Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today 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."
This morning, 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 today. 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.
This is Bellayre's account of the timeline:
12/30 - Hear the Thunder Roar as the Catskill Thunder makes its first official turns of the 2017-2018 season at Belleayre. A big thank you shout out to Governor Cuomo and everyone else involved in making this project a reality. We are all super stoked for this big day!! Catskill Thunder officially started loading passengers at 9:37am today!!
12/28-29 Electrical & Load tests being performed!
12/20 - Doppelmayr started hanging the gondola cabins on the haul rope and the first bottom concrete pour started.
12/17 - Cabin #1 making its way to the top terminal. Doppelmayer uses it to make adjustments to the terminals.
12/16 - Started the first concrete pour for the top terminal.
12/11 - The Thunder was spinning with diesel to align the sheaves.
12/7 - The first of three pours for the top terminal deck was completed.
12/6 - Doppelmayr guys started to put the grips and hangers on for the cabins. Plus the first pour on the top deck is ready.
12/1 - The haul rope is on the line and the cable splice will take place next week.
11/28 - The final beam for the skier bridge was set.
11/29 The haul rope is starting its journey, frost walls are formed and ready to pour for the top terminal deck along with the bridge deck being set. We're also working on the snowmaking on Lower Deer Run.
11/16 Work is continuing on track with the Catskill Thunder Gondola and the Lift Team is working extra hard to keep things moving forward for a mid December opening. The skin is on the bottom terminal with the main electric drive and the back up engine installed. All the lift towers are in place. The top abutment on the skier bridge is all finished up with work starting on the downhill side of the bridge.
11/7 The bottom terminal has received roof beams, motors, elements, windows and some color. The majority of the lift towers are now in place and the uphill side of the skier bridge is completed. Lots of stuff is happening!
10/30 And just like that we have the first tower put into place! Work continues on the lower terminal with roof beams, engines, bull wheel and the drive carriage all in place. Precast blocks and deck have arrived and the skier bridge work is progressing with the abutment growing higher each day.
10/23 It has been a busy couple of weeks at the Belle with the ongoing Catskill Thunder Gondola install. The top terminal is coming along very nicely with the installation of the elements, bull wheel is in place and the roof panels, windows and skin are all completed. Work will begin on the bottom terminal any day now. Crews are also working on assembling the cross arms and sheaves for the towers. The skier bridge, located right before the Tomahawk parking lots, is underway and will consist of a precast deck. NYSEG was onsite not to long ago finishing up the upgrade to our switch gear.
10/5 Catskill Thunder has begun to go vertical! The carriage with tensioning system was lifted into place on October 5th along with the roof beams.
9/26 Presents from Switzerland arrived today! Other than an extra T all is well. But don't worry, our Swiss friends will be correcting the misprint. Also received bullwheel pieces and other terminal parts and more pieces will be arriving on a daily basis. P.S. Come to our Fall Festival and we'll have a gondola cabin on display.
9/14 The Belleayre crews are working extra hard to tick those check boxes off on their to do lists. All of the tower footings have been poured, the electric upgrades are well underway, the new Deer Run extension trail is all completed & cleared, and now we have daily arrivals of pieces of the Catskill Thunder Gondola arriving. This past week, we have received sheave trains and steel for the terminals and with lots more to come in the upcoming days and weeks.
8/23/2017 Over the last 2 weeks, there has been a flurry of concrete trucks making appearances all over the mountain. 15 out of 16 tower footings have all been poured along with the upper terminal mast, leaving only one footing and the lower mast to be poured. The Deer Run extension trail is all cut and the lower section of the new trail is all cleared of trees, stumps and other debris.
Electrical upgrades have also begun on mountain, with the moving of the two primary lines. The rest of the work is slated to be completed by mid September with our electrical output increasing by approximately 40%. Don't forget, you can view the lower mountain progress of Catskill Thunder by visiting the Discovery Lodge webcam feed »
If the concrete pours & electrical upgrades don't spark enough excitement for you, we have also just started painting Tomahawk Lift! Everything from the upper & lower terminals, lift towers and the lift shacks will all receive a fresh coat of eye popping, Belleayre blue paint.
8/1/2017 The construction of the Catskill Thunder Gondola is right on schedule! All 6,700 feet of the lift line has been cleared of trees and debris, 10 out of the 16 tower footings have been poured and at the unloading area, the anchoring masts have also been poured. Next week, steel will be arriving in preparation for the next phase of the project.
We are also excited to announce that on Monday, July 31, tree clearing began on the new Deer Run extension trail. The new trail will start just to the right of Tomahawk Lift parking lot, cross under the access road via a skier tunnel, and wind down to the lower area popping out just above Running Bear into Iroquois. We expect the tree clearing will take approximately two weeks to complete.
The Deer Run trail is also under construction in the anticipation of increased skier traffic from the summit. The mid section of the trail, just above the shale bank, is being widened to create a more natural fall line, while on the upper sections, the natural rollers are being filled in creating less of a pitch for easier intermediate skiing from the summit.
7/7/2017 The first concrete pour for the lift towers is complete for Catskill Thunder. There are only fifteen more towers and two terminals to go.
6/20/2017 We are excited to share with everyone that the "Catskill Thunder" gondola project has officially broken ground! Surveying crews and engineers have been busy this spring determining the best place for where the unloading & loading areas will be located and where to put the lift towers. On June 19, 2017, the first tree was cut and the lift line clearing has begun! You will be able to load Catskill Thunder at the Discovery Lodge and ride to the summit of Belleayre - unloading to the right of the Tomahawk Lift. The plans also include a skier tunnel, located below the Tomahawk parking lots, with trail connectors allowing for easy access from the west side trails to the Discovery Lodge.
Other Mountain News: The trail crews have been busy welding and replacing the snowmaking lines on Winnisook, Tongora and Yahoo. Additional low energy guns will be purchased which will allow us to run more guns at once, pump more water onto the trails using less resources. Trail maintenance crews have also started to widen lower section of Deer Run.