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From County Cork to Garnet Hill

NORTH RIVER The wind-driven snow atop Garnet Hill on Saturday provided stark contrast to Joe Fahys native County Cork, Ireland. But for a long time this winter, the new owner of Garnet Hill Lodge and Cross Country Ski Center thought his luck of the Irish had run out. We had green grass and temperatures in the 60s, Fahy said. It reminded me more of my homeland than winter in the Adirondacks. So Fahy and his wife Mary Donnellan called upon a tradition they became acquainted with while working for a multi-national company in the Far East. In Asia, they have a god for everything, Fahy said, a bit of mischief in his voice. So we decided we needed some intervention. Hanging on the wall behind the bar in the lodge is a small plaque that features the image of a Norseman in full Viking attire. Thats Ullr, the Norwegian god of snow, Fahy explained. As we paid homage, now hes the patron saint of Garnet Hill. Fahy said hes never in his life been more focused on the weather now that he owns a lodge whose winter business is highly dependent on the snow gracing the 55 kilometers of ski trails that crisscross the mountain. That a family from Ireland came to be owners of a ski lodge in the Adirondacks is a story in itself. Joe and Mary met in college. Two weeks after they were married, the multinational company they both worked for sent them to work in Boston. From there the company transferred them to Singapore and ultimately back to Ireland in 1995. In 1998, the company transferred them again to the United States. We got tired of moving, Fahy said. We were up here skiing last year and we saw this place was for sale. So we took the plunge. The plunge, as Fahy calls it, didnt become a reality until last July, after six months of intense negotiations with previous owner Wood VanCott. Fahy said he and his wife were looking for a community the family - the couple and their three children - could fit into. This is a unique place, extremely friendly and supportive,he said. Its wonderful. It reminds me of Ireland 20 years ago. Theres a strong social network and a wonderful school system. Being in the lodge business isnt altogether foreign territory, Fahy said. Ive spent years in customer service,he said. I love working with people. Fahy said that other than some upgrades, he doesnt intend to change the essence of the lodge, which he said is dependent on the wonderful staff. Weve retained the entire staff, he said. That was very important. Its very well to buy a building, but the staff is extremely important. We have a very talented staff here. One change the couple made was to add a small pub at one end of the lodge in what was a TV room. We had a competition to name the pub,Fahy said. We got more than 250 entries. Some of the suggestions were The Slippery Slope, The Trails End and the Vinning Jig which (was a device that the former mine owner created to extract garnet from the ground.) Ultimately, the couple named the new pub The Miners Pub. Its in homage to the miners who lived up here and the wonderful heritage and lifestyle they had,Fahy said. The couple plans to expand on the offerings at the center, perhaps adding horseback riding in the fair weather and offer specialized retreats such as a birding week. Dick (Carlson) is bringing back the triathlon, Fahy added. We want to be an active part of the community. This is a wonderful natural resource and we want to share it. Fahy said his philosophy in operating the center comes from his father. He used to say that were only stewards of the land,Fahy said. Its important that the people get the full benefit of this wonderful resource.

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