The concerns were prompted in part by allegations that Hermitage Club staff members who were either working or volunteering at Mount Snow have been soliciting skiers at Mount Snow to head three miles down Handle Road to visit the Hermitage Club.
The memo, sent Friday, said in part: “In general working at other businesses in the Valley does not constitute a conflict of interest, however the Hermitage and Haystack have been at times in conflict with Mount Snow’s business interests. Therefore we do not believe it is in Mount Snow’s best interests to have our employees and volunteers working simultaneously for these companies. We value our talented and dedicated staff and hope that you understand that we need to make this business decision to protect our company’s interests. Therefore: Staff or volunteers of the Hermitage, The Haystack Club, their golf course, real estate, and other associated companies may not work or volunteer at Mount Snow.”
The memo went on to say that any Mount Snow staff working or volunteering at Haystack would be grandfathered until the third week of April.
“We recognize that some staff have been working and volunteering at ‘Haystack’ and that this is a change from our earlier stance. Therefore in most cases we will allow those people to finish the season with both companies. However, anyone who chooses to work for the Hermitage/Haystack companies after April 21 may not be rehired or accepted back as a volunteer at Mount Snow or other Peak Resorts.”
The memo also invited Mount Snow staff to a series of staff meetings held over the weekend to explain the company’s position.
Officials at both resorts were generally tightlipped about the dustup.
Mount Snow general manager Kelly Pawlak declined to answer questions about the memo. “Rather than get into specifics,” said Pawlak, “we feel it’s better just to let people know it was a business decision.”
Pawlak added that Mount Snow would not enforce the conflict of interest restrictions for employees who might work at other nearby resorts, such as Stratton or Bromley.
Hermitage Club owner Jim Barnes, who was traveling out of town this week, couldn’t be reached for direct comment. He issued a short statement saying “We don’t understand why Mount Snow would create a policy that directly impacts the workers’ livelihood in the Deerfield Valley. We are sorry to see it cause hardship to employees of either ski area.”
Despite resort officials’ reluctance to publicly discuss the memo and the reasons behind it, word of it spread like wildfire throughout the valley this week. The memo was repeatedly forwarded via email, despite it being labeled “confidential” at the top. A copy was also anonymously mailed to The Deerfield Valley News office, with no return address on the envelope.
As in Barnes’ statement, many expressed concern about workers who might have trouble making ends meet without the income from a second job, as well as benefits that may be jeopardized.
Another issue of concern is the ongoing economic development and marketing efforts among the two resorts, the towns of Dover and Wilmington, and the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce. The chamber is spearheading a combined effort to secure grant funding for a branding and marketing study of the valley.
Chamber executive director Adam Grinold said he had heard of the memo and that it had been a topic of discussion at the chamber’s board meeting this week. But he had not seen the memo and was unsure if there would be any effect on the joint marketing efforts.
“I have heard rumors and comments about a memo regarding employment at Mount Snow and Haystack,” said Grinold. “At this time, this is all I know and without speaking with the two principal parties to learn more, it would be inappropriate of me to comment.”
Others expressed concern over Mount Snow’s exclusion of volunteers who might also work or volunteer at Haystack. Both resorts rely heavily on volunteers, especially as ski patrollers and to help staff special events such as Tough Mudder, concerts, or ski and snowboard competitions.
Rich Caplan, a local real estate broker who partnered his Deerfield Valley Real Estate company with Barnes’ Hermitage real estate operation last year, is also a veteran ski patroller at Mount Snow. He said he was upset by the allegations.
“I’ve been on patrol for 25 years,” said Caplan. “I love Mount Snow, I love this mountain. I would never do anything to hurt it.”