SPECULATOR - With several summer activities available and events planned throughout the fall season, Oak Mountain is establishing itself as a year-round facility.
A zip line opened Aug. 5, joining the chair-lift ride and biking trails to entertain residents and tourists alike. Nancy Venier, a 68-year-old part-time resident, tried it.
"I went with my son and my granddaughter," said Venier. "They were very proud of me. I had never done it, so I was determined to give it a shot."
Lake Pleasant Supervisor Neil McGovern tries the new zipline at Oak Mountain in Speculator. The zipline and chairlift rides are two of the offerings that are helping to make the ski area a year-round destination.
With two replaced hips, Venier said the hardest part was climbing a ladder and then a pole to reach the platform where she was launched.
The pole had bars sticking out like a telephone pole for her hands and feet.
Venier stressed that she was in a harness and attached to a cable the whole time she climbed and felt very secure.
Once she reached the platform, manager Matt O'Brien explained to Venier that she could either step off it or sit down and scoot off, which was the technique Venier chose.
"It's a nice ride," she said. "You go all the way to the end and there's a pole. You stop short of it and swing back and they grab you and take you down a ladder."
Chair-lift rides and the zip line are open Friday through Monday, 10 a.m to 4 p.m., at least until Columbus Day, said Barbara Tracy, president of Friends of Oak Mountain.
Tracy said she has about 100 volunteers on a list to help run Oak Mountain.
"It's a phenomenal community effort," she said. "People want to see the ski area stay open."
Volunteers help with everything from fall cleaning to selling lift tickets to the ski patrol.
According to Ann Melious, executive director of Hamilton County Industrial Development Agency, there are also about 25 full-time seasonal employees and several part-time winter employees.
Oak Mountain has been run by the village since the 2007-08 season under a no-cost lease agreement with the IDA. With the lease approaching its expiration at the end of the year, the IDA is accepting requests for proposals until 2 p.m. Sept. 16.
Melious said several people have requested an information packet for $10, but she expects that the RFPs won't be submitted until the last two days.
The property includes a deed restriction that it continue to be operated as a ski area for five years, along with anything else the new operator wants to do to make money there.
"What's most important to us," said Melious, "is that the ski area is an economic engine for the southern part of the county and a provider of winter jobs in an area where most of the seasonal jobs are in the summer."
She explained that ski areas are diverse operations that include rentals and food services as well as the skiing aspects.
Friends of Oak Mountain has held several events this summer and more are scheduled for the fall. On Sept. 17, a Battle of the Bands is scheduled, the second this year. Tracy said several bands already are registered.
On Sept. 24, there will be a Fall Fest, with vendors, crafts, a cake walk and food, as well as chairlift rides.
On Oct. 8, there will be a Family Fun Fest sponsored by the Pleasant Rider Family and Friends of Oak Mountain.
On Nov. 19, there will be a sporting goods swap and sale, featuring snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles.
Barbara Cook covers southern Hamilton County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.