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Ski season in the Catskills kicks off this weekend

Above: Morning light shows off the early-winter snow on the flanks of Hunter Mountain today. From Hunter's Facebook page.

The Catskills high peaks got a pretty dusting of snow this week, and local ski resorts are poised to take advantage of it. The Catskills Big Three -- Hunter, Windham and Belleayre -- are all making snow and getting ready for Opening Day.

Hunter declared this morning that they'll open on Saturday:

Join us on OPENING DAY this SATURDAY for TOP TO BOTTOM skiing and riding!! Advanced terrain only, lift ticket pricing will be adjusted accordingly.

Neither Belleayre nor Windham has declared an opening day yet,* but both are ready to pounce when conditions are right. Belleayre posted a promising-looking picture of snow falling on the mountain just as dawn was breaking today:  Read more

Thirty hours of Catskills adventure racing, from the inside

See video

Above: The 2012 USARA Adventure Race National Championship from the point of view of its second-place winners, Term Tecnu. Video by Aaron Johnson.

Most people you find biking uphill through sleet on a rainy October weekend in the Catskills are tough. The folks who do it as part of a 30-hour, 100-mile adventure race course are hardcore. 

On October 12 and 13, the 2012 USARA Adventure Race National Championship was held in the Catskills, starting with a canoe paddle on the Pepacton Reservoir in Delaware County and ending a day later when exhausted racers crossed the finish line at the Hudson Valley Resort in Kerhonkson, Ulster County on bicycles. (We had some great photos of the race start back in October.)

In between, the teams of racers camped out in freezing weather, bushwacked through brush to find hidden caches, rappelled down a waterfall, and biked and ran for miles. Part marathon, part obstacle course, part scavenger hunt, the race tries you to the limit.  Read more

Man tries to sell 80 bags of heroin to undercover cop in Walton

On Friday, November 16, Delaware County sheriff's deputies arrested 27-year-old Miguel Santiago in the village of Walton on a felony drug charge. Police say Santiago tried to sell 80 bags of heroin to an undercover drug enforcement officer.

A press release from the Sheriff's Office cites Santiago as a resident of the Bronx, but Delaware County Undersheriff Craig DuMond said that Santiago had been living in Walton for some time. DuMond said that the Sheriff's Office has been investigating the case for six months.

"This guy has been living in the village of Walton for quite a considerable a period of time," Dumond said.

DuMond said that Santiago's arrest is a major one for local law enforcement.

"It's a significant arrest for us. We're proud to make an arrest that involves this type of an individual and this quantity of drugs. However, the sad thing about these types of things is that there always seem to be more individuals willing to step up and fill the void left behind," he said.

The most recent arrest is a small piece of a much larger problem in the region, DuMond said.  Read more

Becker wins re-election by razor-thin margin in Delaware County judge race

Incumbent Delaware County judge Carl Becker, a Republican, has eked out a victory against Democratic challenger Gary Rosa in a race that was too close to call without counting absentee ballots.

On Thursday afternoon, the county Board of Elections finished its count of all absentee ballots they have received so far. The unofficial tally, according to Democratic commissioner Judy Garrison, currently stands at 9,139 votes for Becker and 8,949 for Rosa -- a difference of only 190 votes.

Because of an excecutive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office to ensure Sandy-affected New Yorkers could vote, the Board of Elections must keep accepting valid absentee ballots until Monday.

"Until it's certified, absentee ballots can still come in," said Garrison.

But at this late date, it is vanishingly unlikely that enough absentee ballots could come in to shift the vote in Rosa's direction.  Read more

Rosa: "The rumors of my victory are greatly exaggerated"

The race for Delaware County judge between Republican incumbent Carl Becker and Democratic challenger Gary Rosa is still too close to call, despite rumors that have been circling that Rosa is the winner after a count of absentee ballots.

On election night, Becker led the returns with 8,335 votes to Rosa's 8,160. The tally was too close to declare a victor without counting absentee ballots. The Delaware County Board of Elections has been counting absentee ballots all week, and will not officially declare a winner until Monday, November 19, election officials said yesterday.  Read more

Local first responders head downstate to pitch in on Sandy recovery

Photo: An upstate DEP crew works to pump out Manhattan's Battery Underpass, which was submerged under 12 feet of Sandy floodwaters at the height of the storm surge. Photo dated Nov. 1, courtesy of NYC DEP.

Since Sandy made landfall, local firefighters, police, New York City Department of Environmental Protection staff from the upstate watershed area, and other professionals from around the Catskills region have been heading south to help New York City and Long Island recover from Hurricane Sandy. For local first responders who were overwhelmed by the local disaster Irene left behind last year, it's something of a role reversal.

According to an article in the Delaware County Times on October 30, a crew of first responders from Delaware County went to Nassau County on Long Island. Responding fire departments included Stamford, Sidney, and Delhi, with Sidney and Stamford each taking two fire engines and two utility trucks.  Read more

The giver's guide to responsible Hurricane Sandy relief: Give money, not stuff

Above: A pile of surplus donated clothing abandoned in a parking lot in Staten Island one week after Hurricane Sandy. Source: NY1's November 5 report, "Staten Island Donation Centers Taking In More Than They Can Give Out."

In the wake of a disaster like Hurricane Sandy, people want to give. But the giving impulse can cause just as much trouble as the disaster itself.

Here in the Catskills, we learned that firsthand in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene last year.

"We ended up with tractor-trailer loads of clothes," said Charles B. Gockel, the executive director of Huntersfield Christian Training Center, which became ground zero for relief and recovery operations for the hard-hit town of Prattsville after Irene.

"People give things that might have been in their closet for four years, or that is from 1948," he said.  Read more

Winter storm 'Athena' heads for the Catskills, with hundreds still out of power

Above: Detail from a National Weather Service weather forecast map issued at 3:53 am today. Source: NWS Binghamton website.

Forecasters are tracking a nor'easter that looks likely to dump snow and sleet across a wide swath of the northeastern U.S. starting this afternoon, with up to 8 inches expected in the high peaks of the Catskills.

In a blog post published today, the Weather Channel explains why they have taken it upon themselves to name the storm "Athena":

...without Sandy, we may not have named this storm. However, one of our main reasons for naming events is societal impact. With so many people still under recovery efforts -- even well inland -- the combination of heavy, wet snow and wind prompted the decision to name this storm. The decision to name was based on a trend in models toward a colder pattern with additional snowfall along the Northeast Coast.  Read more

Catskills Vote: Local election highlights

The votes are in -- and although a few races still hang in the balance, most of the big contests were settled decisively.

Incumbents across the region mostly fared well. Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand trounced Republican challenger Wendy Long by roughly 3 to 1, in a race that held few surprises.

Republican Congressman Chris Gibson won reelection by a comfortable 20,000-vote margin over challenger Julian Schreibman in the new 19th District, with the Times Herald-Record reporting 136,038 Gibson votes to Schreibman's 117,923. (Schreibman's home county may have to get used to not being Maurice Hinchey territory anymore: Ulster County voted overwhelmingly for Schreibman in the Congressional race, with Schreibman earning 39,194 votes to Gibson's 28,525.)  Read more

Catskills Vote: Our local guide to the 2012 elections

Photo taken in Narrowsburg by Linda Slocum and Tony Ritter. Tony, a Tusten town councilman -- and Delaware River fishing guide -- tells us, "Those stumps with V-O-T-E were sawed from an 80 foot pine that snapped at the base during Sandy last Monday night." Reproduced with permission.

On Tuesday, November 6, the nation goes to the polls.

While all eyes may be on this year's presidential election, it's a momentous year for New York State as well -- the first year for newly-redrawn districts at the Congressional level as well as the state Senate and Assembly.

The Catskills region, once split up by Congressional district lines, is now united in the 19th Congressional District, which Republican incumbent Chris Gibson and Democrat Julian Schriebman are battling tooth and nail to represent.  Read more