UPDATE: Volunteer group says Big Tupper ski mountain will close

UPDATE:  See full response from Protect the Adirondacks executive director Peter Bauer at bottom of this post.
A local group that organized to open Big Tupper ski mountain — and to advocate for development of the Adirondack Club and Resort — says the popular local destination will not reopen this year.
The group called Arise had formed to reopen the mountain on a volunteer basis, while waiting for a new resort destination to be built.  The project was approved by the Adirondack Park Agency last winter.
Construction of the resort’s amenities has been delayed by a lawsuit filed by two environmental groups, Protect the Adirondacks and the Sierra Club.  That Article 78 challenge is now being reviewed by the courts.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, ARISE president and local real estate developer Jim LaValley blamed the decision on the suit.
“Big Tupper was in a position to receive substantial financial assistance,” LaValley said in a statement.  “With the filing of the Article 78 lawsuit, that opportunity dissolved, and we are forced to close.”
Environmental groups have accused the APA of issuing the permits inappropriately, failing to follow state rules designed to protect the environment, and questioned whether state officials colluded with developers.  Full ARISE press release below.


TUPPER LAKE –   It was announced Tuesday evening that the Big Tupper Ski Area has been forced to close.  ARISE Chairman Jim LaValley was joined by members of the Board, as well as managers and volunteers of the Big Tupper Ski Area, at P-2’s Pub in Tupper Lake.

LaValley said that the community of Tupper Lake and Big Tupper supporters should hold the Board and members of PROTECT the Adirondacks, the Sierra Club, Phyllis Thompson, and Bob & Leslie Harrison responsible for the closure.  “Following the issuance of the permit for the Adirondack Club by the Adirondack Park Agency, Big Tupper was in a position to receive substantial financial assistance.  With the filing of the Article 78 lawsuit, that opportunity dissolved, and we are forced to close.”  LaValley went on to say that, “the Board and membership of PROTECT and the Sierra Club should be ashamed at the way they have chosen to attack a community by using Artice 78 lawsuits in a frivolous manner, and as a weapon against a project that was approved by the Adirondack Park Agency Commissioners with a 10:1 vote after 8 years of review.

The project was determined to not have an undue adverse impact on the Park’s resources.  Peter Bauer, Bob Glennon, and John Caffry, have made their intentions clear by taking a very public position on how they want to kill the Adirondack Club and Resort.  They have stated such in the press, and because of their actions it has forced the closure of the ski area, caused the further degradation of Tupper Lake, and flies in the face of Governor Cuomo’s efforts to improve and create a healthier Adirondack economy.”

LaValley added, “even if ARISE were financially able to continue the operation this season, given the on-going threat of lawsuits from Bauer, Glennon and Caffry, and the time frames of the legal process, it is my opinion that the volunteers would have to continue operating for another 3 to 6 years.  We cannot expect the volunteers to continue for that long, nor can we afford to.”
LaValley showed that over the past three seasons, the expenses have outweighed the income, with the last season being the biggest.  He said, “Donations and gifts have dropped off since the first year, and we will be looking at a difficult pre-season of ticket sales following the poor year we have just come out of.  Even with the volunteer effort, it takes approximately $160,000 to run the entire season.”  He told the group, “I hope you see the challenges.”  The ARISE Board will be reviewing ways to utilize the money they hold, and money to be raised at the upcoming OkTupperfest.

LaValley concluded by saying, “The operational effort has been challenging for a number of people, who have given at a great personal cost.  Your efforts will never be forgotten, and I’m sorry that the time has come for this very difficult decision.”


And now here’s a statement from Protect:


It’s unfortunate that PROTECT is turning into a convenient scapegoat for all problems and challenges facing the Tupper Lake community, both real and imagined. PROTECT sympathizes with the disappointment of many in Tupper Lake and surrounding communities over the apparent failure of the Big Tupper Ski Area to open and be revived this winter. We also acknowledged that some are blaming us, though we believe this is wrong. PROTECT has brought a lawsuit against the Adirondack Park Agency to challenge its order for approval of various permits for the 6,000-acre Adirondack Club & Resort project that includes the Big Tupper Ski Area. The APA’s approval was deeply flawed. We believe that our lawsuit is vital and important for the future of hundreds of thousands of acres in the Adirondack Park that will be saved from ruinous precedent that somehow the APA can illegally supplement an adjudicatory public hearing record after it is closed in order to justify its decision, that the APA can somehow chose to view its laws as mere guidelines or recommendations, that required findings of fact and law can be ignored, that APA rules and regulations can be subverted to structure a permit to meet the wants of an applicant, and that all manner of illegal ex parte communications can occur between the APA, the applicant, and elected officials and their representatives. We’re working for a full investigation of this issues raised in this lawsuit and a speedy resolution.

–Peter Bauer, Executive Director, Protect the Adirondacks

41 Comments on “UPDATE: Volunteer group says Big Tupper ski mountain will close”

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  1. Snowflake says:

    It’s time for the town to take back what they never should have sold in the first place. If Old Forge and Saranac Lake can run ski mtns so can Tupper Lake.

  2. scratchy says:

    Looks like the environmentalists got what they wanted. Of course, none of this helps out of work Tupper Lake residents.

  3. Paul says:

    Snowflake, “take back”? What are you suggesting?

  4. mervel says:

    Well that could not go on forever, you can’t run a real ski-resort with volunteers no matter how good and dedicated they are. It simply is not viable, the law suites don’t help but I don’t think they were the sole reason this happened.

  5. Peter Hahn says:

    They probably should have known that this would drag on and on.

  6. Snowflake says:

    Well, they (Town of Tupper Board, Dean Lefebvre, in particular) sold the Ski area to supposedly lower tax and electric bills. Anybody, see that happening? Instead of growing and protecting a recreational asset that was built by the people of Tupper Lake, they sold it for pennies. Extremely short sighted by the board.

    I am suggesting that they buy it back and run it themselves by using town employees for operations and leasing out the concessions to private enterprise.

  7. erb says:

    There was no snow last year, there may be little snow this year – the climate is changing!! In a very short time it will be impossible to run a ski area without snowmaking on a low-elevation mountain in the Adirondacks.

    (Big Tupper was one of my favorite ski areas when we moved here in the 90’s. Varied terrain, a fun and laid-back atmosphere. I was sad when it closed.)

  8. Snowflake says:

    There used to be snowmaking all over that mountain until Lawson and Foxman sold it all off for pennies on the dollar to raise capital. Just wait, now that the ski area is closed they will scrap the lifts. Then the mountain is done, over, kaput! Kudos to the volunteers that kept it open. They deserve the credit for attempting to preserve something of real value to this community. Lawson, LaValley, Foxman, not so much.

  9. Larry says:

    Good work by the “enironmentalists”! Next step, get rid of all the people.

  10. Jim says:

    How convienient that ARISE can try and blame the lawsuit on BT closing. The lawsuit is against the APA not the developers. I find it hard to believe that Lawson and Foxman won’t (or can’t) pony up a measley hundred grand or so to keep the mountain operating this year. If they are the big developers they have potrayed themselves to be , that amount of cash should be chump change for them.

  11. John Warren says:

    Hasn’t Hickory Mtn in Warrensburg been run by volunteers for decades?

    There is nothing keeping volunteers from running Big Tupper, except maybe the people who own it and stripped it of its snowmaking.

    Who is that again?

    A more critical media would detail the nonsense that has gone on over Big Tupper – where the equipment went, how the developers have used the mountain as a carrot with no apparent serious intent on reopening it and now as a stick on their neighbors. Why exactly all the volunteers are being shut out, including who exactly made the decision.

    I don’t see anything about a general meeting being called to discuss this – it appears to have come straight from LaValley himself (who takes his orders from the developers). No appeal for volunteers, and no democratic process for the volunteers who have been suckered into believing they were not just being used to get the APA approval.

    It’s all a BS media ploy – well planned by the developers and carried out by our local media.

    It’s disgusting and shameful.

  12. Snowflake says:

    Who knows but they can probably get it for back taxes. The Town has bent over backwards to facilitate the developers, including negotiating tax payments, penalties and electric charges. There should be no more of that. If you got rid of it to lower everyone else’s tax bill and then reduce the taxes owed by the new owners then exactly what was the purpose? If they don’t take it back the owners will scrap the lifts, tear down the buildings and let it return to vacant woodlands just to reduce their tax bill. All the hard work done to build it by the community along with the work recently done by volunteers will have been for naught. Shame on all of you!

  13. wakeup says:

    I find it sickening that ARISE is attempting to blame the lawsuit for not being able to open. Perhaps all that money they raise each year can go to a more worthy cause then just a sport that caters to a few. I’m throwing up a little bit in my mouth just thinking about what awful propaganda I’m going to read later today in the Tupper Lake Not-So-Free Press.

  14. Snowflake says:

    Wakeup, while I’ll agree with your comments on the TLFree Press, I take real exception to your comment on a community asset that only caters to a few. Big Tupper was the community center for Tupper Lake Families. Not just a ski area for a few. Even non skiers came up to enjoy socializing with their neighbors. It kept our kids healthy and occupied, not sitting in front of the “idiot boxes”, closed off in their rooms. Old and young alike could be found either on the hill, on the deck or in the lodge. The lodge was used for other activities throughout the year. To say it was only used by a few is disingenuous. It probably had more users than Little Wolf Beach, another community asset paid for by the tax payer.

  15. Snowflake says:

    The question is now: What is Tupper Lake going to do about it? They better think long and hard about the direction they are planning on going in, in the future because as they lose recreational assets they will lose their ability to grow.

  16. Paul says:

    What is the “substantial financial assistance” that ARISE was going to recieve? Brian Mann, any details there.

  17. Paul says:

    Too bad they are saying that this could be an excellent winter for skiing. I know I am ready. Climate change is an issue but mountains in considerably more southerly environs have been dealing with warmer winters for decades and producing some pretty good skiing. It can be done if they really want to do it.

  18. Stan says:

    Paul, Talk is cheap, “substantial financial assistance” from the mythical supposed investors ready to throw millions into the ACR. Mr Lavalley always alludes to misterious “investors” willing to dump loads of cash into the ACR but somehow they always have some last minute excuse keeping them from actually putting any money up. Movie stars, Rock Stars, Country music stars, the Super Rich, yeah they are just a second away from throwing Millions into a remote, tiny ski area, real estate development. Like I say, talk is cheap.

  19. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:


    I’m just curious, where are you hearing predictions of an excellent winter for skiing? I’m big into cross country skiing so I’d be delighted if we had a heavy snowfall type winter. Last winter was beyond disappointing.

  20. Paul says:

    Here are a few, but you never know:


    They seem like kind of tea leaf predictors but they are 85% accurate.


    Hopefully this will not just be wasted snow on east coast cities.

  21. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    Thanks for the links, Paul….Very encouraging.

  22. Paul says:

    I also like to cross country ski as well as downhill. I just downhill more these days since we can make snow for that. I spent most of my high school and college days cross country racing. I spent several winter breaks in the 80s working at Mt Van Hovenberg (sp?) in Lake Placid. One winter we made snow for cross country (for the Biathlon World Championships) by blowing it into huge piles and then spreading it on the trails with a manure spreader! Seriously!

    Keep rubbing that rabbits foot for this winter!

  23. Walker says:

    The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s long range weather forecasts are 85% accurate?! Now I understand why you’re so easily mislead by pretty graphs in the Wall Street Journal.

    Looking to fact check that claim, I see that even the Almanac merely says that “many longtime Almanac followers claim that our forecasts are 80% to 85% accurate.” (Notice they don’t really make the claim themselves.)

    They also say that “The Farmers’ Almanac weather predictions are based on secret mathematical and astronomical formula. Developed in 1818 by David Young, the Almanac‘s first editor, this formula takes many factors into consideration, including sunspot activity, moon phases, tidal action, and more. This carefully guarded formula has been passed along from calculator to calculator and has never been revealed.”

    And, it’s rumored, they use a Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring, too. It’s no wonder them scientist fellers can’t hold a candle to ’em.

  24. Walker says:

    I’m sorry, on re-reading, this strikes me as mean-spirited. I apologize. It was meant to be amusing, not mean.

  25. mervel says:

    But they are fun, I read them and they are often correct, that does not mean they are scientific.

    It would be a fun little paper if some academic wanted to actually do a study on their accuracy, (it probably has already been done).

  26. John Warren says:

    Last year at this time Tom Kalinowski wrote about the predictions for last winter from Farmers Almanac and several other sources (including NWS, and some natural ones) – you can see for yourself, but he turned out to be more accurate than any of them.


  27. Arlan says:

    I can’t blame them. Those volunteers probably burnt themselves out. Seemed like a lot of work.

  28. Paul says:

    Walker I don’t look that seriously at the farmer’s almanack. You gotta learn to lighten up. Maybe you need some fresh air?

    John, I think the Mr. K forecast is as good or better than most!

    I’ll keep doing the snow dance.

  29. Mervel says:

    It wouldn’t be hard to do we have the weather data and we have the almanac predictions for the past 50 years.

  30. Walker says:

    “Walker I don’t look that seriously at the farmer’s almanack. You gotta learn to lighten up.”

    Paul, you don’t think my reference to the “Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring” is lighthearted enough?

  31. Paul says:

    Mervel, I think they must have done some kind of research, like I said they are something like 80% accurate. But maybe that is their claim. Probably mostly luck.

    Wikipedia says this:

    “While The Old Farmer’s Almanac has always looked to Thomas’s original formula to help with predictions, its forecasting methods have been refined over the years. Today, they also employ state-of-the-art technology and the use of three scientific disciplines: solar science, the study of sunspots and other solar activity; climatology, the study of prevailing weather patterns; and meteorology, the study of the atmosphere. Weather trends and events are predicted by comparing solar patterns and historical weather conditions with current solar activity.” (plus the decoder ring!)

    Then they probably take all that information throw it in the trash and spin some kind of large wheel to get the forecast!

  32. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    TV 7 out of Watertown mentioned the disappointing news about Big Tupper on their evening news broadcast last night. I was a bit dismayed as it seemed to me to be very one sided in that it featured a brief phone interview with Mr. LaValley it which he suggested the sole purpose for the closing was the lawsuit. Maybe I’m wrong, but that was my impression. Did anyone else see the clip.

    I get that TV in general isn’t the best format for anything other than a 30 second sound bite these days, but TV7 seems very inept at digging deeper on a whole host of local issues. To be fair, maybe they’ll do some follow-up reporting for future broadcasts.

  33. Paul says:

    It seems like a pretty simple question to ask Mr. LaValley to describe what the “significant financial contribution” was that they did not get because of the suit. Maybe he has a real point but without more info it is hard to tell. Maybe he reads this blog and can fill us in.

  34. mervel says:

    At the same time, no one else seems to be stepping up to organize a volunteer effort to run this place. So if LaValley is so horrible and everyone thinks this should stay open, well step up and do it.

  35. mervel says:

    Frankly it was remarkable that they were able to run an operating ski lodge in this manner. For me as someone who works with volunteers I didn’t think anything would come from it when they first talked about it, I thought they were insane. But they did it, so my hat goes off to that basic effort, I think it was truly unique in retrospect.

  36. mervel says:

    If he feels the lawsuits are the problem than he has the right to say that, prove him wrong and organize another volunteer effort to run the ski resort.

  37. Jim LaValley says:

    Paul & Mervel – thanks for your reasonable comments and questions. ARISE acknowledges what some groups have been saying… that our financial challenges were a result of a poor winter. That’s real. But, what some don’t want to accept, is that we were negotiating a financial assist from several purchasers/investors of the ACR. The APA permit was issued in January. I was in discussions with several prospective buyers who wanted to make sure Big Tupper would continue in the 2012-2013 ski season. I told them what our financial losses were over the past two seasons. We told them that even as a volunteer organization, we have averaged $160K per year in operational expenses. This does not include volunteer hours. They were very willing, until the Article 78 lawsuit was filed in March. Protect representatives have accused me of using them as a scapegoat. But, I would ask the simple question, would you invest in something that had pending litigation? That Protects attorneys would dismiss that notion, is puzzling. Would they encourage an investor client to invest in something that had a lawsuit hanging over it. So, we reviewed our financial goals, and we had long discussions about further fundraising. How many times can you go to the financial well? And, even though I feel the APA will prevail in the lawsuit, Protect has made public statements that they are going to keep coming after the ACR project – that they want to kill it. So, after consulting with a number of attorneys who suggested that ARISE could be operating under the same circumstances for another 3 to 6 years, it was clear that we could not financially handle it, nor could we continue to rally the volunteers. The actions of a few, have placed a tremendous amount of damage on an entire community. Please know that I am available to discuss the issue at any time.

  38. Jim LaValley says:

    Just reviewing John Warren’s comments – sorry, but I don’t take marching orders from anyone. This decision was driven purely on the fact that we don’t have the money. Over the next few weeks, some of the investors that were looking to contribute somewhere between $100K and $200K will be coming forward to discuss their intentions. These discussions will be reported. Again, my door and phone are open at any time to discuss this issue.

  39. mervel says:

    Thank for you comments Mr. LaValley, to me they make sense.

  40. Mark says:

    Back in 1998 Tupper Lake was negotiating for a state prision to be built here and it almost happened. Peter Bauer and his radical enviro friends said that a prison wasn’t right for Tupper Lake. They also said that we should look to attract a resort instead. How ironic. Fast forward to 2012 and look who’s trying to kill our resort- Peter Bauer and Protect. There is no negotiating with a group that wants to kill your project. That’s why we are fighting back but we have lost another year because of this baseless appeal. More shops will close over this year.

  41. Marcus says:

    I find it interesting that the ARISE group is blaming the “frivolous” lawsuit for Big Tupper not being able to open this season. Even without the lawsuit someone would have had to come up with a way to get money to run the ski hill for the developers because their own plans showed they had no intention of doing any investment into it for several yrs after getting APA approval. There would be no snowmaking system upgrading for several yrs and up to 7 yrs before they even replaced one of the ski lifts. If people want the ski hill to open they should look to the developer who has been dangling the Big Tupper carrot for years to cough up some dough to get it open. If they were actually the big develoers they portray themselves to be they could certainly afford it. But as many suspect, with confirmation in several media reports, their financial difficulties are in strark contrast to their public image as great benefactors to the region.

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