Revving up tourism (update)
LAKE PLACID – Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to the trails Sunday on a snowmobile outing to kick off the Winter Challenge in Lake Placid, a day to promote tourism in the Adirondacks.
He later announced a new campaign to bus tourists to ski centers in the Adirondacks and other parts of New York.
The hub of the event was Lake Placid’s Olympic Center, with around 400 people in attendance, including 16 state legislators, many of whom were bused up from Albany.
Cuomo started his afternoon on the Kushaqua trail in Gabriels. Legislators and local participants competed in activities in Lake Placid at the Olympic Center, Mount Van Hoevenberg bobsled run and cross-country ski trails, Olympic oval, toboggan chute and Whiteface Mountain.
“We’re going to be having a little fun first and then some serious business,” Cuomo said. “It’s not just about fun. It’s about economic development and jobs.”
Cuomo was joined in the snowmobile ride by the Franklin County Snowmobile Association, the Lake Placid Snowmobile Club, state police and local politicians.
“The story in the Adirondacks isn’t a story we have told enough. We want to get the word out because that would help with tourism,” Cuomo said.
When asked if he had formed an opinion on the rail/trail debate – whether or not to convert a rail line that runs through the Adirondack Park into a recreation trail – Cuomo said he had not made that decision.
“I’m going to ask for the right advice,” Cuomo said. “A lot of people have strong opinions.”
Jim McCulley, the president of Lake Placid’s snowmobiling club, was riding along with the governor.
“We’re happy that he’s here,” McCulley said. “I think he understands what snowmobiling means for the economy in the region.”
Randy Douglas, chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, was also there. He echoed the support for what Cuomo was doing.
“Looking forward to this, it’s a beautiful day,” the Democratic supervisor of the town of Jay said. “This gets to show the city folks and governor’s office, Legislature, what we have to offer.”
Douglas said later in the day that Cuomo was hard to keep up with during the ride.
“We had a blast,” Douglas said. “I know the governor likes speed. He was up to 90 miles per hour racing a state trooper.”
On Monday, Douglas said he had been exaggerating when he said Cuomo was going 90 mph and racing a state trooper.
Douglas said he was riding behind Cuomo for only the first 30 to 45 minutes of Sunday’s ride, before the group split up, and didn’t know how fast they were going because he didn’t check the speedometer on his own snowmobile. When they were going fastest, Douglas said, they were on a frozen water body, which was safer than a typical snowmobile trail because there weren’t trees or utility poles, or oncoming traffic around curves.
Douglas added that safety training was done with the riders beforehand by the officers in charge of the event, from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, state police and snowmobile associations. As an extra safety precaution, there were flaggers at all road crossings to stop traffic for the snowmobilers, Douglas said.
Douglas was unhappy the Enterprise published his comment about the governor going 90 mph, saying it “put a damper on a great day.”
Cuomo’s spoke to a crowded room at the Olympic Center. He focused on his track record, from passing budgets to promoting tourism in the state.
“We’ve gotten three budgets done on time,” Cuomo said. “And we’re gonna get our fourth one done on time this year. I don’t want to jinx it, but I can feel it.”
Cuomo said New York has more to offer than just New York City, although he said that is the perception people have.
“We’re proud of New York City,” Cuomo said. “But we have so much more to offer.”
Cuomo promoted his track record on tourism. He said because of the state’s investment into advertising, tourism spending has gone up $4 billion and the state had 8.8 million more tourists visit upstate New York.
“The message is simple. We know the beauty we have here,” Cuomo said. “It was purely a question of exposure and showing people what we have in upstate New York and the Adirondacks.
“If you show them, they will come. We just have to show them.”
I Ski NY expanded
Cuomo plans to expand the I Ski NY bus service. He wants to bring skiers from New York City and Toronto, Canada, to the upstate region by creating new bus lines. Among the ski centers included are Belleayre, Gore and Whiteface, all run by the Lake Placid-based state Olympic Regional Development Authority. In all, 13 upstate ski centers will be added to the bus service.
Currently, only Hunter and Windham mountains in the Catskills are serviced with bus transportation from New York City. Bus trips from Toronto will focus on ski centers in Western New York.
At the events
Among the state lawmakers in attendance were Sen. Betty Little, Sen. Joseph Griffo, Assemblywoman Janet Duprey and Assemblyman Dan Stec. Olympians Kyle Tress, Jayson Terdiman and bronze medalist Matt Antoine were also at the event. Antoine and Tress compete in skeleton, Terdiman in doubles luge. All three live in Lake Placid during training.
Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, representative of District 96 covering the area of New City, Rockland County, was in the Adirondacks for the first time. He said that he curled along with Little and later played hockey.
“I drove up,” Zebrowski said. “I was surprised how quickly I got up here. There is this perception that it’s very far away, but it isn’t that far.”
Zebrowski said he plans to come back, possibly in April, for some fishing.
“I may go out and check out the fly fishing and bass fishing,” Zebrowski said.
Assemblyman Chuck Lavine, representative of the 13th District covering the area of Glen Cove, Long Island, spent the day cross-country skiing and later went on a bobsled ride.
“That was exhilarating,” Lavine said, after getting off the bobsled. “It’s always something I wanted to do.”
Lavine said he had a great deal of respect for Olympic athletes, but after experiencing some of their sports himself, he had a newfound appreciation.
“I have even more admiration for their courage and skill,” Lavine said.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, representative of the 111th District encompassing Schenectady, was at the event with his children. They rode the bobsled and later spent the day at the Olympic Center.
“I’m glad I brought the family with me,” Santabarbara said. “It was good we enjoyed the hidden gems here in the Adirondacks. I think we’ll be back.”