Haystack reopens

The Doersch and Hekemian families celebrate the grand reopening of the Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain with lift operations team members Bob Adams and Derek Miller on Saturday.

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WILMINGTON — After two years of being closed, the Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain is back in action and in the hands of the members.

“After the machine being idle for a couple of years, it’s a first in a lot of ways,” General Manager Bill Benneyan said, referring to the club being a member owned and operated business, members registering when they arrive for COVID-19 contact tracing if needed, having food ordered by mobile devices, and following state guidelines related to the pandemic. “The whole machine has worked really well. I’m very, very proud of the team here who have taken on big tasks and wrestled with it for a few months.”

The private ski resort reopened Saturday under member ownership. The club has about 210 members now.

Regarding the first weekend, Benneyan said things went “really well.”

“As my young lunch companion here said, ‘The snow is like butter,’” he said Sunday.

The assets were purchased by former members in a bankruptcy auction sale in March. The resort and other properties were previously owned by a company run by Jim Barnes until financial issues brought about a foreclosure complaint then bankruptcy proceedings.

The club is now managed by a volunteer board and is offering trial memberships this season, according to a news release. For more information, email memberservices@ hermitageclub.com.

So far, the resort is getting “rave reviews.”

“And I’m not saying that as any kind of pat on my own back or any kind of hyperbole,” Benneyan said, calling the quality of food available through The Marketplace Kitchen of western Massachusetts “excellent.”

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Benneyan said there’s no indication of COVID-19-related issues coming up at other ski areas that opened earlier.

“You know, Vermont’s Covid infection rate continues to be one of the lowest, one of the best,” he said, noting the challenge ahead for resorts to run responsible programs in order to have a successful ski season.

Benneyan acknowledged having some difficulties with hiring, which he attributed to being based in a small community.

“There’s only so many people here in the Deerfield Valley who are available and looking for work,” he said, “so it does mean some travel.”

Benneyan said employees are coming from Brattleboro and Bennington, and as far away as Greenfield, Mass. With the resort starting up again Saturday, he sees some need to raise more awareness that the club is open and hiring.

Staff currently includes former employees of the Four Seasons and “some of the best restaurants in the east,” Benneyan said. He looks at training from industry veterans as a plus for people wanting to get into the hospitality industry.

Another positive for Benneyan involves the need for staff to be ready for tasks not just specific to their job title.

“Because we all need to wear a variety of hats,” he said, “that makes it fun. We have to remember this is skiing. It’s a lifestyle and everything built around it has to be enjoyable.”

To inquire about a position, email jobs@hermitageclub.com.