UTICA, N.Y. -- Val Bialas is one of only 4 ski areas in the entire country that's placed in the heart of a city. But for the past couple of years, the slopes have been closed to the public.
Over the years the slopes were only opened when there was enough snow to ski or snowboard. The snow was also one of the main reasons the previous owners turned the property over to the city in 2017. Utica DPW Commissioner Dave Short said the area has seen a very inconsistent amount of snow.
"We always talked about maybe if we could keep snow on the slopes then maybe we would see an increase. We don't know because it hasn't happened," said Short.
Funding for the slopes was also tough. Short said the city needs to invest a lot of money to maintain the area and hire people to operate the machinery. Money the city did not have because of COVID.
Local developers have also tried to run the ski area over the years, but Short said none of them have had any luck.
"Over the last 20 years, we've had some private enterprises come in here thinking they could make a go of it. They started out strong and maybe they made it work for a bit, but they could never get the revenue they needed to make it worthwhile. What it really needs is snowmaking. And with snowmaking, you have to have water, and we don't have those things which are big expensive things to have." said Short.
Finding employees to work at the ski area is also tough. Short said because of the need for snow to be open, employee schedules would be so up in the air and possibly spread out throughout the season.
But Short said the city is not giving up on the property. The city still has insurance and the ski lifts are inspected every year. The snow grooming equipment is also routinely taken out and maintained. This means the slopes could reopen as soon as the state provides approval. But Short said they won't go through with trying to open the slopes until next year.
"It gives us a year to solicit some kids and people that want to work. Hopefully next year we will be doing an interview with skiers coming down the hill and we will be talking about that again," said Short.
Similar to the city opening its pools, opening Val Bialas would be for the benefit of the residents, not so much for making money.