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A Brief History of Highmount and Belleayre Ski Centers
Highmount Ski Center was founded by Maurice and Francis Davenport, their wives, Gertie and Blanche, and their friend Lincoln Christensen. They had skied together for years, before the idea came to them to start their own ski business. In the beginning, Maurice and Francis with the help of their mother, fashioned ‘boards’ by steaming pieces of wainscoting and making the tips turn up by bending them between two hot water pipes behind the kitchen stove.
From 1939 to 1947 their skiing was limited to sheep pastures, wood roads and golf courses. They began to look for property where they could put up a tow and in the spring of 1946 they became owners of 110 acres on the north side of Belleayre Mountain. By the skiing season of 1946-47, five narrow trails had been cleared, three rope tows constructed, the base lodge was ready and awaiting skiers, except there was no snow. It finally arrived the end of January and the skiing business on that mountain began.
Ground was broken for Belleayre, the NYS-owned Ski Center, created by a Constitutional amendment to serve the people of NYS, in 1949 and it started operation with a single chair lift, the first and only one in NYS at the time. Its single chair lift and one rope tow serviced four trails. The lodge was one long room with a crushed stone floor.
Besides attracting winter crowds to the area, Belleayre is one of the largest sources of employment that Shandaken had and still has. In the winter, including ski school and ski patrol, about 200 people are employed.
This historical information was published in 1976 when the Town of Shandaken celebrated its 172nd Anniversary of its establishment in 1804.