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Ski industry turf battles intensify again

Jan 06, 2011 6:27 am
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Catskill ski conditions, as captured in a recent image from the state's Belleayre Mountain website."][/caption]In what may very well be a harbinger of business battles to come as Americans start to fight over shrinking pies, a new ski area business promotion involving state-owned Belleayre Mountain ski area has caused a rift within the ranks of the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce, which represents scores of businesses and organizations in the region. The Kingston Daily Freeman's Jay Braman Jr. reports this morning that the CCCC has received a letter of ultimatum from one of its Executive Committee members demanding it immediately drop a Belleayre Mountain Ski Center promotion or she will resign her post and leave the chamber.

The chamber this month began a promotion called the “Belleayre BOGO Campaign,” a buy-one-get-one-free offer to any customer of a chamber business that spends more than $50. One-thousand vouchers good for a day of skiing at the state-owned Belleayre facility have been distributed to chamber members, who use them as a way to get people to come into their respective businesses. And more vouchers are being produced. But Danielle Vajtay, who owns and operates Plattekill Mountain Ski Center, says the promotion is hurting the business she operates with her husband, Lazlo.

Similar complaints have come, in recent months, from Greene County's two main privately-owned ski areas at Hunter and Windham, who have notified the state of their displeasure at the heavy promotional discounts Belleayre has been offering. But there has meanwhile been no bad blood between the two ski areas as a result of Hunter Mountain's new ski deal for gasoline fill-ups via Getty/Lukoil stations throughout the tri-state region, with Windham Mountain promoting itself this year based on its 50th anniversary of skiing in the region.

A few years back, the Greene County legislature went so far as to back a move in the state legislature to set up a Blue Ribbon panel to look into unfair competition from the state in New York's ski industry, which in turn prompted similar responses from the Ulster County legislature regarding Belleayre. The state-owned ski industry has been the subject of numerous support rallies and opinion of late, as seen HERE, as it fights state budget cuts and calls for shifts in its public management.

“It is very disturbing that the chamber has seen nothing wrong with having all the local chamber businesses handing out free ski tickets to one ski facility in our chamber region when there are two ski centers in the chamber region,” Vajtay wrote in a letter to Chamber Executive Director Carol O’Beirne. “This does not exactly make for good feelings on the part of the ‘other’ ski center who happens to be a chamber member and board member too. It also does not bear well when we have local community businesses asking us how we feel about the fact that they have been given Belleayre BOGOs to pass out to their customers (including businesses that are also Plattekill lodging partners who are put in a hard position of what to offer guests). Was any thought given to the impact this promotion might negatively have on Plattekill since our skiers go to the same local area businesses as Belleayre skiers?”

The Plattekill facility is in Roxbury, is southeastern Delaware County. Belleayre is in Highmount, near the Ulster County-Delaware County line.

O’Beirne, in a Jan. 3 letter to all chamber members, said the Belleayre promotion is geared toward increasing sales for the chamber’s member businesses.

All well and good, Vajtay says, but not at Plattekill’s expense.

“We cannot compete with free,” she said.

“It is clearly obvious to us that the chamber is one-sided in their thinking when it comes to the two local ski areas in its membership district, and therefore, unless this promotion is immediately discontinued, it is clearly obvious that my services as a board member are no longer needed or valued by the chamber,” Vajtay wrote in her letter. “This promotion is just such a slap in face to Plattekill.”

Vajtay said she is awaiting a reply from O’Beirne and is prepared to resign immediately if the promotion is not dropped.

O’Beirne said she will speak with Vajtay about some type of promotion for Plattekill.

Vajtay, in her letter, asked chamber members to consider the following:

“You are a skier (coming) to the area and go shopping at Freshtown and are handed a Belleayre BOGO at the cash register. Where would you go skiing? You are a skier planning to ski Plattekill for the weekend and stop to eat at a local restaurant on arrival and are given a BOGO ticket to a place called Belleayre with your dinner tab. Where would you go skiing? You stay overnight at one of hundreds of lodging places and are given a BOGO ticket to Belleayre at checkout. Where do you go skiing?”
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