The Haystack ski lift. (Reformer file photo)
The Haystack ski lift. (Reformer file photo)
Thursday March 21, 2013

WEST DOVER -- Mount Snow employees who also work at Haystack will have to decide which mountain they want to work on by next month.

"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," a memo to employees from Mount Snow Director of Human Resources Thorin Magbie stated. "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 states that working at Haystack would be considered "a conflict of interest."

"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," the memo said.

"It was a business decision for Mount Snow to put the rule in place regarding employment at Haystack," Communications Manager Dave Meeker wrote in an e-mail to the Reformer.

One employee, who has worked at Mount Snow for five years and at the Hermitage Golf Club course last year, said there is not enough work in the Deerfield Valley during the summer.

This source, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the Reformer that last summer it was encouraged by Mount Snow employees to go and work at Haystack. Another person employed at the Grand Summit Hotel at Mount Snow said that working at Haystack was recommended by a manager for additional income.

Working at Haystack or for the Hermitage Club would keep employees in the valley during the summer, which is commonly known as the off-season to many residents.

"I might be moving out," the source said. "I might come back and work in the winter. But I'd just work weekends."

Last year, this person tried getting a job at the Mount Snow Golf Club but was turned down, being told there were no positions left. The Hermitage Golf Club looked like a good alternative.

The source also said there's been a lot of talk among employees who are saying they will not be returning to Mount Snow next winter.

"We do not understand why Mount Snow would create a policy that directly impacts workers' livelihoods and the Deerfield Valley," said Jim Barnes, founder and president of the Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain. "We are sorry to see it cause hardship to the employees of either mountain."

A former Dover Selectboard member and current Southern Vermont Economic Development Strategies board member wrote a Facebook note that weighed in on the issues this memo raises in the Deerfield Valley community.

"One could argue of course that Haystack is victimized in some way by not getting the benefit of the (by no means proprietary) knowledge held by this legion of Mount Snow employees moonlighting down the road," wrote Colby Dix. "And I can understand Mount Snow wanting to keep their well-trained and experienced personnel close. But the best way to do that is to offer them year-round employment at a livable wage. By eliminating your employment pool from Haystack's, you further increase the likelihood of imported labor and those jobs going to others outside the region, all the while making it harder for your own employees to make a living locally and thus increasing the likelihood that they will look beyond this area for stable work."

Dix disclosed the fact that he is not an employee of Mount Snow or Haystack, but a musician who is hired at Mount Snow and its several bars and restaurants. He wrote that he "felt that it is important to speak up and to make the point from an economic development perspective."

"This hurts our local workforce and has minimal effect on Haystack/Hermitage and their business," Dix stated in the post on Facebook. "I can only urge Mount Snow and it's management to seek a better route to success and prosperity in the region. Mount Snow has traditionally been a strong local leader in a multitude of ways for the region, the town and its employees. I have a deep respect for so many of the employees of Mount Snow and Peak Resorts that it pains me to write any words of criticism, but I do hope that the management can clarify this position and gracefully retract the policy, letting the great people of our area get back to work without animosity."

The Reformer asked the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Adam Grinold about the memo.

"Yes, I have heard rumors and comments on a memo regarding employment at Mount Snow and Haystack," he said on Tuesday. "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."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.