By Eva Potter and Alicia Dziak
The overgrown slopes are still visible and many of the buildings that once made up Blue Mountain/Bluemont Ski Area are still standing, but the resort itself has been defunct since the early 1980s.
Located in the northeastern part of Cattaraugus County off Route 39 in the hills of Yorkshire, Blue Mountain opened in 1959 and boasted 800 feet of vertical and eight trails, the longest being 6,600 feet.
According to the New England Lost Ski Areas Project (NELSAP), Blue Mountain is often remembered for its unusual side-loading, detachable, 4,400-foot double chairlift, where riders faced sideways instead of forward. There was also a 1,600-foot-long T-bar and two rope tows. It also had limited snowmaking capabilities, giving the ski area an advantage over others in the area at that time.
For unconfirmed reasons, Blue Mountain closed in 1962, but in 1968 it reopened under new ownership and a new name: Bluemont. Dave Dziak, who was hired as a ski instructor that year, remembers that soon after its opening, the resort hosted a pro race, sponsored by WKBW. “All the big racers in the world were there,” Dziak said. “Thousands of people showed up for it. Western New York had never seen anything like it.”
During the ‘71-’72 season, a fire destroyed the lodge and Bluemont was sold to three people—Jack Eberhardt, Pete Stapple and Phil Johnston— and the resort headed into its “glory days.”
The lodge was rebuilt and featured a four-sided fireplace, a cafeteria, restaurant and bar inside. The ski school offered lessons under the tutelage of Bill Gruden, the ski patrol kept the slopes safe and the rental shop covered all the visitors’ equipment needs.
“At the time, we offered free lessons on Saturday nights,” Dziak explained. “Hundreds of people would come out for them. I remember one time having 80-90 people in a beginner lesson.”
Dziak, who worked his way up to ski school director, added that, “There were four of us who were full-time employees. We taught lessons, we’d work in the rental shop, we’d bartend…and we’d get $125 a week!”
It was a fun place to ski with interesting hills, according to David Potter, who frequented the ski area as a youth.
“The one thing I remember is that there were no trees on top and the winds swept the top clean,” he said. “It wasn’t until you got part way down the hill that you got into decent snow.”
Bluemont skipped along winter after winter until the 1981-82 season when lack of funding forced the ski area to close.
Kingbrook, a Canadian company, soon purchased the land with the intent to reopen it as a four-season, private resort that would include condos and a golf course; that project never garnered enough support to come to fruition.
About a decade later, an unnamed investment group with ski industry ties made serious inquiries about reviving the Kingbrook project but with a grander vision to include a hotel, residential units, two ski hills, a signature golf course, tennis courts, as well as hiking and mountain biking trails.
The Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency put together $70 million in inducements, but the project never made it to the construction stage.
According to the NELSAP, the property is now owned by Cornerstone, Kingbrook’s Colorado-based parent company.
As with most defunct ski areas, many of the old structures from the Bluemont era are still intact or at least recognizable, like the ski school building, safety patrol building, the main base lodge and maintenance buildings, as well as the main bull wheel at the base.
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