Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

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Bobcat Ski Center

By James Michaud

Bobcat LogoMuch of our culture and economy is predicated on eliminating all that is considered old and out-of-date. Cars, computers, refrigerators, train stations, sports stadiums, even if state-of-the-art at some point in time, they still end up in the trash heap after being used for a few years. Ski areas are no exception to this rule.

Over the past decade, a new conventional wisdom has evolved that states in no uncertain terms: if a resort doesn't modernize and adopt several of these components, it will lose customers, and eventually be forced to close. However, not all ski areas subscribe to this logic. There are many that stubbornly refuse to provide anything approximating a "modern skiing experience." Some of these mountains have figured out a way to survive and even modestly prosper in their roles as relics, but most are hanging on for dear life. It's not easy to market an anachronism in a technology-intensive sport.

Tucked away in bucolic Delaware County, on the western edge of the Catskills, Bobcat has become a kind of Holy Grail for back-to-the-basics skiers. Despite its modest statistics — a 1,050-foot vertical drop, 80 acres of skiable trails, and 150 inches of reported yearly snowfall — Bobcat offers something you can't get at most other winter resorts. It's as if someone had taken the ski hill you grew up at, deep-froze it in 1972, and reopened it for business last week. The fact that the mountain is only open on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays makes it even more of a treat (or a risk). Bobcat doesn't just remind you of that old-fashioned ski area from your childhood, it's the real McCoy.


Two Miles To Bobcat

For first-timers, the Bobcat adventure begins just after exiting Route 17 in the western Catskills. After driving for a half hour along the scenic Pepacton Reservoir and then through the village of Andes, you'll feel as though you've been teleported into a Russell Banks novel: lots of cows, farms, snowmobiles, and hunters in pick-up trucks (along with signs advertising the services of deer cutters and taxidermists).

In the main street of Andes, stoic locals rub shoulders with big-city tourists and increasing numbers of second-home owners. Since 9/11, real estate prices in this part of rural Delaware County have spiked upward as anxious New Yorkers bought up bail-out residences in case of another terrorist attack. You can see why so many people are attracted to this region — the scenery is gorgeous, and the villages are charming.

Originally opened on Mount Pisgah in 1963 under the uninspiring moniker "Catskill Ski Center," the ski area was renamed "Bobcat Ski Center" 10 years later in honor of the many elusive felines that prowl the area's woods. Standing sentry throughout the lodge are a dozen deer heads and two stuffed bobcats. Most of the animals were shot on the premises, I was told.


Bobcat's Namesake

As I wandered the building, the Bobcat time-warp took hold quickly. Very little there seemed to have come from the past decade. In the rental area, a large quantity of the equipment appeared to be well more than 15 years old: long, straight skis and Herman Munster-style rear-entry boots. In a corner of the ski shop, I spotted two pairs of garage-sale-ready Rossignols and Dynastars for sale: $50. A nearby closet was filled with a dozen more old straight skis. When I asked the salesgirl whose they were, she replied, "oh, those belong to employees."

Old press releases, notices, and advertisements still hung on the walls. A stack of printed handouts from 2001-2002 advertised the prices of Bobcat's lift tickets ($25). They also listed group ski lessons at the giveaway price of $14 an hour, with private instruction for a laughable $25. Oddly enough, while the exterior of the ski lodge probably hadn't seen a new coat of paint since the Ford administration, the gift shop in the basement was surprisingly well stocked with Bobcat and Catskills paraphernalia (I picked up a t-shirt emblazoned with an old trail map for $4).


Ski Lodge

After buying my ticket, I headed to the lifts: two t-bars that had just celebrated their 40th year of continuous service. Housed in sheathed aluminum enclosures, these sheds looked exactly like, you guessed it, cow barns. In spite of their antique appearance and a bit of rope to hold things together, these old-timers ran just fine. As the story goes, after the state lift inspector gave them a positive evaluation a few weeks earlier, he was heard to say (while shaking his head in astonishment), "I wouldn't be surprised if they ran another 40 years."

The ski trail signs were also several decades old: faded, but still legible. To groom the trails, the area relies on a bright orange Tucker Sno-Cat bought in 1973, a relative newcomer to the Bobcat scene. Instead of the obligatory pierced and tattooed lift attendants in snowboard boots, manning the t-bars at Bobcat was a group of affable older gentlemen, dressed in jeans and feed hats. While they looked more like people you'd run into at a John Deere dealership, all were accomplished t-bar operators.

Several years ago, faced with the impossible task of keeping up with the Joneses (or the Hunters, Belleayres, and Windhams), Bobcat made the choice to leave its ski conditions to the caprice of Mother Nature. And as is the rule in this part of the U.S., sometimes it's heaven and sometimes it's, well, interesting.

By noon, light skier traffic, combined with a fair amount of sunshine, had softened up the trails nicely. I was surprised by the amount of interesting terrain contained in such a seemingly small area. Fun, narrow, and intriguingly laid out, they're full of a hard-to-define element missing from most of today's ski areas: character. Making this very rural experience even more authentic: you could see nothing from the summit except farmland, forests, and hills: no real estate developments, hotels, superhighways, or other visual clutter.

Throughout Bobcat Ski Center's four decades of existence, much of the physical infrastructure has remained the same. But there has also been one constant human factor: Chuck McIntosh and his brother Roger. Their family purchased Bobcat's first season ticket in 1963, then bought half of the ski area in 1965, followed by the other half in 1971. The McIntoshes owned Bobcat for the next 16 years, before selling it to the Schuman family from New York City. The Schumans, in turn, hired Chuck and Roger to operate the ski area, and they still do to this day.


"Coulter Brook"

Most winters at Bobcat begin with Chuck recording his customary "Bobcat will open as soon as conditions allow" message. But last year, he announced that due to a death in the owner's family, Bobcat wouldn't open for the season. Compounding the agony, while shuttered for the winter, Bobcat received well above average snowfalls.

But only ten months later, Bobcat's bare-bones website announced that the ski area would reopen for 2003-2004. While it's been rough going with this winter's fickle weather, when I left at 4 pm, the lodge was filled with families for its annual chicken BBQ and square dance.

Later That Evening

As I looked through the photos taken with my digital camera a few hours earlier, I had a hard time finding any sign that they had been taken in 2004. In spite of less than perfect conditions, I had experienced an almost perfect day of skiing on a hill that looked and felt like a lost area, but was still open.


"Deer Run"

Given Bobcat's remote location — almost three hours from New York City, two from Albany and more than 1.5 from Binghamton — the ski area doesn't have a large local population base to draw on for ticket sales, not to mention intense competition from the other Catskill resorts. Although the long-term survival of ski centers like Bobcat is uncertain at best, I'm hopeful that more people will take advantage of a hidden jewel like this and support it.

Update Fall 2010

Bobcat's final day of operation was March 19, 2005. If you spend any time with me skiing in my "home" region, the Catskills, you'll eventually hear me lament the fact that Bobcat Ski Center is still closed. Even though I only skied there maybe a dozen times, it was the closest I ever came to a private lift-served mountain.

A while back, a small grassroots group formed to investigate the possibility of bringing the ski area back to life. Two years ago, a new deck was built for the base lodge. Unfortunately, there are no plans to reopen Bobcat in the near future.

Update Winter 2013

Eight years after Bobcat closed, I finally made a return trip to Andes, NY to see what the hill looked like and, if there was enough snow, to bootpack up the 1,050 vertical feet and do a run for old time's sake: Bobcat, NY: 3/24/13.





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14 Comments

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Kevin Cleary Kevin Cleary
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

Holy good God!!! What a great article that really brought me back to one of my favorite places. I went to SUNY Delhi from 1992- '94 and rode Bobcat (or Scotch Valley) whenever I could. I still have a white and blue Bobcat lift ticket stapled to my garage wall.

I'll never forget in 1993 when the entire town of Delhi was shut down due to a massive snowstorm. My buddy Scott grabs me and asks if we should chance going to Bobcat for a day of snowboarding in epic snow. The problem was that the belt was sticking out of the bald, rear tire on his 1979 Camaro. A hair raising trip and an incredible day of riding!!! We would always stop off in Grand Union on the way back to school and pick up this massive frozen pizza called appropriately, "Pizz-illa." Great times!!!

A friend of mine told me that she spotted them doing work on the outside deck of Bobcat last year (2011). Are they planning to reopen or did someone steal my dream, win the lotto and open it for their private fantasy land?
Alas, no one will probably read this, LOL

Jamesdeluxe Jamesdeluxe
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

Kevin Cleary wrote
Holy good God!!! What a great article that really brought me back to one of my favorite places.
Thanks, Kevin. Great to hear from one of the Bobcat faithful. Hard to believe that you're the first person -- on a website devoted to New York State skiing -- to comment on this article since we reposted it two years ago.

Tom Guerin Tom Guerin
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

In reply to this post by Jamesdeluxe
Love reading about these "lost" ski areas.  As an avid Plattekill skier, waiting for the chance to try Bobcat ski area one day if they ever reopen.

Alan Alan
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

In reply to this post by Jamesdeluxe
I remember many days skiing there in the 80's.  A shame it is gone, just like Dutchess Ski Area that I pass on my way north every weekend.

Larry Larry
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

In reply to this post by Jamesdeluxe
I stumbled across this while researching an article I was writing. My family used to live in nearby Bovina Center, and I attended SUNY Delhi in the late '70's. I only skied Bobcat a few times - they were often closed as the weather conditions during those years were rarely conducive to skiing. When they were open though, my brother and I enjoyed the experience.

I worked there for a few months - first as a lift attendant, then in the shop, waxing skis. My brother and I had a two piece band, playing country and rock and roll music, and the McIntosh Family hired us to play in the lodge. We only played there once before the weather warmed and the rains ruined the snow.

I'm sorry to hear that they have not enjoyed success in recent years. It's such a great area to visit.

Matt Man Matt Man
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

In reply to this post by Jamesdeluxe
That was an awesome article!  I have fond memories of Bobcat going back to the 80's.  In the old days, they discouraged tree skiing.  That changed.  On my last day there (2003, I believe) we arrived to 18" of ultra light powder.  When my buddy Jerry and I reached the top, the Ski Patrol dropped the rope and said, "after you".  This was one of my best powder days in the East.  The Ski Patrol encouraged us to ski the woods and even at 4:00pm, you could still find untracked on the posted trails.  

What a nice change from all of the big mountains.  Bobcat had a character all of its own.  The locals were super friendly and you felt like it was one big family.  The trails were interesting and varied.  Oh how I miss this place.  I have vowed, that if I ever hit the lottery, I would try to see that Bobcat reopens just as it was.  Matt

Ken Ken
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

In reply to this post by Jamesdeluxe
It is a real shame. I work at Belleayre mt, and have for many years. The last year Chuck and Roger operated Bobcat I went over there to help Roger service the lifts. Well let me tell you, stepping back in time was an understatement. While servicing the big t-bar you had to carry a 40' extension ladder with you because there are no ladders on any of the towers. Not quite what I had become accustomed to that's for sure. All I can say is that I'm glad that my two kids who were 8 and 9 years old got the chance to ski there. I can still see their faces when they saw a t-bar for the first time! I skied there myself back in the 70's and 80's, it is an incredible mountain and when you combined that with the Mcintoshes hospitality and awesome sense of humor you would have the ultimate ski center. I know that if I ever struck it rich and could get my hands on the place it would be resurrected as a full time ski center. Maybe with a chair lift or two, you just never know.....

Rebecca (Chase) Toman York, PA Rebecca (Chase) Toman York, PA
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

In reply to this post by Jamesdeluxe
I spent my childhood skiing just about every Saturday at Bobcat.  Actually, before I was 3 in 1972 I spent many of those weekends in my playpen by the bar while my parents checked in between runs and the workers watched over me.  I grew up in northern NJ and my father, Tice Chase, ran a middle school ski club that boarded buses each weekend about 6am for a sometimes "harrowing" drive to Bobcat.  I distinctly remember all of us cheering for the bus drivers who could make the crazy right hand turn at the sign without hitting the already scuffed up tree....and that was always the start of a perfect day.  The MacIntoshes, and all who worked there treated us like family.  Bobcat was home. As kids we didn't crave Disney World or extravagant vacations...we wanted to cruise Pepacton, find the tree tracks beside Sunrise, and keep our fingers crossed that there was enough snow to open Challenger that day. I am a national ski patroller in PA now and actually have a few colleagues who know of Bobcat. We talk of the little slice of heaven in Andes, NY, that helped make us who we are today.....people looking for the perfect "experience," not just a modern resort. Thank you for everything you've given to all of us. I miss you deeply.

Bobcat Matt Bobcat Matt
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

In reply to this post by Jamesdeluxe
Hey yo!  My many thanks to James Michaud for taking the time to capture an essense of Bobcat,, or Catskill Ski Center if you wish... my name is Matt Dreyfus,, i live in Delhi and have been the Bobcat Patrol Director for the past... oh three years or so, since Mike Cipperly tapped me on the shoulder and said 'tag your it',, given Mike and I are the last two on the patrol... but as you often heard on the hill.. it's all good at Bobcat.. no worries defined..  we have wanted to keep the Bobcat Patrol "in good standing" with National Ski Patrol in the event the lifts fire up again... we are trying to avoid NSP hitting us with a wave of bureaucracy (it's just not the Bobcat way) in the event 'conditions' improve and we all have smiles and excitement on our faces as we wait for the tbar to clank around the bull wheel on the Big T.

I loved reading the post by the NJ skier about cruising Pepacton or pochin' the trees off of Sunrise... and the line about making it up Gladstone Hollow on the bus.. I think I enjoyed the 'Challenge' of making it up Doig Hollow knowing very well that the Andes boys plow there later on while the Bovina crew is going for coffee,,,a true gem for sure,, and sad to see that parts are staring to fill in as saplings become trees,, good news though, when i hiked Challenger two years ago now,, the little evergreens are starting to grow to make a nice wind break on the top,, just as we had always though should happen given the way the wind hits the top and blows snow onto the Sunrise,, only to wait for a wind shift to blow it back later,,how about Tunis after a nice storm, watching the little kids get off the Little T bar for perhaps their first time,, the Finger Trails,, Colter Brook, Mountain Brook, Tremperskill,, somehow it doesn't matter that your not getting 'big vert' and the lift isn't 'high speed',,, leave your pack in the lodge and enjoy the quiet,,,  

I usually try to hike it once a winter, last year I didn't given the thin cover, if anyone out there is interested in a little exercise and I would be more than happy to try to hook up a good day to "hit it,"  it takes me a good hour to hike up, i don't bother with skins.. but i am thinking i need 'just one more' run down Deer Run..  my email address is pops1607@gmail.com. We do except patrol applications on any ol bar napkin for anyone who might need a renegade patrol to jump on for one reason or another ; - )  

And Ken i know who you are and love your post.. it's great to know that if i hit lotto i know who i might call to help take care of the lifts,, old school : - )    

Ok, all for now,, i am just blessed that so many have had the unique experience to ski TheCat. I've skied a few and they really don't get much better. I know, 600 inches at PowMow would make that place a contender and if you ever get a chance, check that place out, the cinder block lodge and 7,000 skiable acres will make you feel like your at Bobcat on steroids,  until then,

Think Snow !  
Bobcat Matt

Jan Joroff Jan Joroff
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

Would love to hike up bobcat with you this coming winter. I skied bobcat the last year they were open 12 days and had some epic powder. Contact me anytime. I ski Plattekill, Belleayre and Hunter on a regular basis and would love one more adventure on Bobcat.

JJ JJ
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

In reply to this post by Jamesdeluxe
How does one get permission to climb/ski Bobcat? Would be interested!

Martin Bones Martin Bones
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

In reply to this post by Jamesdeluxe
Back in the late 70's, I went to Ben Franklin Jr High in Ridgewood NJ. I belonged to the ski club and every Saturday we would Bord the school bus at 5 in the morning and head on out to Andes, and the Catskill Ski Center. I must have ridden those Tbars hundreds of time in the three years we went there. I  never missed a weekend, an if memory serve me right, it was $22 which included llift, the bus ride, and lunch. There was a trail in the left as you got to the top of the second tow the had several steeps broken by short plateau's. If you let your skis run on the steeps, you catchbeom Petty good air going off the plateaus.
I like to think we "jumped" about 30 feet, but somehow I think its a case of ' the older you get, the better you were' ! LOL

Jacob S Jacob S
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

In reply to this post by Jamesdeluxe
Having lived, gone to school and done a fair amount of growing up in Andes during the late 80's and most of the 90's, I can say with all assuredness that Bobcat was/is one of the truly great places to grow up skiing.  put your boots on at home, get in the car, ten minutes later you're on "the big T".  the things we took for granted living in that little town with it's own ski area...  Between Bobcat and Highmount (another "lost" ski area just down the road from Andes, I can't immagine how many verticle feet we had in a given season.  Skiing was cheap, everyone had a pair of hand-me-down skis n boots and when it snowed, which it did with great frequency and ferocity in those days, you went.  No phones, no lift lines, no bubble chairs, no gps tracking your day.  Of the top ten epic pow days I've had in my life to date, 3 of them were at the same hill, Bobcat.  I remember going up one day when I was 11 or 12 with my uncle Doug and cousin Matt, both Delaware county born n bred.  It snowed more in 48 hours than I had ever seen.  Almost too much snow for a scrawny kid to pick up enough speed on the steepest of trails, which is saying something.  We just floated on bottomless pow all day until our legs n toes n brains were obliterated.  Still one of the best days skiing I've ever had.  If there's ever a kickstarter for Bobcat, count me in.  

cheers n happy sliding

Angelo Lomascolo Angelo Lomascolo
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Re: Bobcat Ski Center, NY: Time Stands Still

In reply to this post by Jamesdeluxe
Great article!

I had a home in Andes for most of the 80's and skied Bobcat whenever it was open (one great snow year I recall skiing 25 days on a $100 season pass.  For me the greatest things about Bob at were:

1  The Mackintosh family and the friendly way they ran the business.  Good luck to them.

2  Natural snow.  Not having snow making means you can keep tight narrow traills. of which Bobcat had several. You can't beat it but it's risky as a business strategy.

3. The great natural terrain.  The trails all ran naturally with tbe mountain.  No "roadbuilding" here.  Some of the inner trails twisted, turned and dropped in a natural flow.  There was only one or two lines you could ski fast.  Always a thrill.

4. The T-bar.  This might seem odd, but the thing delivered so few people to the top that I never skied in a crowd there even on days when there were substantial lift lines.

5  Skiing fast on the long shoulder trails.  Sunrise and Sunset (their names) were combinations of wide steeps and flats.  
They could be schussed if you were brave or stupid.  I owned a pair of Super G skis for days these trails were good

6. Corn snow in spring.  Nothing corns up like the real stuff

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