By Jann Wiswall

On March 6, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a plan to start an I Ski NY bus program to provide charter bus transportation to New York state ski resorts from New York City and Toronto.

The goal of the program is straightforward. As Governor Cuomo stated in his announcement, “New York is home to some of the best winter resorts in the world…. We want New Yorkers to know they should stay in New York and out-of-state visitors to feel welcome to partake in all that [the state] has to offer.”

The only details known for certain about the program right now is that buses will travel from New York City to various locations in the Hudson Valley, Adirondacks, Catskills and Central New York. Another program will target skiers/boarders in Toronto to bring them to Western New York resorts. And, it is set to begin with the 2014-15 ski season.

To that end, the program is now in the logistical and planning stages.

I Ski NY President Scott Brandi is working closely in an advisory capacity with the state’s economic development department, which operates the “I Love New York” campaign, to determine how the program will work, how it will be marketed and how it will be funded.

The governor’s office initially indicated that Western New York destinations would be Bristol, Holiday Valley, Titus, Kissing Bridge, Peek n’ Peak and Swain Mountains. That list may have already changed, however, since Brandi has spoken with HoliMont and would like to be able to offer Monday-Friday excursions there as well (weekends at HoliMont are for members only).

“Before we can go much further, though, we need to know what would be most beneficial and attractive to potential users,” Brandi said.  “Then we can shape the program to those needs.”

Among the many issues that have to be worked out are frequency of trips to each resort, the number of weekend and weekday trips offered, drop-off and pick-up locations, accommodating ski resorts’ needs, marketing and advertising strategies, budgets and all the other “nuances involved with creating a new program.”

“There’s much more to this than just finding bus companies that can handle the transportation,” Brandi said.  “The state can’t ask charter companies to bid until we know what services we want them to provide.”

Brandi said the team has been “kicking around ideas” for beginners’ buses, for example, where people buy a package ticket with transportation, lift ticket, equipment rentals and lessons. Along the way, an instructor on the bus would give a presentation on safety and all the basics to get riders excited about their day ahead.

For experienced skiers/boarders, Brandi said, “We may develop mid-week and weekend packages that include discounted lift tickets and other offers. There are many ways to make this both convenient and a bargain as well.”

“We’ll be talking to all the resorts to get their input, plus we’ll be talking to ski and board shops and other potential partners in New York City and Toronto that could benefit from the program from the departure points,” Brandi added.

Brandi said he expects the program to take shape by July and that a launch event will be held in the fall that provides all the details.

“I’m confident that the state will be able to put together a great program that increases visits to, and enjoyment of, all of New York’s ski areas.”