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60 Years of Progression

Holiday Valley's Transformation - Then and Now.

Through good winters, bad winters, one (really) bad winter and countless inches of the white stuff, one business has stood the test of time. We’ve come a long way since one lodge, a T-Bar and no manmade snow. This season, Holiday Valley celebrates 60 years of skiing, snowboarding, reinvestment, innovation and smiling faces. 

Its success stems from a combination of visionary leadership, a sense of community amongst employees and the geographical proximity to multiple massive population centers. Regardless of the revenue, the Valley - as it is affectionately known as - constantly reinvests into itself, whether that be snowmaking systems, mountain operations, summertime activities or new lodges. While it doesn’t have the elevation of other prominent eastern resorts, it compensates by offering a high-end visitor experience. 

Founded in 1958 by Doc Northrup, John Fischer and Dick Congdon, the first day in business Holiday Valley had four trails and one T-bar. Drawing from an already strong contingent of skiers from Ellicottville, Buffalo and Cleveland, word soon got out about this little ski town tucked away in the foothills of western New York. 

The next season, two tows and the Tannenbaum T-bar were installed, along with the construction of the Ellicottville Ski Club. By this time, the Valley had started to draw more people. The Village of Ellicottville, sans bars, shops and restaurants, slowly began its transformation into how we know it today. Throughout the 1960s, the Valley saw significant growth. Installation of the Mardi Gras double chair and School Haus T-bar, along with the first test of snowmaking, made for more of a vacation destination rather than a place for a small group of people to come and ski. The five original astronauts also made an appearance! 

The 1970s saw even more growth. The Chute chair came onto the scene in 1970, and Yodeler saw its first season of night skiing. The Middle (Yodeler) Chalet and Warming Hut were expanded, and Valley Village lodging began construction. And in 1977, Skip Yahn became the Resort’s president. 

Throughout his tenure, Skip helped the Valley become a household name in ski circles. Ask anyone who worked with him, and they’ll tell you he always had a smile and a handshake. He was the type of boss you wanted to work for - the one who brought cold liftees coffee and the one who seemed to always remember your name. The Valley recently celebrated Skip’s contributions to the Resort with a party and a video celebrating his time spent as the boss (you can find that on HV’s Facebook and YouTube pages). 

If the 1960s and ‘70s was the Valley’s growing period, the 1980s would be the decade it started to form as the powerhouse we know it as. The installation of five chairlifts - the Yodeler, Mardi Gras and Eagle quads, the Tannenbaum and Morning Star triples and the Snowpine double - increased uphill capacity exponentially. Lodging also saw a boost, as the Snowpine Village condos were built and the resort purchased the motel from Bud & Mary Timkey - transforming it into the Holiday Valley Inn. 

Current president and general manager Dennis Eshbaugh took the reins in the early 90s, and as a disciple of Skip, the Valley continued its upward trend. Construction of the iconic clocktower provided a photogenic landmark, while Tannenbaum Lodge gave visitors another place to warm up and eat. Installation of the Sunrise Quad - coupled with Phases I & II of The Inn - gave daily visitors the chance to ski-in, ski-out. 

A major aspect of the resort’s success has been its snowmaking systems. We are not in an area where snow is always guaranteed - those lake effect bands are notoriously fickle. The reinvestment in snowmaking has totaled over $13 million in the last 45 years, providing a safety net for the resort if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Half of the HKD Snowmaker system is automated, meaning snowmakers can turn the guns on and off with the flip of a switch. This increases effectiveness (both in productivity and energy), safety for the snowmakers and the amount of resort that can be opened. 

The transformation over the last 60 years is nothing short of incredible. Three lodges (built and rebuilt), 13 lifts (three high-speed), 60 trails (38 open for night), 700+ snowmaking guns, lodging all over the place and hundreds of thousands of people on the slopes. The Valley has continued its success because it has stayed true to that mom-and-pop mentality - it’s not owned by a corporate conglomerate. It’s the people who make it so special, whether it’s the ones working or visiting. 

When speaking to Edna Northrup for the 4-part 60th anniversary videos (to be released the tail end of December into January), she was asked this question: Did you ever think it would get to this point? Her answer: “No. I never could have realized what this would become.”