In the Times-Union today is a juicy story just in time for ski season: Local ski centers Windham Mountain and Hunter Mountain are on the offensive against state-run Belleayre Mountain, arguing that the Highmount ski center is undercutting their business by giving too many tickets away.
It has to be tough to compete with a business that's perpetually being propped up by state funding. But a disgruntled private competitor has at least one shining advantage over a state-run entity: You can have a look at their books anytime. Windham and Hunter filed Freedom of Information Law requests to get records on how many free tickets Belleayre was giving away.
Windham Mountain and Hunter Mountain used the state Freedom of Information Law to obtain Belleayre's records on free and discounted tickets during the two previous ski seasons, which showed the state facility was giving away about 10 percent of its skier visits for free.
That's about five times what a privately owned ski center might do with promotional free tickets, according to Scott Brandi, president of Ski Areas of New York Inc., a group that represents the state's ski mountains, including Hunter, Windham and Belleayre...
...Now, both Windham and Hunter are hoping to draw a bull's-eye on Belleayre as a taxpayer-supported, money-loser that is giving away too much product during a time of austerity, and want the new administration of Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo to take notice.
12/12/10 update: Joe Kelly, the chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre Mountain, called us yesterday to comment on the Times Union's story. From his perspective, he told us, it looks like the private Hunter and Windham ski resorts are launching a "concerted PR attack" on Belleayre.
"All the ski resorts give away free tickets," he said. "Every time I turn around I see free tickets to Windham and Hunter. But they don't reveal any of their revenue sources."
Kelly added that the timing of the Times Union story, only weeks after news broke that the state is laying off scores of workers at Belleayre, is unfortunate.
"I think it's pretty weird that two ski owners are happy that 48 people lost their jobs," Kelly said. "They shouldn't be attacking Belleayre. Those people are barely getting by."