’s what it will take to put the Catskills at the top of the mind of metropolitan area skiers who otherwise simply pass through the Mid-Hudson Valley on their way north to the Adirondacks or Vermont.
Working together to attract those skiers and smooth out competitive differences is the way to go. The recent meetings are a good step toward realizing that common interest and the participating parties are to be congratulated.