By Jann Wiswall
“Did we have a good season? Heck yeah!”
So said Holiday Valley Marketing Director Jane Eshbaugh, and we have to agree.
The winter season may have been a bit abbreviated for snowsports lovers in Ellicottville (and most of the eastern United States) this year, but that didn’t keep folks from coming to enjoy the beauty, activities and adventure of the region. Even when there was mediocre snow, visitors came for the restaurants, shops, accommodations, nightlife and Ellicottville’s famous weekend festivals. And hey, who’s going to complain when you could ski in the morning and go for a bike ride in the afternoon?
Keeping it Groomed
If you were here, you don’t have to be reminded that Holiday Valley and HoliMont did absolutely everything in their power to keep the lifts going for as long as humanly possible this year. Groomers and snowmakers at both resorts were on their game all season long to work with and improve on the coverage Mother Nature provided to ensure that all visitors had the greatest possible time on the slopes. There oughta be a prize for their enthusiasm, grit and determination all season long.
The slopes were ready in January for Learn a Snowsport Month, and to kick it off in a big way, more than 160 resorts across the country participated in the Jan. 8 attempt to set a Guinness record for the World’s Largest Ski and Snowboard Lesson (WLL). At Holiday Valley, 50 people took advantage of the WLL challenge with a free beginner lesson.
Both resorts kept conditions great for their signature events.
Holiday Valley held another successful Harley-Day Valley event and the Penguin Paddle, which raises funds for the Lounsbury Adaptive Program. Plus, the crowds came out for the annual Winter Festival on Mardi Gras weekend and the following weekend’s always entertaining Pond Skimming event.
HoliMont held numerous events for members all season long, of course, as well as its annual fundraisers — Ski Day for United Way and the Phoenix Rise to the Challenge race for the resort’s adaptive skiing program.
Holiday Valley and HoliMont both have incredibly dynamic snowsports racing programs for children of all ages. Though the lack of snow created some challenges all over the east coast, causing some races to be cancelled or rescheduled, both resorts fielded strong alpine, freestyle, and snowboarding competitors. And the Ellicottville Central School’s ski team fielded some exceptional skiers who competed with much larger schools in the region.
Meanwhile, in the Village, the Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce held its annual winter blues festival in January with a new twist: specialty brews. And its annual Mardi Gras weekend in March featured a new event – a Friday night Junior Bacchus Ball at Ellicottville Brewing Company. The ball got folks revved up for the reinvigorated Mardi Gras parade that took place on Saturday, featuring floats and marching groups and crowds lining the main drag of the village.
The Chamber notes that in 2015, a key indicator of tourism growth — the county’s lodging tax – was up 2.4 percent over 2014. Ellicottville’s hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, inns and other rental units make up 60 percent of the county’s total lodging tax revenue.
For the construction business, the mild winter was a boon that kept projects on track. In the Village, construction of the new wastewater treatment plant is nearing its target May completion.
Two new housing development projects along Fillmore Street are progressing nicely, and Holiday Valley was able to move quickly to transform an old Burger King restaurant into its new headquarters for Holiday Valley Realty and Rental Management.
Some new projects received approvals over the winter and are in various stages of completion. Monroe Street Brick & Brew, a new pizza restaurant, is nearing its grand opening in the Village, while a new single-family home development off Poverty Hill Road got planning board preliminary approvals in March.
Meanwhile, the Weed Ross Insurance Agency – a fixture in Ellicottville for decades – saw a big change in March when agent Gary Ross retired and Sean Cornelius took his place. The agency continues to provide personalized coverage for individuals and businesses alike, and specializes in vacation property coverage.
Ellicottville Central School
Ellicottville Central School officially opened its new, $10+ million renovation project in the fall to enthusiastic reviews. The new space, which includes a new multi-purpose gymnasium, 10 renovated classrooms, new ventilation systems, roof repairs and more, also has a new, fully equipped fitness room that is now open to the public.
The school district also applied for and was awarded $343,647 in NYS “Smart Schools Bonds” which allowed the school to invest in new technology, including ClearTouch Interactive Boards for every classroom in the district, as well as essential security upgrades, including new cameras, a server and software.
New Local Leadership
In January, the Town of Ellicottville swore in Matt McAndrew to a four-year term as the new town supervisor. Then in March, voters in the Village of Ellicottville elected the immediate past town supervisor, John Burrell, as its mayor. Village voters also elected Joseph DiPasquale to a four-year term on the board of trustees. Burrell and DiPasquale were sworn in on April 1 (see cover).
With the end of winter, of course, road crews at every municipal level are plotting their repair schedules.
Of particular importance to travelers to and from Ellicottville from points north is the planned demolition and replacement of the old Rt. 219 Bridge in Springville. The nearly $17 million New York State Department of Transportation project is slated to begin this spring; completion is expected for summer 2017. New crossovers, exits and ramps will detour local traffic between Miller Road and South Cascade Dr. via the 219 expressway to keep business traffic flowing in and out of Springville.
Meanwhile, Cattaraugus County is planning to fully reconstruct Maples Road (county road 13) from the intersection with Kent Rd to the intersection with Hollister Hill Rd. in the town of Mansfield. The project includes resurfacing the entire road, straightening out and widening certain sections of the roadway, replacing a bridge and more.
Travelers are advised to drive carefully and watch for lane closures and traffic pattern changes as these and other road projects proceed.