WARRENSBURG - Hickory Ski Center, historically an attraction for winter sports enthusiasts but closed since 2005, is likely to reopen as soon as this winter.
William Van Pelt, a businessman from Texas, is investing enough money to refurbish the ski center and offer new amenities expected in a modern resort, Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty said this week.
The ski center - considered a throwback to the classic days of skiing with no snowmaking, no grooming and no modern chairlifts - will be extensively renovated with grooming, and plenty of new features and offerings, Geraghty said.
"We're pleased the Hickory Hill will now have an infusion of cash to refurbish it and make it viable again," he said. It's an important attraction not only for Warrensburg, but for all of Warren County."
Geraghty said Van Pelt was considering investing in snowmaking equipment, which would allow for a longer skiing season, in addition to extensive upgrades to the lodge and other facilities.
The ski center, known with fondness as "Hickory Hill," might offer mountain biking activities during the summer months, Geraghty said.
"They have great plans, and this is not only important to visitors, but for local residents," he said.
William Van Pelt of Houston confirmed his Hickory Hill redevelopment plans Monday.
Among the upgrades, he said, was a digital system that would automatically detect the paid passes skiiers bought in advance over the Internet, thus allowing them to get out of their car and get on the lift without waiting in line at a ticket window. The computerized system would also greet people by name as they board lifts, voicing the accumulated distance of their day's downhill adventures.
The lodge would also be extensively renovated with an eye on customer comfort and convenience, he said. Wi-Fi Internet will be among the new offerings.
Three employees are now at the center working full time on renovations, he said.
Van Pelt said he grew up in Saratoga Springs, and his friends, who are expert skiiers and enjoy ski vacations in Utah, talk with fondness about Hickory and the challenging experience it offers.
The Website Skiernet.com also has a fondness for Hickory Hill, calling it a gem of an attraction for skiing purists, although it has been closed to the public for several years.
Skiernet has rated it among New York State's "Top Ten" ski centers. Hickory Hill's summit is 1,900 feet, and its longest run is 10,560 feet.
Skiernet notes that at Hickory Hill, there are virtually no crowds, it's low cost, and there's "no posturing."
"With a mix of narrow trails, open areas and glades, Hickory is skiing in the 1950s," the Website says.
Skiernet advises skiers, if there's a good snowfall, to bypass the popular Whiteface or Gore resorts and head for Hickory Hill.
"This is a ski area every purist should visit as often as possible," the Website says. "Trail approaches to vistas of Schroon River and the distant Hoffman and Pharaoh wilderness areas make for some truly spectacular skiing."
And spectacular skiing is what prompted Van Pelt to work with the Hickory board of directors to redevelop the ski center, which is likely to have many of the upgrades ready by this coming winter, he said.
Skiiers are welcome to submit their suggestions for the center's redevelopment, plus comments and memories to Van Pelt via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, he said.
"Generations and generations of skiiers have enjoyed Hickory's challenging slopes and its atmosphere," he said. "Hickory has a strong family connection, and if we can rebuild that, it will continue to be a unique attraction."