Plattekill Mountain, a family-owned ski resort in Roxbury, N.Y., has 38 runs and two rustic chair lifts.
Nicknamed Platty by locals, the mountain has a three-level utilitarian lodge with a wraparound porch and wood-burning stoves from the 1970s. Little in regards to the constructing has modified, besides the ground is now fabricated from wooden as an alternative of hay, and the bar serves seasonal craft beer. Vintage sleds and skis beautify the partitions.
Outside is a few of the East Coast’s most tough snowboarding. It is a native vacation spot for off-piste trails. “Advanced and expert skiers will love Plattekill,” mentioned a put up on the web site Ultimate Ski, which works on to explain the mountain as having a few of “the most rugged terrain in the Catskills,” the place guests have the uncommon possibility of snowboarding inside timber.
Veronica Brock, a actual property dealer who lives in Paramus, N.J., has been snowboarding at Plattekill for about a decade. She’s seen that extra of those backcountry trails have opened. “The mountain has gotten bigger with off-piste trails opening,” she mentioned.
Or, as Troy Kasmarcik, an 18-year-old snowboarder from Norwich, N.Y., put it: “This mountain is pretty sick.” He tried Plattekill for the primary time this winter. “It has a lot of jumps,” he mentioned. “A lot of mountains don’t have them, but this has one right after the other.”
Plattekill can really feel like a fairy story, mentioned Scott Brandi, president of the Ski Areas of New York, a commerce group. “It’s a throwback experience while offering state-of-the-art snow making, grooming, and a cozy lodge where everyone seems to know each other,” he mentioned.
But the actual fairy story right here is that Plattekill Mountain has managed to remain open.
Located about a three-hour drive from New York City, Plattekill is owned by Laszlo and Danielle Vajtay. The couple, who had grown up snowboarding in the identical circles, began relationship round 1988, after they have been instructors at Plattekill. They have been each working day jobs, he as a packaging engineer in New Jersey, and he or she as a advertising supervisor for a fragrance firm in New York City. Every weekend they’d reunite on the mountain.
In 1992, Plattekill went into foreclosures. The earlier house owners had defaulted on a mortgage after pouring cash into an unsuccessful actual property venture. That, together with not making sufficient snow, was their downfall, Mr. Vajtay mentioned. He and his future spouse determined to purchase the mountain, with the assistance of loans from the Small Business Administration and a few loyal ski households. “We were tired of living for the weekends,” mentioned Mr. Vajtay, who was 30 on the time. Ms. Vajtay was 22.
Operating a ski mountain anyplace is a daunting process. To earn a living, you should preserve the mountain open, irrespective of the climate.
Plattekill additionally has some competitors within the type of its well-financed, bigger neighbors. Hunter is owned by the publicly traded company Peak Resorts, and Belleayre is owned and operated by New York State. Recently, taxes paid for a new gondola at Belleayre. An additional $9.1 million has been allocated to expand its base lodge.
Plattekill is also remote. “You have to drive by Belleayre to get to us if you’re coming from downstate,” said Ms. Vajtay. “That’s a huge hurdle for us.” Driving along Route 28 in the Catskills, once you pass Belleayre, with its prominent signage, you have to continue along for several more miles before switching to a small, slow, windy road that leads to a dumpy, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it turnoff. It’s hard to imagine anything at the end of the road, let alone a ski resort.
But 25 years later, the scrappy, indie mountain is thriving.
“These small ski areas survive by knowing who they are and creating niches for themselves,” Mr. Brandi said. With around 50 ski mountains operating in New York State, many differentiate themselves by offering a certain expertise. Mount Peter, for example, a humble mountain in Warwick, N.Y., has branded itself as a perfect place for families, offering free lessons for beginners. “It knows who it is and caters to its strengths,” he said.
Plattekill, in turn, has branded itself as an intimate, old-fashioned resort for expert skiers and families alike. Most important, however, it has been able to guarantee income on the slower weekdays, by becoming a private mountain of sorts. Four days a week, it puts itself up for rent. Any group can have exclusive access to it for just a few thousand dollars a day.
In their early years as owners, the Vajtays were obsessed with two things that were not always compatible: making snow and avoiding debt. In the summer, they opened up the mountain for camping, music festivals and mountain biking. They took what they earned and invested it into snow-making equipment.
Eventually, a new business idea came from Plattekill’s regular skiers, who visited the mountain every time it snowed, even when it wasn’t open. (The mountain was and is only open to the public Fridays through Sundays.) This became so common that the Vajtays decided to open the mountain, regardless of the day, following a major snowfall. Typically, about 500 paying customers would show up for the event, called Powderdaize.
Powderdaize led to another idea: renting out the entire mountain to groups. Some Plattekill regulars so enjoyed the quiet setting of the last-minute weekday openings that they intimated to Ms. Vajtay how great it would be to have a “power day” to themselves, she recalled. The couple knew of a few members-only mountains in the United States but these were fancy, expensive resorts like the Yellowstone Club in Montana and the Hermitage Club in Vermont. Why not rent out their humble little mountain?
In 2008, they started to do just that, charging $2,500 a day for exclusive use of Plattekill Monday through Thursday. (The price has since increased to $4,500.) Clients have ranged from corporations, like Citigroup, to religious organizations. Every year since 2010, Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations from New Jersey and New York have met there once a year.
Ms. Brock, the organizer for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, said that 100 people signed up for the first trip. By 2018, 532 people were skiing the mountain, with another 400 participants socializing in the lodge.
So far this season, more than 50 percent of private rental days have been booked, Mr. Vajtay said. The $4,500 covers the lifts, labor, electricity and overhead. Plattekill then makes money on rentals, food and drink, and snow tubing. “It’s a way for us to open the doors, staff up, and know that we will not lose any money,” he said.
Locals can feel a bit shut out sometimes, when private rentals conflict with Powderdaize. Recently the Vajtays have had to play down the event because of the conflict. “Now that we’ve started marketing mountain rentals people are booking,” Ms. Vajtay said. “So if we have a snowstorm, and it’s a snowstorm and a powder day, that day is booked. There isn’t anything we can do.”
The Vajtays are trying to honor the community that has historically kept the mountain running; they intend to keep the resort as small and as affordable as possible. They are even open to bartering with locals, it seems.
When Dennis Slauson, a regular who lives about 15 minutes away, helped them shovel the deck one morning, the Vajtays turned the lift on him for him. “It’s the best feeling,” he said. “There is nobody here.”
Mr. Slauson probably felt more like a private renter than Bart Lehmann, a Syracuse-based engineer who has rented Plattekill three times, did. The last time his group was there, he recalled that even though skiers could have spread out and seen no one else, they ended up skiing as a flock. “One trail was packed,” he said, “and every other one was empty.”
He remembered children in the group diving off the top wooden deck into snow banks. “The owners were like, Whatever you want to do, go ahead, go for it,” said Mr. Lehmann. “It was surreal. We enjoyed the heck out of it.”
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