Friday, December 17, 2010

So You Want To Ditch Your Day Job To Own A Ski Resort?

"How do you lose a million? Start with two – oh and buy a ski hill,” Laszlo Vajtay jokes. He’s also been known to say: “We’re still out there writing the book on how to ‘How to Buy a Ski Area and Succeed’” Only he’s not quite sure how the story will end.

He and his wife Danielle Vajtay (pron: vay – tay in case you were wondering) own Plattekilll. She was a weekend warrior, all about taking the train up and back (he’d pick her up in Rhinecliff nearly 2 hours away) while they were dating. “Had I known what I was in for….” she shakes her head. Laszlo had been running the mountain on his own for two years when she moved up. He talked her into it. “He needed a hand,” she says drily. Understatedly. Like the straight man in their comedy duo.

But they insist it’s been worth it. And, if you come to ski here, you might well agree. Plattekill feels like a fairytale. Like skiing in Utah on the East Coast. It’s got steep vertical and this magic pocket of snow that happens just over it. Picture that image on TV of it raining just over someone’s head. Oh, and it feels like your own secret because there’s never a crowd, never a lift line. Imagine this a place where the longest run is 2 miles, the snow is always good (they average more than 190” a season), the terrain has insane vertical and people are nice. Wouldn’t you want to go there? Or buy it?

So he did. At a foreclosure auction when he was 30. No vulture or outside speculator, he grew up skiing there. They both started skiing there when they were 7 and 10. They both taught in the ski school and as soon as he graduated college, he ran it. Then he dumped his corporate gig …

Theirs is one of those mountain love stories. See, fairytale? And very, very sweet. Lest you think this is all sweetness and light (and I can attest that the powder is very light this week, thank you weather gods for making it 6 degrees out…) it’s not all easy or romantic. There are stories like his first year when they got 285 inches of snow. The next was a fraction of that. The New York Times even came out to take pictures of the empty lifts. All the resorts on the East Coast were having a drought year and Laszlo was the only person game (read: crazy) enough to let them come out and shoot.

Soon he started buying snowmaking equipment. Now 18 years in, the mountain is covered with guns. He and Danielle and their very small, very dedicated staff, pull long days with hard work. And, he even knows how to find a snow gun on Ebay…

But the perks are excellent. “I can ride up with the groomers and ski down. Or, hop the lift any afternoon (Platty is strictly a Friday to Sunday operation except over the holidays or when there’s a foot or more of fresh snow….). All I have to do is push start…” It’s almost enough to make you quit your day job. Or, you could just drive up this weekend.

1 comment:

  1. Laszlo and Danielle are two of the most engaging and fun people I've met in the ski business. I agree 100% - Plattekill is a magic place.