Hunter Mountain, iconic family-owned Catskills ski resort, sells for $36.8 million

Above: The first day of 2014 snowmaking at Hunter Mountain. Photo by Athena Billias.

Hunter Mountain Ski Resort, which has been run by the Slutzky family since its founding in 1960, will be sold to a publicly-traded company called Peak Resorts for $36.8 million by Christmas.

The deal was announced on Monday, Nov. 30 in a press release issued by Peak Resorts

“We’re going to try to close this by Christmas,” said Timothy Boyd, the president and CEO of Peak Resorts, in a conference call with company investors on Monday. “We think this is a huge plus for us going forward.”

Above: Hunter Mountain on Nov. 30, 2015. Photo via the resort's Facebook page. 

The plan to sell Hunter Mountain was kept secret until Monday, when the resort’s employees were notified of the sale in a meeting, according to Katie O’Connor, Hunter Mountain’s spokesperson.

“This was a highly confidential transaction,” Boyd said in the conference call. “We couldn’t really talk to any of the employees.”

Tuesday morning, O’Connor said that Russ Coloton, Hunter Mountain’s president, was not available to speak to the press about the deal.

Gary Slutzky, one of the ski mountain’s owners, declined to comment, referring all questions to Coloton.

  Read more

Catskills patients and doctors left in lurch by Health Republic shutdown

Patients and doctors across the Catskills have been scrambling to deal with the abrupt closure of Health Republic, a troubled health insurance company that is closing for business today, Monday, Nov. 30.

The shuttered company is no longer paying its claims, leaving doctors unsure whether they will ever be paid for seeing Health Republic patients. Some doctors have turned patients away, or are bargaining directly with patients over their medical fees. 

In September, New York State regulators ordered Health Republic, the largest of many health insurance cooperatives to be established across the country as part of the Affordable Care Act, to close at the end of 2015.  Read more

Woodstock Writers Radio with Martha Frankel and guests

Schumer celebrates deal to save Walton factory

Above: U.S. Senator Charles Schumer greeted employees of the Kraft-Heinz manufacturing plant in Walton on Wednesday, Nov. 25. Photo by Robert Cairns.

U.S. Senator Charles D. Schumer visited Walton on Wednesday, Nov. 25 to celebrate a deal that will keep the Kraft-Heinz plant in the village open for at least five years.

Schumer toured the plant with local officials and company representatives, then spoke to media and a room full of Kraft employees.

“This month, I got two gifts,” he told the crowd. “One gift was when we got Kraft to say they'd keep the plant open. That was the best gift.”

The other gift, he joked, was a Medicare card, issued on his birthday, two days earlier.

The plant was one of three in New York slated for closure. The others, in Avon and Campbell, were also saved by the deal.  Read more

Armed anti-Muslim activist heads to Islamberg; Catskills cops on high alert

Above: "Islamberg: A Muslim Community in the Catskills." A video produced by Jessica Vecchione of Vecc Videography in partnership with the Watershed Post. We take a look at how the small religious community of Islamberg has dealt with threats from people like Robert Doggart, a Tennessee man who plotted to burn the hamlet and massacre its citizens in April 2015. Help us do more reporting like this: donate.  

For the second time this year, an armed man has threatened to drive across the country to the Catskills to attack Islamberg, a community of about 25 African-American Muslim families located in the rural Delaware County town of Tompkins.

Rumors that the community is a breeding ground for homegrown terrorists have made Islamberg a target for anti-Muslim extremists around the United States.

Above: Jon Ritzheimer brandishing a gun in a Facebook video in which he says he is driving to Islamberg on Nov. 18. 

At home in the Catskills, however, Islamberg has longstanding collegial relationships with the FBI, local law enforcement and its neighbors. (For an inside look at Islamberg and its relationships with locals, see our video above.)

On Nov. 18, Jon Ritzheimer, an ex-Marine from Phoenix, Arizona, posted a video on Facebook of himself with a handgun in the front of a car, saying that he is on his way to Islamberg.

  Read more

Thanksgiving in the Catskills

Photo by icoNYca, via Flickr. 

As the fourth Thursday in November rolls around, we gather in a spirit of gratitude for our mountain peaks and sparkling creeks, our deer and raptors and black bear, and for each other. Here are some places to feast among neighbors in the Catskills this Thanksgiving Day. Unless otherwise specified, all events are taking place on Thursday, Nov. 26.


The Interfaith Council is inviting everyone in the greater Margaretville community to its 5th annual free Thanksgiving dinner, taking place from 12 p.m. until 2 p.m. at the Margaretville United Methodist Church. All are welcome and take-outs are available.  Read more

Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office hit hard in 2016 budget

Above: Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond. Image via RawStory. 

After months of unexpected twists and turns, the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors voted to adopt a 2016 county budget on Tuesday, Nov. 24 that hits the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office with deep cuts.

The budget was supported by eight supervisors, with five voting against it. Two supervisors were not present.

Taxes above cap

The supervisors approved a tax increase of 3.54 percent—which exceeds the state tax cap of .73 percent—to fund a $72 million public budget. The vote followed months of belt tightening by the finance committee.

County budget officer Bill Cherry originally called for a 5.81 percent tax increase in September. That number was too untenable for supervisors, who managed to slash the tax hike down to 2.5 percent by early November.  Read more

Mama's Boy Market, a pioneer of Phoenicia's boom, closes

Above: Mama's Boy Market in Phoenicia. Photo via the Mama's Boy Facebook page

Mama's Boy Market, the funky little coffeeshop in the heart of the Ulster County hamlet of Phoenicia, will close on Monday, Nov. 30, according to owner Michael Koegel. 

"We lost our lease," Koegel wrote in an email on Wednesday, Nov. 25. He elaborated in a post he published on Tuesday, Nov. 24 on the Mama's Boy Market Facebook page:

It is with great sadness that I have to announce that Mama’s Boy Coffee Shop will be closing permanently on November 30th. Unfortunately, we lost our lease at our Phoenicia location and so our last day of serving the community will be this Monday.  Read more

Delaware County passes bed tax

Above: Maureen Wacha of Walton, a motel owner, spoke against the Delaware County bed tax at a public hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 24. Photo by Robert Cairns.

Those who pay for overnight stays at hotels, motels and other lodging establishments in Delaware County will soon pay two percent more.

The Delaware County Board of Supervisors, at a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 24, approved a hotel and motel occupancy tax that will also apply to bed-and-breakfast establishments and rentals of vacation homes.

Proponents of the bed tax law say that the tax will raise $192,000 per year to augment the county's tourism promotion efforts. Currently, the county spends $95,000 annually through its tourism promotion agency, the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce.

Under the provisions of the law, the tax’s proceeds are dedicated to tourism and will not go into the county's general fund.  Read more

How to stay safe outdoors during hunting season in the Catskills

Above: Photo by Kevin Chang, via Flickr

Today—Saturday, Nov. 21—marks the beginning of rifle season in the Catskills. Rifle hunting season runs through Dec. 13, which means that hunters and hikers need to be share the woods safely during this unseasonably warm fall. (Daytime temperatures forecast for this coming week hardly dip below 40 degrees.)

The November hunting season is bookended by early bear season in September, archery season in early November and a muzzleloader season in December. By far, rifle season is the most popular, with most hunters taking aim at deer and bear.

Both hunters and hikers must take care to avoid each other in the woods.  Read more

Rip's Ledge and the trails of Winter Clove

Above: Rip's Ledge. Photo by Alan Via.

Most people have never heard of Catskills trails with names like Venus' Bath, Countryman Kill Falls, Moonshine Ridge, Lover's Loop, Yankee Smith and Rip's Ledge.

All of them are seldom-hiked unofficial trails that begin on private land owned by the Winter Clove Inn, an old-style Catskills resort in the Greene County hamlet of Round Top. The resort welcomes day hikers to use its lands, provided that they ask permission at the front desk first.

Above: Winter Clove Inn. Photo by Alan Via. 

The Winter Clove Inn has been attracting visitors to this northern Catskills clove for 152 years. The resort got its start in 1863 as a farmhouse that took in urban folks looking for wilderness.

Five generations of innkeepers, all members of the Whitcomb family, turned the property into a stately hotel with a large porch lined with rocking chairs sitting on hundreds of acres of land. The resort also boasts its own waterfall.  Read more

This weekend: Hudson Valley Hullabaloo plus four other Catskills craft fairs

Above: The 2014 Hudson Valley Hullabaloo. Photo via the HV Hullabaloo's Facebook page

The holiday craft season is heating up. This weekend, 65 vendors will flock to the Hudson Valley Hullabaloo in Kingston, and more will appear at markets and bazaars in three other counties. Here's where to shop local for the holidays during the weekend of Nov. 21 and 22.


Fresh-baked pies, locally-raised meats, Catskills-made spirits and wines and much more will be for sale at the Greater Stamford Area Chamber of Commerce (GSACC) Holiday Pop-Up Farmers’ Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21 in Stamford. The market has become an annual tradition, and over a dozen vendors will be there to provide a shopping bonanza just before Thanksgiving.   Read more

Santa Fe Woodstock brings fresh, local Mexican food to Route 28

Above: Santa Fe Woodstock opens in the building that once housed the Black Bear Restaurant and the Maverick. Photo by Paula Ann Mitchell.

On the long stretch of Route 28, a well-traveled road that runs from Kingston to Oneonta through the heart of the Catskills, there aren’t many dining options.

And it's hard to find authentic Mexican fare, especially since the Ulster County town of Woodstock lost its beloved Gypsy Wolf Cantina a year ago.

Nearby in Kingston, the owners of Santa Fe Uptown had been hearing for years from customers who said that If the restaurant were closer to Woodstock, they might come to dine more often.

All of these things figured into the decision of the three Santa Fe Uptown partners—David Weiss and Jimmy and Annie Demosthenes—to open Santa Fe Woodstock, the third Santa Fe restaurant in the region.

  Read more

Queens man tore up Callicoon soccer field with SUV, police say

Above: Nicholas J. Carbone. Photo courtesy of the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office.

A 20-year-old man from Queens caused $3,000 of damage to the soccer field in Callicoon Center's town park on Thursday, Nov. 12 while "doing donuts" in his sports utility vehicle, police say.

"Doing donuts" refers to driving and skidding in tight, sharp circles with a vehicle.

Town officials saw Nicholas J. Carbone of Howard Beach ripping up the town soccer field in his black Ford Explorer on Thursday morning at 9:46 a.m., according to a press release from the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office.

Kris Scullion, Callicoon's highway superintendent, accosted Carbone in the act, according to the press release, while Callicoon's town supervisor, Tom Bose, called the police.

Carbone was arrested and charged with felony criminal mischief and the unlawful possession of marijuana, police say. He was arraigned and sent to the Sullivan County Hail on $2,500 cash bail.

Telecom outage briefly takes out 911 service in Roscoe

Above: A map of the area affected by a telecom outage in Sullivan County, via NY Alert.

A telecom outage affected emergency phone calls to 911 placed from landlines in the Sullivan County town of Rockland between 12:20 a.m. and 1:18 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 13, according to a notice from NY-Alert.

Frontier Communications, which serves the region, fixed the problem after about an hour. The issue affected Frontier customers with 607 area codes in Livingston Manor and Roscoe, according to a map issued by NY Alert (see above).

According to, similar outages affected Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties yesterday. 

Supervisors: Delaware County bed tax is back, budget is up

Above: Colchester Supervisor Art Merrill, left, and Davenport Supervisor Dennis Valente, both opponents of the proposed Delaware County bed tax, conferred during Wednesday's meeting of the board of Supervisors. Photo by Robert Cairns. 

A new version of a proposed Delaware County tax on hotel and motel occupancy was introduced at the Wednesday, Nov. 10 meeting of the Delaware County Board of Supervisors.

An earlier version of the local law to authorize the two percent tax on overnight stays at lodging establishments was withdrawn last month after supervisors agreed with critics that it unfairly placed the tax on establishments that are already subject to sales tax while allowing casual rentals of rooms and homes to go tax-free.

The new version of the law makes such casual rentals subject to the bed tax by removing language that specified that only establishments that provide maid service or other amenities are taxable.

The change is designed to make the law applicable to rooms booked through services such as AirBnB or advertised on classified ad sites like Craigslist.  Read more

Catskill Heritage Alliance sues DEC over Belleayre Resort

Above: A model of one of the the planned hotels, viewed from above, of the proposed Belleayre Resort project. Photo by Julia Reischel.

The Catskill Heritage Alliance, a nonprofit group that has long opposed the construction of the 739-acre Belleayre Resort near the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center in the Ulster County hamlet of Highmount, announced on Thursday, Nov. 12 that it is suing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation over the project.

The DEC approved the project in July, and the CHA's lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, Nov. 10. 

The CHA signalled almost a year ago that it might pursue litigation against the DEC over the resort's review process, particularly regarding the agency's decision to cancel an adjudicatory hearing about opponents' concerns. The CHA argues that the adjudicatory hearing should have been required.   Read more

Nine-year-old finds razor blade in a bag of Skittles

Above: Sour Skittles. Photo by Flickr user Incase

Police are investigating how a rusty razor blade got inside a bag of Sour Skittles that was given to a trick-or-treater in the Delaware County town of Roxbury on Halloween night.

According to a press release issued by the New York State Police, the razor blade, an "X-ACTO-knife-type razor blade," was discovered when the full-size, 1.80-ounce bag of Sour Skittles was opened on Monday, Nov. 9.

According to the parent of the 9-year-old child who found the razor blade, who asked not to be named in this story, the child opened and ate most of the package of candy on Monday night.  Read more

This weekend: Where to buy Catskills-made gifts

Above: "Stuyvesant Square Park," a photograph by Tom Sardo, one of many artists featured in Salon 2015 and Handmade Holidays, an arts and crafts sale run by the Greene County Council on the Arts, opening this weekend.

Makers, crafters and artisans across the region are gathering at holiday bazaars throughout the Catskills, showcasing locally-made crafts, fine arts and food products that all make great gifts. Here's where to shop local for the holidays during the weekend of Nov. 14 and 15.


Honoring veterans

Happy Veterans Day. John of Catskills Photography took this photo at the 2014 Memorial Day parade in the Sullivan County town of Liberty and shared it in the Watershed Post Flickr pool

Thousands without power in Delaware County, hundreds without power in Shandaken

Above: A NYSEG power outage map at 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 10. 

Update, Wednesday, Nov. 11: Power was on again in the Delaware County town of Bovina by 9 p.m. on Tuesday night. Power had been restored to all but two Delaware County NYSEG customers as of 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Nov. 11, according to NYSEG's updated outage map. 

On Wednesday, scattered power outages were affecting other Catskills counties as well, with 585 NYSEG customers without power in the town of Shandaken and a smattering of Central Hudson customers without power in Greene County.

Original story, Tuesday, Nov. 10: 

The lights went out on Tuesday afternoon throughout Delaware County, according to outage information posted on New York State Electric and Gas's power outpage map.   Read more