Belleayre Gets Its Gondola

The first gondola in the Catskill Mountains stands nearly complete at Belleayre Mountain, owned and operated by New York State.
Governor Andrew Cuomo surprised many back in February when he committed $8 million in public money to erect a gondola and make other improvements at Belleayre, the smallest of New York’s three state-owned ski resorts.  Reaction was swift with a vocal group of critics questioning the use of funds at a mountain with a modest 135,000 annual skier visits.  “Gondola to nowhere,” one user wrote on the NY Ski Blog.  “The stupidest lift ever built in the world,” said another passionate New Yorker.  Yet another, simply “a waste.”  Then came an anti-gondola petition.


The Olympic Regional Development Authority stuck to its guns and Doppelmayr USA won the contract, beginning work on June 21st.  Just four and a half months later, a grand new machine stands with 13,615 feet of haul rope, 60 cabins and 16 towers coming together.  The new lift rises 1,350 feet from Discovery Lodge to the summit with super views along the way.

When the Catskill Thunder Gondola carries its first skiers this December, it will usher in a new era for the region and change the way people ski the mountain.  Despite all the naysayers, seeing the lift in person makes me a fan.  Gondolas serve many purposes so even though some skiers will prefer to lap Tomahawk and Superchief, the gondola will appeal to others looking for longer runs and a fast, comfortable ride.  The Riblet Lift 7 will be retired from summer use and the gondola will better serve non-skiers and guests with disabilities.

Interestingly, 15 towers were set by crane instead of helicopter.  Only tower 12 and the cabins remain in the parking lot with the bottom drive terminal undergoing final assembly.  The 45 mm Redaelli haul rope will be pulled soon and a new skier bridge will cross the road near the base of the Tomahawk lift, providing skiers a new top-to-bottom ski option.  Belleayre is already making snow and on a frigid day like today, I bet even the critics will ride Catskill Thunder this winter.


35 thoughts on “Belleayre Gets Its Gondola

  1. Ryan November 10, 2017 / 5:35 pm

    I have a feeling that building this Gondola is going to pay off in the long run. Good photos, Peter.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Collin November 10, 2017 / 5:40 pm

    I wonder why tower 12 wasn’t done. Towers 1 and 2 were completed earlier this week. Look forward to riding Catskill Thunder this winter.


    • Tim November 10, 2017 / 6:32 pm

      Waiting for a piece of ladder.


  3. Tim November 10, 2017 / 8:26 pm

    I know it is difficult, but it would be so helpful to get an estimate, even if it is very rough, of the cost of these improvements. Thanks


  4. Cameron Halmrast November 11, 2017 / 11:15 am

    This is somewhat random, but according to the master plan for Belleayre, this gondola was supposed to feature a mid-station and replace the Tomahawk lift.


    • Peter Landsman November 11, 2017 / 5:08 pm

      Everyone is learning angle stations are darn costly. Sweetwater at JHMR was initially going to have one but the turn was later axed. Alta switched to a tower turn for Supreme. To quote from the Aspen 1A study, “Angle stations for detachable lifts are a minimum of 150 feet long and must be installed in a horizontal configuration…Installing a horizontal angle station on the slopes above Gorsuch House would be highly impractical, extremely expensive, and possibly impossible.”


      • Tim November 12, 2017 / 12:18 am

        I am thinking of the get off at Hochgurgl Gondola in the otztal, Austria it has a directional change and at night the half way becomes the top of the mountain for night skiing and rodel Bahn – sledding down the hill. It is on a flat ridge, so topography worked in there favor, I am guessing the whole station is 75 feet long


      • Thomas Jett November 12, 2017 / 2:52 pm

        I hadn’t heard about Supreme dropping the mid station. What angle is the turn going to be?


      • Max Hart November 12, 2017 / 6:56 pm

        There are times for angle stations on gondolas and times when they make no sense. For example, the original Killington Gondola is the perfect example of when an angle station (or two) makes sense just because it serves a vast amount of terrain and moves people out of key areas at the same time (However angle stations and gondolas in general were much simpler then, and a project of such scale, which rendered Carlevaro-Savio bankrupt and Killington almost bankrupt, would never be possible in this day and age in the east). However, something like Sweetwater at JHMR would not be the ideal place for an angle station because 1) does it really need one and 2) where would said angle station go to make it so much different than the straight-line midstation without rendering nearby lifts (Teewinot) redundant? There is just no logical reason to have an angle station on Sweetwater, and I think the same can be said for Catskill Thunder.


      • Thomas Jett November 13, 2017 / 9:51 am

        That Alta turn has me wondering: is there any limit to the angle that a line can deflect? Or could we theoretically see massive 90+ degree deflections?


    • Collin November 11, 2017 / 7:35 pm

      Also would’ve been an issue like Skyeship at Killington where just enough people are getting on at the bottom to fill up most of the cabins and there’s no room for many people to get on a mid. And angle stations add complexity to a lift and make breakdowns more likely. Glad Belleayre went with the one stage straight lift.


      • RMurphy November 12, 2017 / 5:57 pm

        The first issue is relatively easy to solve. Alta sends up empty chairs specifically to load at the mid, and I believe Mammoth does the same.


      • Thomas Jett November 13, 2017 / 8:36 pm

        Mammoth does not do the same. What makes Mammoth work is that there are enough people getting off at the mid station to eat lunch that more can get on. That, and the fact that most cabins aren’t filled at the bottom.


  5. Harvey November 12, 2017 / 8:57 am

    Great piece Peter thanks for posting. Cameron, what is the year of the illustration you posted?


  6. Harvey November 12, 2017 / 9:54 am

    Thanks Cameron, I did look by couldn’t find it.


  7. Nytaxpayer November 12, 2017 / 6:17 pm

    This lift is an incredible waste of NYS taxpayers hard earned money by a grandstanding Governor looking to run for President


    • Max Hart November 12, 2017 / 6:27 pm

      Seriously? This is a ski lift website, go somewhere else to complain about how the state of New York spends it’s taxpayers money.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cameron Halmrast November 12, 2017 / 6:40 pm

        As long as a ski area is profitable for the state and promotes tourism, it shouldn’t really matter too much since the State of New York will make money both directly and indirectly from lift ticket sales and lodging tax. In addition, states can borrow money from the federal government for around 1.5% for infrastructure improvements and when the loan comes due, they will actually pay less than the initial cost due to inflation.


      • Max Hart November 12, 2017 / 6:44 pm

        Thank you Cameron Halmrast.


      • Collin November 13, 2017 / 3:47 pm

        Well Belleayre hasn’t proved to be exactly profitable, but maybe the gondola will be a catalyst for changing that. Certainly will be a game changer for all who ski Belleayre.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Landsman November 12, 2017 / 8:17 pm

      No question the current administration is into gondolas as infrastructure. In the big picture, they don’t cost much and appeal to almost everyone. Remember just a few weeks before this one was unveiled, another gondola was announced for the NY State Fairgrounds which was later killed by a vocal minority. Regardless of how you feel about Mr. Cuomo generally, he could be a big champion of gondolas in cities.


  8. skidude22 November 12, 2017 / 9:14 pm

    How do you find all of the technical information about the lifts? e.g. vertical rise?


    • Mike Turley November 13, 2017 / 5:49 am

      Trail maps


    • Peter Landsman November 13, 2017 / 6:40 am

      In this case the vertical is that of the entire ski area. The manufacturers provide stats for their completed lifts at the end of each construction year.


  9. congueroblanco April 23, 2018 / 7:47 am

    After this first season with the Catskill Thunder gondola, the general response has been positive. It really acts as a load balancer between the east and west side of the mountain. It also covers the entire elevation of the ski area in about 7 minutes. One day during February, Belleayre smashed its attendance record with over 6000 guests. The mountain did fine with the help of the Thunder, but it was the parking and lodge facilities that were strained beyond their limit. I suspect that will be the next goal; to expand the infrastructure to accommodate more guests.


    • Collin April 23, 2018 / 11:23 am

      They plan on expanding the discovery lodge, upgrading snowmaking, and expanding parking.

      The initial response to the announcement was surprisingly negative, but I think it all worked out in the end.


      • Doppelmayr FTW April 23, 2018 / 11:37 am

        This seems to be a trend in the industry recently, Disney, Big Sky and Dear Valley faced a fair bit of backlash for things that should be just good news. it seems everyone is happy one the lifts start spinning though.


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