Paleface estate and mansion sold to wellness entrepreneurs
By Tim Rowland
The former Paleface ski center and adjoining estate in Jay has been sold to a downstate couple who plan on keeping the property in the hospitality business, with a focus on wellness and planetary health.
The complex was purchased by Richard and Matthew Vidal, who paid $6.5 million, according to the Essex County Office of Real Property. It includes the ski resort, an 11,000-square-foot mountaintop mansion and 1,200 acres off Route 86 west of Jay.
Paleface opened in 1961 and operated for about 20 years as a ski center in winter and a dude ranch in summer, and is still remembered fondly by many local residents. Later, the lodge served for a time as the offices of Adirondack Life magazine.
It had been on the market for years, complicated by the fact that it was difficult to finance because it included both a substantial home and commercial enterprise plus multiple parcels. “A lot of people had looked at it,” said Rick Vidal. “It took creativity and a passion for the area to make it work.”
Jay’s planning commission on Wednesday approved a technical change to boundary lines that will facilitate financing. The Adirondack Park Agency had previously signed off on the change.
The Vidals, who have backgrounds in medicine, technology and law, own Cascada Farm in the Hudson Valley town of Rhinebeck. The 130-acre estate offers luxury cabins with opportunities for outdoor recreation and indoor pampering, such as available massages and personal chefs.
Vidal said the hospitality business started as a hobby, and has grown to include a vision for making sustainability financially viable. “We want to show that people can invest in planetary health and it will be profitable,” he said.
Final plans for the property are still coming together, he said, but he expects parts will be open to the community. The property includes vast amounts of forest, and is neighbor to other significant tracts.
It abuts the 660-acre former Fourpeaks retreat owned by the legendary Adirondack character Martin Schwalbaum. Fourpeaks is now owned by the Adirondack Land Trust, and is targeted for inclusion in the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
Next door to Fourpeaks is the popular Beaver Brook Tract mountain bike trail network commonly known as Hardy Road.
The mansion on Paleface Mountain is in good shape, Vidal said, and the ski lodge is structurally sound. Commercial kitchen equipment still works, although much needs upgrading.
A storied past
Paleface, opened by the Fitz-Gerald family, grew into a year-round, all-inclusive family resort, with skiing in winter and horseback riding in summer. It featured a motel, restaurant, cocktail lounge and indoor pool.
The ski center in its heyday boasted two dozen trails, with a 740-foot vertical drop.
Quarter horses for the summer dude ranch were brought in from as far as Florida and Montana, and among the 25 horses stabled there were picturesque, spotted pintos that grazed the meadows on the Jay-Wilmington line.
By 1979 the ski center was showing its age, and the property was sold to a real estate group owned by the Augsbury Organization of Ogdensburg. Augsbury invested $500,000 in lights, snowmaking capabilities and aesthetic upgrades, but its ultimate plan to develop condominiums on the site was rejected by the APA in 1991.
Augsbury’s subsidiary, Basset Mountain Recreation Inc., closed the resort for the most part in 1982 and put the property on the market, selling it to a businessman from Tupper Lake.
In June of 1984, the property was purchased by Duane media entrepreneur, the late Barry Silverstein, who two months later purchased Adirondack Life magazine and moved the offices (now in the hamlet of Jay) into the former ski lodge.
Paleface is the subject of a historical novel, “In the Shadow of a Giant,” by David Fitz-Gerald, whose paternal grandparents, Aaron Boylan Fitz-Gerald and Jean Allen Fitz-Gerald, founded the resort.
As a nonprofit, we rely on the support of readers like you.
Join the community of people helping to power our independent,