Hermitage Club proposes lift replacement at Haystack


WILMINGTON -- Maps containing details for a proposed lift upgrade at Haystack were recently shown to the Development Review Board by Hermitage Club representatives.

The lift to be replaced is the Barnstormer. It gets skiers to the summit of the ski resort. Currently, the lift's chairs carry three people. If approved by the DRB and then the state, the lift would carry six.

"It requires a chair storage area by the bottom and a somewhat larger terminal at top," said attorney Bob Fisher, representing the Hermitage Club.

Although only one interested party, Thomas Cross, was sworn in and gave testimony, the DRB recessed the hearing on July 21 so Cross could go back to his organization, All Charities Inc., with documents outlining the plans. The hearing opens up again on Aug. 18.

All Charities Inc. holds the mortgage for land purchased by Hermitage Club founder Jim Barnes. In the deal, he bought the ski resort and golf course tracts. The Hermitage Club also leases the top two thirds of the mountain from the town of Wilmington.

"We'll pick up after we get all the information back and you can get the chance to weigh in if you want," DRB Chairman Peter Wallace told Cross.

According to Hermitage Club Vice President of Construction and Development Bob Rubin, the board's decision to recess the hearing will not set the Hermitage Club back.

The project would not begin until May 1, 2015. Rubin expects it to be finished by November 2015, making the new lift ready for the ski season.

He confirmed the proposed chair could be compared to the Bluebird found at Mount Snow. That lift carries bubble chairs, which have coverings that shield passengers from wind and other elements.

Rubin also mentioned there would be all new lift towers. Although the towers will mostly go where the existing towers are located, that work will require that foundations be re-poured. Engineer Bob Harrington said existing foundations are not big enough for the new towers.

There will be approximately the same number of towers going up the mountain and the lift will carry an estimated 88 chairs in total.

"Everything on the Barnstormer will be taken out," said Rubin. "The nice part is it's in the same footprint so there's no tree clearing. There will be very little disturbance for this job moving forward."

The proposed lift did not have a name at the time of the hearing.

"It will bring more people up. It reduces the ride from 15 minutes to 6 minutes when finished," Rubin added. "It will take about 2,800 people up there per hour."

A terminal at the lower section will house the chairs, Fisher pointed out. It will be located west of the new base lodge currently being constructed. The size of the terminal will be 142 long and 32 feet wide. Rubin said its siding would be a clear, cedar type and the roof would match the color of the lodge.

Plans were not yet solidified regarding what type of machinery would be used for the project. In the past, the Hermitage Club used a helicopter to install the Stag's Leap Quad lift. Rubin said it would only take one day to set the towers using a helicopter. A crane would require more time.

It will be important to be careful during the build, Rubin told the Reformer.

"If something were to happen, that lift is the only way to the top. If we take the Barnstormer down, we don't have a lift to the top," he said. "We got to make sure it happens during that six month window."

Once the lift is installed, the Hermitage Club will be able to tout its third new lift since the mountain reopened under its current ownership. Stag's Leap Quad was constructed last year. It services the lower section of the mountain. The Tage lift, which brings skiers and riders from the Hermitage Inn to the base area, was constructed about a year before.

Since Haystack's reopening, Rubin said, one of the disqualifiers of the resort was its aging lifts.

"Over the last couple years, we've kind of taken care of that," he added.

The next step for the Hermitage Club will be a master plan application that will be reviewed by the DRB as well as the Agency of Natural Resources and other necessary groups. It will provide details about what is planned for the resort. At previous meetings, there was talk of housing a hotel on the property.

There are also plans in motion for Green Mountain Power to have a substation on Hermitage Club property. The additional power is needed so that snowmaking equipment and the lift can run simultaneously.

"Green Mountain Power is ready to submit their application to the Public Service Board," said Harrington. "We're just working on a right-of-way problem right now."

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


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