By Daniel Meyer
Last March, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a plan to start an I Ski NY Bus program to provide charter bus transportation to New York State ski resorts from New York City and Toronto as part of a long-term strategic plan to encourage New York residents to ski in the state while attracting out-of-state visitors to come to New York to ski.
This year, the state began operating a NYC bus service to various locations in the Adirondacks, Catskills, Hudson Valley and Central New York. By next year, it is hoped that a Toronto route providing service to Holiday Valley, HoliMont and other nearby resorts in Western New York will be offered.
I Ski NY President Scott Brandi reports that significant progress has been made over the past year or so “in attempting to identify what would be the most beneficial and attractive options for potential users of a bus service from Toronto to Western New York,” Brandi said. “We are hoping to use that information to help formulate a program that meets the needs of people who have shown great interest in this type of service.”
Brandi is closely following the program’s current system of transporting people from New York City.
“There has been some success with some of those routes and this is something that is going to continue to be monitored and studied, especially when it comes to how this is marketed and promoted and how it is funded,” Brandi said. “Targeting skiers and snowboarders in Toronto and gauging their interest in when and how often they want to visit our resorts in Western New York is what we are really taking a good look at.”
Brandi says the frequency of trips to each resort, deciding how many weekend and weekday trips would be offered and identifying specific drop-off and pick-up locations all are factors that will go into I Ski NY’s marketing and advertising strategy as they develop the program.
“I Love New York and Empire State Development also are involved because the goal is to try and accommodate the needs of the ski resorts and balance that with what the users of the service want,” Brandi said.
“There is a lot to figure out before we seek out the services of bus companies who will be able to handle the transportation. We need to explore every option before the state seeks bids from charter companies.”
Among the Western New York resorts that could be destinations for charter bus trips from Toronto are HoliMont and Holiday Valley as well as Kissing Bridge, Bristol, Titus, Peek n’ Peak and Swain Mountains.
“What I really like about this process is that everyone is working together and there is a lot of good back-and-forth as we gather input from everyone who has an interest in this type of service becoming a reality,” Brandi said. “We are talking to all of the resorts, the owners of the ski and snowboard shops and potential partners from Toronto who could see direct benefits from this program.”
While there was hope last year to have the Toronto charter bus service in place for the current ski season, Brandi remains hopeful that the program can be put in place in time for skiers and snowboarders next year.
“If everything comes together, we can find a bus company out of the Toronto area willing to step up and make this happen,” Brandi said. “I have great confidence in the state and the other entities involved with creating a successful program that will, in the end, increase the total number of visits to the tremendous resorts of Western New York.”