Wind knocks down building under construction at Big Tupper

TUPPER LAKE – Strong winds this weekend delivered a setback to the Big Tupper Ski Area.

When Lift Operations Manager Cliff Lamere arrived at the mountain Monday morning to grab a few tools, he discovered the building around the Chair 2 bullwheel was in shambles.

“When I drove up to the parking lot by the lodge, I looked over, and what should have been a red wall was roof pilings,” Lamere said.

Lamere said it looked like wind had swept down the mountain and lifted the building off of the buried telephone poles it was built on.

The building was under construction and nearing completion. The roof was up and one of the walls had siding in place. The roofing and siding were old steel roofing materials donated by Titus Mountain after that ski area redid the roof on its lodge in Malone.

Now the remains of the building will need to be disassembled, and the project will have to start anew.

“I can’t begin to tell you the hours I’ve spent up there trying to get that building up,” Lamere said. “It’s been about three weeks, maybe longer.”

Other than a broken truss, Lamere said he thinks the other materials are salvageable.

“We had one wall sided, and the way it fell, it landed right on that one side,” Lamere said. “The ground underneath it is fairly smooth. It may have a couple of dents, but other than that, I don’t think it would have bothered it too bad.”

The state Department of Labor requires the building be replaced and inspected by them before operations at the ski center can begin.

The electric motor in the bullwheel has a safety mechanism that clamps down when something goes wrong. If the mechanism isn’t protected it can become wet or clogged with ice, causing friction to be compromised so it might not function properly.

Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving their Economy, the volunteer organization that runs Big Tupper, will reach out to a couple of full-time contractors to see if they can help with the repairs. The goal is to get everything reassembled within 10 days.

Part of the rebuilding will include extra structural bracing and windproofing.

“The old building was there for 30 years,” Lamere said. “It’s just a matter of, we didn’t get it totally secured before we got the big wind.”

Even with a new bullwheel building, this winter’s snowfalls have failed to produce the 18-inch snow base ARISE Chairman Jim LaValley said is optimal for opening the ski center. This weekend’s forecast of 40-degree temperatures doesn’t look promising for snow, either, but LaValley is optimistic despite the setbacks.

“One little windstorm brought us back to first base, but one thing about the Big Tupper-ARISE volunteers is that they never quit,” LaValley said. “Their spirit is incredible. They know that the push is on and we’ll rally again, and we’ll get it done. It was a setback that’s testing our resolve.”

To recognize those volunteers and to raise money for Big Tupper, ARISE is hosting an All Good Things fundraiser at P-2’s Irish Pub at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

The event is free and open to the public. It will feature giveaways, drink specials and a snow dance to encourage an end to the snow drought. There will also be updates on the Big Tupper Ski Area, a discussion on community initiatives and a special acknowledgment of local Olympic ski jumper Peter Frenette, a Saranac Laker whose father is from Tupper Lake.

ARISE is also holding an eBay auction for an I Ski New York Gold Pass. The auction began Tuesday and will end Friday. The bid was more than $350 at the time of publication. The pass is good at about 40 ski centers around New York including Big Tupper Ski Area and Whiteface, Titus and Gore mountains. It’s not limited to one person, so passholders can share it with others.

“The volunteers have been working very hard, so this is just an opportunity to relax a little bit, a little camaraderie and get together,” LaValley said. “It’s been a challenging winter, but it hasn’t stopped the volunteer effort from moving a lot of things forward.”

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or