Not the sweetest of seasons
Mar 21, 2013 | 4068 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s maple festival weekend, but in some ways it sure doesn’t seem like sugarin’ season. With another foot or more of snow blanketing the region, the weather is more like early February than late March. We’re not sure what we heard more of this week, grumbling about the most recent snowstorm or chatter about the latest tiff between Mount Snow and Haystack (see story, page 1).

In either case, there isn’t much an individual can do to affect them. The weather will do what it wants to do. While winter sports enthusiasts reveled in the late winter bonanza of snow, many others just moaned and hoisted another shovelful.

Mount Snow and Haystack continue to spar from time to time, and probably will continue to as long as they are joined at the hip by agreements that neither current owner was a part of. Over the past few years, the two resorts have had a rocky relationship, at best.

For those who might not recall, SKI Ltd, previous owners of Mount Snow, bought Haystack in 1992. At the time, there was tremendous optimism that under Mount Snow’s leadership, the ‘Stack might finally reach its full potential. Then, along came new owners of the resorts, Les Otten and the American Skiing Company, and Haystack eventually became a poor stepsister in a company that ended up cash-strapped and debt-ridden.

In 2005, ASC sold Haystack to a privately-held company, One Cornell, led by Greenspring and Kingswood developer Bob Foise. As part of the agreement, One Cornell agreed to certain restrictions and covenants, chief among them being that Haystack would be reborn as a private ski mountain with limited skier access and that Mount Snow would continue to have access to a snowmaking water reservoir at the base of Haystack’s lower mountain, known as Mirror Lake. About a year after that, ASC finished selling off it resorts and was liquidated, and Peak Resorts became the new owners of Mount Snow. Simultaneously, One Cornell decided Haystack was costing too much money to redevelop, and pulled the plug on the project, putting Haystack into mothballs until a new buyer could be found.

In December 2009, One Cornell reopened Haystack for a brief period, but Mount Snow ended up with a court injunction stopping One Cornell from drawing water out of Mirror Lake and essentially shutting the ski area down again. Also, One Cornell was in disputes with the town of Wilmington and the Coldbrook Fire District over property tax and sewer district assessments. Then, in 2011, Haystack was sold again, this time to the new owner of the adjacent Hermitage Inn. Jim Barnes, the current owner, has been aggressively marketing and rebuilding the ski area as part of the broader Hermitage Club concept.

We don’t plan to choose sides in the Haystack/Hermitage/Mount Snow relationship. We understand that in business no relationship is perfect, and that companies from time to time have to act in their own best interest, which may clash with another’s perception of that same interest.

What we’d prefer to see is long-term cooperation between the resorts. It seems that in some ways both resorts have to learn how to play in each other’s sandbox. That, more than anything, will bring about the growth and increased opportunities we’d all like to experience.

What we have right now, and have seen over the past six or seven years, appears to echo the immortal words of cartoonist Walt Kelly in his classic comic strip Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

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