The Saratoga-North Creek Railroad passenger train
It's time to challenge Lake Placid's post-ski nightlife on North Creek's Main Street, said Johnsburg Town Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed.
With the Saratoga-North Creek Railroad passenger train bringing skiers into town, a little extra bustle is expected this winter in the Gore-adjacent hamlet.
“We expect the ski train to be very successful,” said Goodspeed.
For a long time, Lake Placid has ranked number one in après-ski offerings, but with the train here and the changing, growing business district, Johnsburg can start chasing those skiers, said Goodspeed.
Instead of people day-tripping to the mountain, Goodspeed said the community is developing offerings that will keep people in Johnsburg spending dollars, boosting the town's tourism-heavy economy.
The interconnect at Gore opened in January this year, and the historic Hudson Glade trail has returned via a land transfer from FrontStreet development to the town of Johnsburg. This will be the first year with a full season with the interconnect and Hudson Lift operating, giving Gore five miles of continuous trail along a 2,537-foot vertical decent — the sixth longest in the east, said Emily Stanton, Gore spokeswoman.
An initiative from the Saratoga-North Creek Railroad plans to use Tannery Pond to offer entertainment to visitors. The town has agreed to let the rail company use the facility with no charges, though railroad parent company Iowa-Pacific doesn't have an event schedule prepared yet.
Sarah Munley, Iowa-Pacific spokeswoman, said the train had an almost overwhelmingly successful first season.
“There have been a few days this season that we have just been slammed with passengers and Main Street struggles a little to keep up,” she said. “These are good problems to have.”
The problem will likely need just as much attention in the winter months. Iowa Pacific, parent company of the North Creek Railroad, runs ski trains in other parts of the country. They find that there's usually riders on the ski trains who aren't interested in hitting the trails, whether they're cold-weather tourists or friends and family tagging along.
“We need to be prepared for a large number of people just wanting to get out of the house in the winter. Typically the only thing to do is winter sports, which leaves non-skiers out of the club,” said Munley.
The train company has purchased buses that were gutted and retro-fitted to bring skiers and their accompanying equipment to the slopes. The buses will also be used to shuttle visitors around town for events.
Goodspeed introduced a motion to the town board to allow the company to use Tannery Pond for free during budget hearings.
“We want to help them any way we can,” said Goodspeed.
Getting the Depot Museum open for the ski trains is something businesses and the town would like to see happen, but museum Director Ray Flanagan said he can't see a way for that to work.
The museum already runs on an all-volunteer staff, and their docents have mostly left for the winter.
Flanagan said winter operation would greatly increase maintenance costs. Heating for the small museum building costs about $3,000, even with the thermostat set to 44 degrees, he said. Snow removal will need to be accounted for, and with snow comes more dirt and water brought inside. Durable carpet or frequent cleaning would be needed to deal with the slush.
The most recent Johnsburg budget cut town funding to the museum by 25 percent. Flanagan said a reduced budget and a request for more operation days will place a major financial strain on the institution.
“While it would be nice to be open for the ski trains and the museum is working very hard to make that happen, nothing can interfere with the museum's basic mission, and that is education,” said Flanagan.
The ski train will run from the end of December until March.