By Dick Butler
Reprinted with the premission of Snow East Magazine
Developments at Catamount

Catamount opened for skiing in 1939. It was December 7th, 1941 Pearl Harbor Day, when this area’ s coverage in the New York Times took a back seat to the sad world news of the day. Sometimes passed while traveling to other points in the Berkshires, Catskills, upstate New York, and Vermont, Catamount is now poised to attract serious attention.

Location, location, location, is the real estate message for success. The owners and the developer of this modest size ski area (it has a thousand feet of vertical and a 2-1/2 mile run) 115 miles north of Manhattan, are banking that it’s about to be their mountain’s time in the limelight. Owners Don Edwards and Bill Gilbert, have well seasoned “seat of the pants” experience with managing ski areas. They cut their teeth on Fahnestock, Silvermine, and Sterling Forest prior to acquiring the “Cat” in 1973. Both Bill and Don were involved with snow making during its early development in the 1950’s, and they continue to utilize their knowledge to improve snow making at Catamount each season.

In this age of rising energy costs, increased security, and concern about travel, they are convinced that Catamount is poised for success as a very accessible four-season “boutique” resort within a short drive of millions of outdoor enthusiasts.

Located near Hillsdale New York, and South Egremont Massachusetts, the resort is in close proximity to the Hudson River Valley to the West and the scenic Berkshires to the North and East. In fact, its very location claims a rare statistic: land, including ski trails, in both New York and Massachusetts. The City of Hudson is but a short twenty-minute drive and Great Barrington a ten minute drive. Both cities abound in cultural activities. Catamount is approachable via many major highways from Connecticut and Massachusetts, including The Taconic State Parkway, the Massachusetts Turnpike, as well as the New York State Thruway,

On April 6th of this year final approval was achieved for a three-phase project that has been in planning for five years and will be constructed over three successive seasons. Planned by developer Dale Salsman and the experienced ski resort area owners Don and Bill, and their respective sons Rich and Tom, the Project will center around a pedestrian village campus, built from scratch, and centered on the base of a ski lift. Rare is it when we find goals and an opportunity this worthy. Taking the best qualities of mega resorts such as Tremblant, Stratton, and many western resorts, and scaling them down to make a quaint New England pedestrian Village, is the essence of the team’s vision. Rarer still is it to have a developer at the helm with architectural as well as a real estate training that is being applied to an environment as sensitive ecologically as a mountain resort.

Built in the confines of a beautiful valley, and limited in overall size due to its support parking, the village will take advantage of existing topography and be built on three elevations: a parking plaza level, a pedestrian plaza level with supporting retail shops, and the highest, a skier’s plaza level, all linked by a grand staircase.

The slope-side pedestrian village will include 125 condominiums managed as a hotel, complete with an indoor / outdoor heated pool and supporting retail spaces. Road improvements and an additional quad lift are part of the package.

This architecturally trained developer is pursuing a significant dream at Catamount. Salsman practiced architecture in California for six years, and also in Manhattan, representing many large corporate clients. This experience has given him a rare creative quality that compliments real estate development.

Salsman has also been a skier for decades, and he has seen the seasonal nature of the industry’s employment, and how difficult it can be for a one-season resort to find and keep employees. Driven to find a better way, he has joined forces with the local Chamber of Commerce as well as the Columbia / Hudson Partnership, the area’s Industrial Development Agency, in an attempt to create desirable local jobs. He is serious about creating a year round resort with an especially strong summer venue of activities.

Efficient, compact, comprehensible, and with a goal of providing year round jobs for its employees, this grand scheme may well be the recipe for success for winter sports over the next decade. We will have to wait and see.

“The Owner’s goals are not all about the sale of real estate”, says Dale of the Owners. Dale describes the resort operators as always expressing sheer joy in their guests having a good time. Continued growth is not the core driving force at “The Cat”, it is the perennial quality of the experience.

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