QUEENSBURY — West Mountain Ski Area will feel like a new place this season, with a renovated cafeteria, snowmaking equipment and chairlift and a new treetop obstacle course by next summer — about $17 million worth of investment that owners hope will help turn the area into a year-round resort.
The 6,000-square-foot cafeteria is being completely gutted and renovated at a cost of about $600,000, according to Spencer Montgomery, co-owner and operator of the ski area.
Montgomery said that although the old cafeteria was functional, the décor was dated and the layout inefficient, especially for putting in large groups of people such as the 1,600 children coming in for after-school programs.
“The line would be all the way back out the door,” he said.
Montgomery said while the square footage is not changing, the configuration will be drastically adjusted.
The renovated cafeteria will be open to the lodge and the food options will be laid out in a horseshoe arrangement, he said.
“You’ll be able to see in there from the lodge. You can place your order and sit down,” he said.
The cafeteria will feature fresh soup, a grill center, pizzas and a sandwich counter. There will be more healthy options and fresh food. Montgomery said he likes what the owners have done at Windham Mountain in the northern Catskills.
“People are expecting a much higher-end dining (experience) at ski areas, so we’re moving in that direction,” he said.
He is also exploring the possibility of putting in some automated-ordering kiosks.
He expects cafeteria revenues to double as a result of the change.
When West Mountain Ski Center opens next winter, skiers and riders will be riding above The Face trail on a new $900,000 four-passenger lift t…
The ski center is upgrading its snowmaking operations with the installation of 100 new snow gun sticks and 50 snow gun fans. Two new vertical 400-horsepower pumps will be installed.
“Our actual capacity won’t increase a lot, but the delivery speed will increase tremendously,” he said.
All the new snowmaking guns will be mounted permanently in place, according to Montgomery, which is a big change. In the past, the snow guns were mobile.
“We would make snow on one trail and then we’d have to move the gun,” he said.
As a result of this inefficiency, Montgomery said the north half of the ski center was never open until mid-January or February.
“That really forced us to operate half a resort,” he said.
Montgomery said the new setup will allow the mountain to have 100 percent snowmaking from the AOA trail on the north side to the Cure trail on the south side.
The ski center is also installing 18,000 feet of new pipeline to replace older pipes and allow for higher-pressure delivery of water for snowmaking, he said.
“The goal, weather permitting, is to have the entire ski center open by Christmas week,” he said.
The improvements will help attract people to come up from New York City and New Jersey, he said.
“They’ll start to view West Mountain as a true resort,” he said.
The company has recently bought out a group of investors and brought in a new partner. There are now four partners: Montgomery, Bruce Boswell, Louis Posess and a fourth investor who prefers to remain anonymous. The partners paid off some existing debt and that left about $5 million more to invest.
They are investing $2 million into snowmaking equipment, $1 million into the new chairlift, $600,000 into the cafeteria and $2.5 million in the treetop course.
The new chairlift will be a quad chair, replacing the old two-person Face chair.
Next summer, the ski area will open Aerial Treetop Adventure and Canopy Zip-line. The nine-platform zip line treetop tour will have 10,000 feet of travel and will drop 1,000 feet in elevation.
The complex will have three courses of increasing difficulty. Customers will be belayed in to get to the course and will have to traverse through various obstacles. The courses are being designed by Tree-Mendous, which has done work at the Bronx Zoo and other ski areas.
Montgomery said the new venture is a financial risk, but he believes bringing summer business with the treetop course will be a good hedge against a poor winter.
The ski area is also planning to replace the northwest chairlift. The center is also applying for a New York Empire State Development grant to cover the cost.
When all these projects are completed, close to $17 million will have been invested, Montgomery said. The long-term plan is to develop ski-and-stay lodging on the other side of the mountain, including time-shares and condos similar to those at Windham Mountain, Jiminy Peak and Okemo Mountain Resort.
“Queensbury should be a ski town,” he said.
The Queensbury Planning Board is set to review the plans at its meeting on Sept. 25 at 7 p.m.
Michael Goot covers politics, business, the city of Glens Falls and the town and village of Lake George. Reach him at 518-742-3320 or email@example.com and follow his blog at http://poststar.com/blogs/michael_goot/.