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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Cockaigne To Reopen Wednesday

Tent To Arrive From National Guard On Monday

January 29, 2011 - By Dave Emke,
CHERRY CREEK - In just a few days, skiers will be coming down the slopes at Cockaigne Ski Center once again.
A news conference will be held at Cockaigne today at 10 a.m., where owner Jack VanScoter is expected to announce that the center will reopen for business Wednesday night.
A large tent is expected to arrive from the Army National Guard's 2-101 Cavalry in Buffalo on Monday, and it will be used as a temporary lodge. The ski center's historic lodge, originally the Austrian pavilion during the 1964 New York World's Fair, burned to the ground earlier in the week.
Assemblyman Andy Goodell is helping to coordinate the effort to support the ski center, and he said Friday that agencies including the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York, the Chautauqua County Health Department, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the state Office of Parks and Recreation are all banding together to get Cockaigne up and running again as quickly as possible.
According to Jeff Laumer, director of emergency services for the American Red Cross of Southwestern New York, the National Guard promotional tent that will serve as Cockaigne's temporary lodge will measure approximately 60 feet by 20 feet.
Laumer said the Red Cross' goal is always to help people get back on their feet after disaster strikes. Cockaigne Ski Center employs more than 200 local individuals, and the Red Cross is there to help them, Laumer said.
As the slopes at Cockaigne were not affected by the fire, and with other area ski lodges chipping in to help with rental equipment, what was needed was a lodge. Laumer said he started calling National Guard units in the area to try to make something happen, eventually making a connection.
''I thought if we could just set something up and help them provide a lodge, that would help them continue to provide operations,'' he said.
After the tent is delivered by the National Guard on Monday, a volunteer team put together by Laumer will assemble it and put it in place for Cockaigne's use. The use of a tent as a lodge will be a return to Cockaigne's roots, as a tent was used as a temporary lodge in 1966 for the ski center's first year of operation while the Austrian pavilion was being reconstructed on site.
''Hopefully, it can stay in place for the rest of the season to serve as their replacement lodge,'' Laumer said. ''It's the first step to coming to a solution.''
Goodell said that in addition to the tent, the Cockaigne that those who visit will see for the remainder of the season will have many amenities - just in a different setting.
Arrangements are being made with a local food service provider to offer fare such as hot chocolate, hot dogs and hamburgers, he said. Porta-potties will be available as restroom facilities, and picnic tables are being brought in from Midway State Park. Temporary business offices have already been set up in the form of a trailer.
For ski clubs and others who rent their equipment, the ski center plans to have items available. The difference is that - as Cockaigne's equipment was destroyed in the fire - the names on the equipment will reflect the local lodges who have chipped in their support.
''It's likely that if you go to Cockaigne and need ski rentals, you might have skis from Peek'n Peak or Holiday Valley or somewhere else,'' Goodell said. ''There has been a tremendous amount of support coming through.''
Goodell said that in addition to him, local economic development staff including Bill Daly of the county Industrial Development Agency have reached out to Cockaigne, as has County Executive Greg Edwards and the state Economic Development Agency.
All have been coming together to help Cockaigne both in the short term and the long, Goodell said. However, present-day needs must be addressed before anything down the line can be tackled.
''The owner is focused on getting the place opened, and that's an incredible process,'' Goodell said. ''The long-term future of Cockaigne will be addressed as soon as the immediate demands of getting the place opened are taken care of.''
The remains of the former lodge are in the process of being relocated from their current location to a cleared area near the ski center's entrance, from which they will be removed in the spring.
At the same time, a volunteer effort is being coordinated to begin the effort to transform the former Grainery Restaurant, located across the street from Cockaigne, into a more permanent lodge. Goodell said work is already being done to attempt to transfer the lodge's liquor license to the former restaurant, and that the Alcohol Beverage Control board is being very cooperative in the effort.
Goodell said he is coordinating the effort even though Cockaigne is not in his Assembly district because he has special ties to the ski center. Not only is he a certified ski instructor at Cockaigne who lost all of his equipment in the fire, he said, but many of the center's employees live in his district.
''I took the lead just because of the employment impact on Chautauqua County, and because I have a longtime personal relationship with Cockaigne,'' he said.
Goodell said Assemblyman Joe Giglio - in whose district Cockaigne sits - is also very supportive of the effort, as is state Sen. Cathy Young.
''Certainly, they will do anything they can to help the employees and help the organization survive this,'' he said. ''And we're lucky to have those two there.''
Goodell said that the overwhelming support that has been shown from so many different people and agencies has been incredible.
''It really is heartwarming, and it some ways it's what's unique about Chautauqua County and the people here,'' he said. ''We have a reputation for pulling together and helping each other when we really need to.''

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fire destroys Cockaigne Ski Area lodge

Updated: January 26, 2011, 1:37 AM

CHERRY CREEK — The smoldering remains of one of Western New York's most notable buildings served as a gathering place Tuesday for awestruck Southern Tier residents who planned their winters around the Cockaigne Ski Area.

The ski site's main lodge had been proudly known as the Austrian Pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair in New York City. Nearly all of the ornate wooden structure, purchased in 1965 and reconstructed the next year at the ski facility, was destroyed Monday night in a towering fire that could be seen for up to five miles.

Because of the "extensive damage," fire inspectors from the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office, who finished digging through the icy, charred beams of the lodge's remains Tuesday evening, said the cause might never be determined.

Officials said they don't suspect foul play in the fire, which started in the lodge's ski rental area.

Owner Jack Van Scoter declined to comment Tuesday about the fire, which hit at the peak of ski season, or about his plans for of the ski area. A damage estimate had not been determined, and whether the ski area was insured remained unclear.

"It's the focal point of this whole area," said John Carson, 45, of Eden, who as a child spent each cold season in a winter home across the road from the ski area. "It was home to a lot of people, a lot of friendships, and that was what Cockaigne was all about."

Their beloved winter area offered 1,100-foot slopes and affordable prices. But at about 10:20 p.m. Monday, a Chautauqua County plow driver noticed flames in the back portion of the two-story lodge.

The first of the 150 responding firefighters, from the Cherry Creek Fire Department and six other companies, went into a defensive stance as they poured water on the blaze to make sure the signature arches on the building's top didn't fall dangerously.

"Me and my son had to come here [Monday night], for whatever reason, until we couldn't stand to watch [it burn]," Carson said.

The remains were still smoldering when Tim Cobb, a Cassadaga Fire Department chief, arrived at noon Tuesday to relieve the first shift of workers. He described the fire as "very large," and one neighbor said firefighters told him they were pumping 3,000 gallons per minute from tankers and a nearby stream.

Absent Tuesday were the once-regular busloads of high school students from ski clubs at Southwestern, Falconer and Fredonia high schools.

In their place was a nonstop chain of vehicles carrying visitors who wanted to see the unfortunate ruins first hand.

"It was open 106 days [a year]. I was out there 101 days," said Steven Cardot, 19, a Forestville High graduate who worked at Cockaigne. "Snowboarding was my life. I can't do anything now. I've got no snowboard, and I can't afford to drive to [other ski areas]."

Cardot and Nate Mages, 19, looped around the cordoned-off perimeter where firefighters blasted the smoldering wood and Van Scoter worked with fire officials to try to figure out where the fire started.

Upon walking up to the ruins, Mages recognized the equipment and rental room "where we sat every day." He emerged with blackened hands and, most importantly to him, the shovel he used to dig and pack snow to make snowboarding jumps.

"My shovel's still there," Cardot said. "I want to get it. I want to put it on my wall."

Cardot's carefree memories were like those of many who gathered Tuesday. On the front of the lodge, the sign reading "Gemutlich" — German for "agreeably pleasant" — remained largely intact.

"I grew up skiing here," said Mike Eaker, 53, who first worked at Cockaigne as a lift attendant in 1976 and has worked ski patrol since 1980. "My family skied here. My kids skied here. They were family here, wherever they came from, whether it be Cleveland, Toronto, or any other ski towns. They were family."

Two members of that family said Tuesday that they've been drawn to the area for 37 years because of the care skiers took for each other.

"Everyone here kind of watched out for one another," said Eden resident Carol Wagner. "It's been a way of life for a lot of people. It was a wonderful place. It will be sorely missed."

Wagner, whose son grew up skiing on Cockaigne's three slopes and 17 trails before he reached the Junior Olympics, said she hopes Van Scoter can find some way to operate the slope again.

Carson said Van Scoter operated the ski area's rental stations and restaurant/bar area with a personal touch.

"You'll see him running through, picking up plates after lunch," Carson said. "He knows all of his employees."

"He's pretty upset," said Carol Wagner, another Eden resident.

News Staff Reporter Gene Warner contributed to this report.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Owners, Renters Agree: Owning a Home Is a Smart Decision

Press Release Source: National Association of Realtors On Wednesday January 19, 2011, 1:08 pm EST
WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - 01/19/11) - A substantial majority of both home owners and current renters agree that owning a home is a smart decision over the long term. That's according to the results of a National Association of Realtors® survey of 3,793 adults conducted online by Harris Interactive.
The American Attitudes About Homeownership survey found that in today's challenging economy, 95 percent of owners and 72 percent of renters believe that over a period of several years, it makes more sense to own a home. In addition, an overwhelming majority of home owners are happy with their decision to own a home -- 93 percent of owners surveyed would buy again.
"Home owners and renters agree that home ownership benefits individuals and families, strengthens our communities, and is integral to our nation's economy," said National Association of Realtors® President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. "The results of this survey illustrate just how important issues related to home ownership are to people in this country."
The survey uncovered some differences between home owners and renters, as well. While more than half of owners are "very" or "extremely" satisfied with the overall quality of their family life, only one-third of renters report the same levels of satisfaction. Similarly, 43 percent of home owners are very/extremely satisfied with their community life, compared with 30 percent of renters.
A majority of renters -- 63 percent -- said that it was at least somewhat likely that they would purchase a home at some point in the future. Among this group, young adults (18-29 years old) have the strongest aspirations for home ownership; only 8 percent of young adults said that it was "not at all likely" that they would purchase a home at some point in the future.
In today's market, many aspiring home owners are faced with worries about job security and creditworthiness. Among renters who are very or extremely likely to buy a home in the future, three out of five consider confidence in job security and creditworthiness to be an obstacle.
One point of agreement between renters and home owners was support of the mortgage interest deduction (MID). Seventy-four percent of owners and 62 percent of renters say it's "extremely" or "very" important that the MID remain in place.
"At a time when the middle class is under increasing economic pressures, both home owners and renters agree that the mortgage interest deduction should not be targeted for change," said Phipps. "Given strong public support of and aspirations toward owning a home, we need to keep policies in place that support and encourage responsible, sustainable home ownership for our future."
This survey was conducted online within the U.S. and fielded October 6-20, 2010. A total of 3,793 adults, 18 and older were surveyed, including 1,880 home owners, 1,115 renters, and 798 young adults. All samples came from the Harris Poll online database and were weighted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income to be representative of the U.S. general population of adults 18 and older. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online. Results are available online at
The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
Information about NAR is available at This and other news releases are posted in the News Media section.
REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark which may be used only by real estate professionals who are members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® and subscribe to its strict Code of Ethics. Not all real estate agents are REALTORS®. All REALTORS® are members of NAR

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Holiday Valley to Build Sky High Adventure Park

January 13, 2011 9:54 am Chautauqua-Allegheny, Winter, snow sports
holiday-valley.jpgEllicottville, N.Y. - Holiday Valley's President, Dennis Eshbaugh announced on Jan. 8 that the resort will be constructing an Adventure Park in the Tannenbaum area at Holiday Valley. The park will feature an Aerial Adventure Park and a Mountain Coaster. The Aerial Park will open in June of 2011 and the Mountain Coaster will open later in the summer. More elements will be added to the park in the future.
Holiday Valley will be working with Outdoor Ventures Group of Southport, Connecticut to design and build the Aerial Park and Wiegand Sports of Utah and Germany for design and construction of the Mountain Coaster.
The Aerial Park is a series of platforms and "bridges" to be built in a 4 acre section of the woods adjacent to the Tannenbaum slope. The wooden platforms are built in the trees and the bridges connect the platforms. Bridges may be logs, hanging chunks of wood, loops of rope or other options and the challenge is to figure out how to get across to the next platform. A successful crossing is not a strength issue; it is more strategy and balance. There are different levels of difficulty and the more difficult the course, the higher up it is in the trees. Some courses have zip lines between areas. All participants wear a harness that has a special locking lanyard that safeguards them from falling if they slip or let go. Samples of the platforms and bridges have been installed in the ceilings of each of Holiday Valley's base lodges and a video of a similar park is available at
The Mountain Coaster is similar to a roller coaster, but it will be built in the woods next to the Spruce Line slope. People ride up the mountain in a "car" that is attached to rails, and then it follows a zig zagging spiraling path down the mountain. Riders are able to control their speed with hand brakes on the car. The Mountain Coaster will operate year 'round, and the Aerial Park will operate spring, summer and fall. Plans are to begin construction of the Mountain Coaster in April and it will be open for business this summer.
Mr. Eshbaugh said, "We're really excited about the new Sky High Adventure Park. It will help attract more visitors to our region and give them a totally new outdoor experience."
Holiday Valley ( ) in Western New York State is a leading eastern North American year 'round resort. Fifty-eight slopes and 13 lifts offer challenging skiing and snowboarding. An 18 hole golf course, mountain biking trails and a 3-pool complex provide summer activities. Lodging is available on the slopes and golf course and in nearby Ellicottville, a quaint village with shops, restaurants and an exciting night life

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Friday, January 14, 2011

THINKING ABOUT SPRING—The Chautauqua Lake Association

THINKING ABOUT SPRING—The Chautauqua Lake Association will kick off its first Chautauqua Lake Ice Pick fundraiser at 4 p.m. today at the Stow Ferry. Based on an Alaskan tradition, the contest asks participants to make an exact prediction when a large tripod, to be placed on Chautauqua Lake near Stow today, will fall into the lake this spring. The winner gets a plaque and bragging rights. A$5 donation is required for each guess and can be paid in the form of credit card or check. Entries are being accepted through Feb. 28. For more information, call the association at 763-8602 or go to, where you can download a printable entry ticket or pay online

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sled in Style with a Chautauqua County Snowmobile Group

Published Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 in Scott Wise
The Chautauqua Star and Bulletin Board is proud to feature our "Winter Recreation" section, located on pages 6 and 7 of our Sports section. Join us every week as we showcase each of the local snowmobile groups and see what they bring to our area.
The Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club maintains almost 300 miles of trail in Chautauqua County. Submitted Photo.
If you're from Chautauqua County, you probably hear more often than not, "Why on earth would you want to live somewhere where you only have two months of summer?"
For the dedicated snowmobilers in the area, their answer will be, "Because we get five months of winter!"
With over 450 miles of groomed trails in Chautauqua County, there's enough trail to spend a winter out of the house and on the sled.
One of the greatest things about being an avid snowmobiler in Chautauqua County is the assurance that you're not alone. There are five snowmobiling groups in Chautauqua County- the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club, the Cherry Creek Sno-Goers, the Ellery Sno-Cruisers, the Lake Effect Trail Breakers and the Sunset Drifters. All of these groups offer benefits for members that guarantee not only a great ride, but a safe one.
The Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club is the largest in Western New York, encompassing around 300 miles of the trails in the county. The club has over 1,500 members and has been in existence for over 40 years.
"The first perk of being in a club is the camaraderie and friendship of the people who come and ride," said Marcus Maloney, Events and Activities Coordinator for the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club.
But making friends isn't the only benefit to joining a club in New York State. Any club member can receive a discount on their state registration fees.
"All of the clubs have seen a ride in membership because of that discount," said Maloney, who is a member of three Chautauqua County clubs. "For the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club, our membership fee is only $30 for a family for the season."
Maloney stresses that the importance of joining a snowmobile club is not just to get a discount, but for the safety and guaranteed maintenance of traveling the group's trails.
"We have nine groomers that take care of our trails year-round," said Maloney. "One hundred percent of our proceeds go toward trail maintenance and safety."
One of Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club's 9 Trail Groomers.
The Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Club also has a clubhouse located of Hannum Road in Mayville, at the corner of two popular trails. Members can take a break from the cold with a hot chocolate, coffee, pop or just spending some time getting to know the other riders on their trail.
Members also enjoy monthly meetings throughout the year, where they meet to discuss the trails, exchange safety concerns, share stories and learn about groomer operation and regulations.
"We usually ride for about three to four months a year- November or December until St. Patrick's Day," said Maloney. "We spend the rest of the year sharing stories and looking forward to the next year- building bridges and trimming trees. The whole trail system is also now GPS Coordinated, so you don't have to worry about getting lost."
Trail membership is also good for local business. Members come from Ohio and Pennsylvania and bring more winter business to the hundreds of popular local business and restaurants along the trails.
"Most of our members like to go out and try lots and lots of different places," said Maloney. "We're nothing without local businesses, and they're all huge supports of our clubs and the trails."
For more information on the Chautauqua Lake Snowmobile Group, including trail conditions visit or call their 'Sno-Phone' at 716-753-2924.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Pending home sales continue recovery

According to the National Association of REALTORS, pending home sales rose again in November, with the broad trend over the past five months indicating a gradual recovery for 2011. The Pending Home Sales Index rose 3.5 percent to 92.2 based on contracts signed in November from a downwardly revised 89.1 in October.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said historically high housing affordability is boosting sales activity. "In addition to exceptional affordability conditions, steady improvements in the economy are helping bring buyers into the market," he said. "But further gains are needed to reach normal levels of sales activities." To read the full NAR report, and an interview with Lawrence Yun, click here.

C. Rick & Julia McMahon
Broker/partners Real Estate Advantage
Bemus Point & Jamestown, NY
716-483-3300 or 484-2020

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Chautauqua Farm to Restaurant to encourage local and organic produce in area eateries

Dunkirk Observer
MAYVILLE - Many residents of Chautauqua County know that some of the best fruit and vegetables are grown just around the corner and for them it is still easy to purchase local produce prevalent at the roadside stands that still dot the county.
Asparagus and strawberries in the spring, blueberries and peaches in the summer, apples and grapes in the fall - all are often of the finest quality and worthy of export. This is complemented by local farmers' markets where one can obtain locally produced fowl, beef, and dairy products. Visitors, however, do not know always know about these delicious offerings because local restaurants cannot obtain sufficient supplies in an efficient manner.
Likewise, savvy local chefs and restaurants know that the hottest topic in the restaurant world is "local" purchasing and featuring locally-grown and/or organic products on their menus and even identifying the name of the farms and farmers who supply them. These locally grown foodstuffs are sometimes fresher and of better quality than that which is imported by distributors. It is just these products that illustrate the "sense of place" so evident in America's Grape Country's landscape.
A local grassroots group composed of Ben Webb (Webb's Captain's Table), Jennifer Johnson (Johnson Estate Winery), Blair Koss (Westfield Farmer's Market), Pat Hathaway (Hathaway Farms) and Tony and Rebecca Pisicoli (Sapore Wine Bar & Restaurant), was inspired by the annual Buffalo Farm to Table Conference to replicate this effort in Chautauqua. The group hopes to encourage the formation of relationships between local farmers and restaurant owners and chefs, to study ways to help the two groups match local supplies with local demand, including the need to understand the importance of quality standards, methods of efficient distribution, and wholesale pricing.
The group will be sponsoring a Farm to Restaurant Mixer on Jan. 11 from 6-8 p.m. at Webb's Captains' Table, 115 West Lake Road in Mayville. Wine will be provided by Johnson Estate and hors d'oeuvres by Webb's Captain's Table. The mixer is open to all farmers and chefs/restaurants who are interested in providing or purchasing produce on a wholesale basis. The mixer will encourage the exchange of information on types and quantities of seasonal produce available as well on the development of farmer and chef relationships.
Questions and RSVP may be directed to Jennifer Johnson at

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Chautauqua Experience January 31, 2011, at 10 pm, PBS

This January all of us who love Chautauqua will have the opportunity to share the "Chautauqua Experience". Save the Date! On January 31, 2011, at 10 pm, PBS will feature a documentary about Chautauqua Institution, called 'Chautauqua: An American Narrative'. You can view the trailer below (provided by Chautauqua Institution)

According to the official website of Chautauqua Institution, "The documentary, which was filmed at Chautauqua during the 2009 Season, uses personal testaments from a series of individuals and emphasizes Chautauqua's four pillars of the arts, education, religion, and recreation to capture the Chautauqua experience. Those interviewed include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, historian David McCullough, the Rev. Otis Moss III, and pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk, as well as Chautauqua's own Tom Becker, former board chair William Clinger, and artistic directors, faculty and students.

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