ORDA facilities see more than a million visitors this past fiscal year
By Rick Karlin, Times Union
LAKE PLACID — Boosted by major sports competitions and facilities upgrades including a zipline and a Cliffside Coaster ride, the Olympic Regional Development Authority, or ORDA, set a new record this past year logging more than a million visits to its properties for the fiscal year ending March 31.
Many of those came to ski and ride at ORDA’s three ski centers: Whiteface, Belleayre and Gore. But events such as a ski jumping competition at ORDA’s Olympic facility at Lake Placid, a major hockey tournament and college Olympic-style games added to the numbers.
The greatest number of visits were at the height of ski season between December and March, with approximately 750,000 visits during that timeframe making up 73 percent of the new record. January and February brought in the most overall visits, while snowy weather and major events at multiple venues boosted March numbers well above average, with more than 50,000 visits during the month.
Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills saw a particularly large increase in visits, with its numbers jumping from 179,006 in the 2021-22 season to 237,825 in 2022-23.
The Olympic venues in Lake Placid — Mount Van Hoevenberg cross-country ski center, the luge and bobsled track; the ski jump and Olympic training center saw a combined increase of more than 63,000 visits.
“Over the past six years, with heavy construction at times, we never missed an operating season,” ORDA President and CEO Michael Pratt said. “We will always have projects to properly maintain our facilities, but we are certainly optimistic about the resurgence since the improvements have been completed.”
ORDA estimates this past year marked a 15 percent increase from pre-pandemic levels.
Events at ORDA’s conference center, custom groups, non-ticket events, and functions are not included in any of these calculations, which would reflect an even higher number of visits.
The numbers followed multiple upgrades to facilities such as the ski jump.
An international ski jumping World Cup event in February drew the largest crowd at any single ORDA venue since the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.
The Olympic complex also hosted the 2023 FISU World University Games in January. While that may not have brought in hordes of spectators, the numerous competitors, families and support teams kept the complex facilities busy.
That was followed by several other high-profile sporting events including the Eastern College Athletic Conference hockey championships, the World Synchronized Skating Championships, and other hockey tournaments happening throughout.
Mount Van Hoevenberg has become a hub of year-round activity with an indoor rock climbing center, trail bike rentals, a roller ski loop and the Cliffside Coaster, an elevated ride that follows the path of the 1980 Olympic Bobsled Track.
Numbers at other ski resorts were not immediately available, and privately operated ski centers typically don’t share financial details of their business.
But the Vermont Ski Areas Association, the trade group for that ski-heavy state, like ORDA, reported a good season.
“I can say from my conversations with the areas over the season that, despite the weather being somewhat inconsistent, bookings and visitation all seemed to be on par — or above — what they’d seen last year,” Vermont Ski Areas Association spokesman Bryan Rivard said.