By Janice Habuda
News Staff Reporter Buffalo News
Published: February 20, 2010, 6:43 am
Many days this winter, dawn at Kissing Bridge has broken with the same scene as the morning before.
A layer of new snow.
"It seems like the old movie "Groundhog Day,' " said Mark Halter, president of the Glenwood ski area. "You get up in the morning, there's four inches of snow."
Skiers and snowboarders couldn't ask for better conditions or weather after an unusually dry and warm November when it was too warm to even make snow.
"It's been a really, really nice year," said Jane Eshbaugh, marketing director at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville. "We've had really consistent weather ... a little bit of snow at a time."
As a result, business has been brisk, particularly on holidays and during school breaks.
"The holidays have been really good," said Linda Johnson, office manager at Cockaigne Ski Center in Cherry Creek. "We had a fairly good weekend, and Monday [Presidents Day] was very good."
"We haven't had an overabundance of snow, but it's come at all the right times," Johnson said.
Snow business offers no guarantees. It was just three years ago that golfers were walking the links in January, while members of high school ski clubs were cooling their heels.
This year, not even a January thaw interrupted the season.
Only 36 hours of above-freezing temperatures have been recorded at Kissing Bridge in 2010.
"That's absolutely remarkable," Halter said.
"In the economic turmoil that you hear about ... we are a discretionary purchase," Halter said. "We are not something that you have to have."
That said, local resorts are reporting ticket sales are strong.
"In fact, we are having our strongest over-the-counter year in six years," Halter said.
The president of a national ski organization said the western regions of New York and Pennsylvania are on track for a banner season.
"It's been a spectacular year and attendance is up over last year," said Michael Berry, president of the Colorado-based National Ski Areas Association.
Final numbers on lift ticket sales won't be available until spring, but anecdotal evidence suggests an increase, he said.
"We are far enough into the season now that you can predict the end," Berry said. "I think we will see a number of resorts in the Northeast where they will have a record year this year."
Ticket sales at local areas are being helped by skiers and snowboarders shopping for bargains, as well as numerous myriad promotions to get people on the slopes.
A New Jersey resident called Cockaigne Ski Center recently to ask about rates, Johnson said. The price of Cockaigne's Saturday, eight-hour lift ticket has held at $34 for the past three years.
Days after that phone call, Johnson said she was in the ski shop when she encountered that New Jersey family.
"They had called Vermont and didn't want to pay $80 for a lift ticket," she related. "They ended up here and were here for a couple of days."
The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, with its breathtaking visuals of snow sport venues, may be responsible for bringing some first-timers to the slopes, Halter said.
"An awful lot of people are trying the sport," he said.
As for the unpredictable, and sometimes downright unseasonable, weather that has plagued the games, Halter said Western New York has had that kind of winter.
But not this year.
"This is a fun winter to be in the business," he said.
For more information on Chautauqua Lake Real Estate & Living visit: www.chautauqualakehomes.com
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
Thanks to available tax credit programs, real estate professionals had a strong finish in 2009.
Statewide sales of existing single-family homes in the state rebounded from a double-digit deficit in the first half of the year to finish only 3.2-percent behind 2008 total. According to preliminary existing single-family sales data accumulated by the New York State Association of Realtors, 77,176 homes were sold statewide during 2009.
''As 2009 progressed, the combination of the federal first-time homebuyer tax credit, historically low mortgage rates and moderating prices resulted in New Yorkers gaining confidence about it being a good time to buy a home in the Empire State,'' said Duncan R. MacKenzie, New York State Association of Realtors chief executive officer. ''In the first half of 2009, many would be buyers remained on the sidelines due to reports of the so-called 'national' housing market collapse and the overreaching economic uncertainty. Once New Yorkers came to understand that all housing markets are local and that their local market could not be painted with the same brush as severely depressed markets in other locales, there was a renewed interest in homeownership across our state.''
Lory Anderson, Chautauqua County Board of Realtors president, said as much as the federal homebuyer tax credit and the state's Tax Credit Advance Loan program, confidence was a key part in the rejuvenation of the housing market.
''Now there isn't as big of a fear as last year at this time,'' she said. ''There has been a change in attitude as far as optimism. Buyers out there waited on the economy last year at this time. Throughout the year they stopped worrying and things started to move better. The big fright factor has passed.''
In December, the housing market in the county improved by around 8 percent as 71 homes were sold compared to 66 in December 2008. Statewide, fourth quarter sales nearly increased 21 percent when compared to the last quarter of 2008. With the tax credit program being extended through April, real estate professionals expect housing numbers to stay positive in 2010.
''With the extension and expansion of the tax credit, we expect the housing market to build on the current recovery into 2010, especially during the early spring as buyers try to meet the April 30 purchase contract deadline to qualify for the federal tax credit,'' MacKenzie said.
MAYVILLE - Frigid temperatures and steady snowfall typically aren't good things for construction crews, unless it's the crew that recently completed building the Ice Castle in Mayville.
With the official lighting of the Ice Castle slated for 6:30 p.m. tonight at Lakeside Park, the ceremony kicks off a weekend-long celebration that has enough events and attractions to offer a little something for everyone.
Following the grand opening of the 2010 Ice Festival, people looking to have a good time around 8 p.m. can cruise over to either the Mayville Legion, where there will be softball bracketing and a party, or to Chautauqua Suites where guests will be treated to the soul sounds of New Orleans native Larry LZ Dillon in the Belini Lounge. In conjunction with the performance, the lounge is offering an eight-ounce steak and a glass of wine for $14.99.
At 10 p.m. in the Lakeside Hotel, the Porcelain Bus drivers will play covers of the best of the 1970s and 1980s music.
The party continues on Saturday and Sunday, with several events and contests being held in conjunction with the festival, but the central attraction is no doubt the Ice Castle.
Marty Bova, mayor of Mayville, said this coming weekend will mark "one of the best events" ever held in the village.
"The construction crew has been hard at work since December, clearing snow from the lake to expose the ice, thus making better, thicker, blue ice," he said. "In this ice castle, there is going to be a whole new lighting scheme and I am told they are going to resurrect the old flaming dragon used years ago."
In addition to the ice castle, the festival will feature three contests this year.
The Presidential Look Alike Contest will take place at 1:30 p.m., Sunday at the Community Center at Lakeside Park, and the winner will receive a prize package put together by the Athenaeum Hotel at Chautauqua Institution, valued at more than $100.
The Snowball Distance Throwing Contest will be at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, with cash prizes for adults and children. The Children's Snowman/Animal Building Contest will take place on Sunday for children ages 4 to 12, also with cash prizes for the winners.
For those who embrace their inner sense of adventure, at noon Saturday, they can join in an embark on the Polar Bear Plunge in Chautauqua Lake. Anyone not looking to get wet can also opt to take a snowmobile ride or a ride on a horse-drawn carriage.
With events scheduled throughout the day, the evening culminates with the Flare Parade by the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club at 7 p.m., and a fireworks presentation by the Starfire Corporation at 8 p.m.
The fun resumes on Sunday morning around 11 a.m., and continues throughout the afternoon.
Bova said he appreciates all the effort people put into the event, and cites it as the reason so many people are able to enjoy themselves at it annually.
"It is always amazing to see who donates their time and talents to this event, many of whom are otherwise self-employed and lose paid work days to bring this community event to fruition," he said. "Not to mention the local businesses who donate lunch to the work crews on a daily basis. I highly recommend everyone take time out of your busy schedules to attend the 2010 Ice Castle Presidents Day event. So many people have worked so hard, my hat goes off to them, their families and all involved."
Complete program schedules are available at the festival, or by visiting the Mayville/Chautauqua Chamber of Commerce Web site at www.mayvillechautauquachamber.org.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
BEMUS POINT - The family of current Village Casino operator Steve Carlson will continue to run the facility for the next five years.
The Bemus Point Village Board will enter into a contract with Professional Hospitality - one of two bidders proposing to operate the site once the village's current lease with Carlson expires in October. Ellicottville Brewing Company also submitted a proposal.
The decision wasn't unanimous, however.
Village Trustee Chris Wight cast the only opposing vote to award the contract to Professional Hospitality. She said her vote against the contract is because she wanted to table the vote in order to get more public input.
"We have nothing to gain by rushing," she said, adding, however, the village had a lot to win by holding off. "We missed a wonderful opportunity to get more input from actual residents," she said.
Ms. Wight said she also liked Ellicottville Brewing Co.'s ideas to have the casino feature more family entertainment and less late night activities, since there have already been noise problems there. She said she called Ellicottville Brewing Co. references and found the establishments in Ellicottville and Fredonia have a reputation for community involvement and being responsive to those communities. She said brewing company plans to funnel rent money into the building would have left the village with "a much more sound and beautiful building at the end of (the) lease."
Mayor Bryan Dahlberg said reasons for choosing Professional Hospitality included economics.
Dahlberg said the brewing company wanted the village to reinvest some of the rent it would pay back into the facility.
Although the village lease is with Carlson, Dahlberg said Professional Hospitality representatives work on and manage the facility already. He said Village Board members felt comfortable knowing the people who already work and manage the facility. Dahlberg said while there are issues such as noise from the facility, board members felt "pretty comfortable (and) content" with the operators they already know.
Dahlberg said the village and Professional Hospitality officials plan to address noise issues this summer, before the new contract begins in October. He said Professional Hospitality representatives have already begun work to design new doors they think may help with noise problems.
"We're pretty happy about that," Dahlberg said about a decision being reached on who will operate the facility.
"We are very grateful to the village trustees and community to enable us to continue the traditions Steve Carlson laid out," said David VanNess of Professional Hospitality, who said he has been operating the Casino for the last five years. "It's an old building we certainly cherish," he said, adding he would like to keep the building "within its culture but bring it into modern times."
Continuing "a fun and friendly, family atmosphere with an affordable menu" is also on his agenda, he said, adding he would like to add to the menu but continue having dining on the lake and music.
VanNess also said he enjoys giving back to the community whenever possible, such as donating time for events like the Take A Seat Auction, benefits for the Chautauqua Lake Association or benefits for community members.
While attorneys next work to draw up contracts with Professional Hospitality, others in the village are already reacting to the decision.
Ellicottville Brewing Co. officials could not be reached to comment Wednesday.
Bebe Johnson of the Hotel Lenhart, a neighboring business to the casino, called the decision a good one. She said Professional Hospitality representatives are established. Although there have been problems in the past, she said, they are being resolved. She said an additional police presence in the area of the casino this year is also expected to help.