According to Hermitage Club officials, the cutbacks are connected to this week’s warm weather, which nearly reached 70 degrees on Wednesday.
“The Hermitage is open for business,” said Hermitage Club Director of Public Relations Meridith Dennes. “The mountain will be closed midweek due to weather, and there has been a reduction in force appropriate for the services being offered.”
The speculation began on Friday, when word leaked that Hermitage Club employees were told not to cash their checks until Tuesday. A local Hermitage Club employee, who requested anonymity out of concern for possible workplace retaliation, confirmed the information. “We were told we had to hold our paychecks until Tuesday,” the employee said. “And that’s not OK for everyone, people have kids to feed.”
The news spread fast and, according to the local employee, members were upset, not only that the club’s continued operation was up in the air, but also that employees’ compensation was in question. “It was a very sad day,” the employee said. “I heard about one member who went around giving ski instructors $100 bills because he was so distraught and didn’t want to see the club go down. A lot of members cleaned out their lockers and took their equipment home because of the uncertainty. Members were hugging employees. The worst part was getting hugs from children who don’t know if they’re going to be back again. There’s a real sense of community here.”
An international employee working at the Hermitage Club on a temporary visa contacted The Deerfield Valley News, concerned that she was unable to cash her paycheck for the two-week pay period, and unsure of her employment. “I feel I am without a voice and now, it appears, without my hard-earned work compensation.”
Over the weekend, rumors circulated about meetings between Hermitage Club President James Barnes and members. Club member John Gannon confirmed at least one meeting took place, at which Barnes asked club members for more money to continue operations for the rest of the ski season. “Jim (Barnes) proposed that members each contribute $3,000 to the club to cover payroll through April 1,” Gannon said. “He also told us he’ll have a proposal sometime during the week concerning the sale of club assets to the membership.”
In October, the club levied what they called a “one-time membership dues adjustment” of $10,000, effectively doubling dues for 550 members. At the time, the $5.5 million raised through the charge was said to be earmarked for vendor debt repayment, property tax payments, and operations.
The $3,000 dues charge to 550 members would raise an additional $1.65 million. However, Gannon said that, based on the reaction of members at the meeting, it appeared unlikely to succeed. Another source said members reacted to Barnes’ proposed $3,000 payment with raucous abuse, shouting accusations and demanding accountability.
Club officials declined to comment on the prospect of any offer for the sale of the club. Gannon says he fears the strategy is intended to counteract pressure from a sub-group of club members who have had their offers to purchase the club rebuffed by Barnes.
“As I understand it, the group of members have been trying to reach a deal for months and have made a number of proposals,” Gannon said. “I worry that an untenable offer is setting members up for the fall, to blame us when the club goes bankrupt and people don’t get paid.”
On Tuesday, Dennes said that payroll had been met, and employees were able to cash their checks, as they had been promised on Friday. A local employee confirmed that their paycheck was, eventually, cashed on Tuesday. “I got to the bank after 9 am on Tuesday and there was already a long line,” the employee said. “By the time I got there, the account was depleted, but later we were told to go back, and everyone I talked to was able to cash their check by the end of the day.”
On Wednesday, the Hermitage Club announced that it would be closed midweek due to unseasonably warm temperatures, and that 15% of the workforce had been laid off. The club also said that contracts with workers who have J1 and H2b visas would be honored. According to unconfirmed sources, however, international workers were among those who were eliminated, and one source suggested that their contracts do not guarantee employment for any specific time period.
According to Dennes, the club will provide support to individuals affected by the workforce reduction.
“The club will work with the local labor force who have been impacted by the restructuring,” she said. “We have brought in people from the Department of Labor to make sure people get placed in a timely manner. We’ll do everything to make sure individual needs are met in the interim. We care deeply about our employees, and understand the impact.”