WILMINGTON — The Hermitage Club at Haystack is on a hiring spree as the private ski resort reopens under member ownership.
Bill Benneyan, general manager at the club, estimated about 100 employees have been hired and about 75 more are being sought.
“Whatever position someone works at here at the club, because we’re relatively small and a close-knit group and we know our customers, you get to do a little bit of everything,” he said. “Whatever job you’re hired for, you might wear another hat or two during the course of the week. It’s a great educational venue to learn all aspects of the business. You learn a little bit about project management, certainly hospitality.”
Tom Lee, human resources manager at the club, said multiple people will be hired for most of the jobs being advertised online now. Positions involve food and beverage, housekeeping, lift operations, member services, rentals, and ski and snowboard instruction.
First-time ski instructors are encouraged to apply. The club has Professional Ski Instructors of America on staff to train them.
“If anyone ever thought it would be fun to be a ski instructor, this is the place to do it,” Benneyan said. “We have a lot of wide open space, nice customers and a nice, long season in front of us.”
Those new to the food and beverage or hospitality industry also are welcome to apply. The club is working with The Marketplace Kitchen, which owns and operates dining establishments in the Berkshires.
“They have great products and a great culture,” Benneyan said.
During the week, food will be available for takeout on days the resort isn’t operating.
Currently, the club has 210 members. Benneyan said being a private club, employees will get to know the families because they’re at the resort on a regular basis.
Benneyan called the clubhouse “a beautiful building.”
“It still feels brand new,” he said. “It’s easy to move around in.”
Staff are expected to ensure distance is being kept between parties. Certain areas are designated for one-way traffic.
The mountain will operate Saturday, Sunday and holiday times through March. It’s anticipated to open around mid-December.
“Last week, we made a lot of snow, we had a good cold spell. Tonight is cold again,” Benneyan said Tuesday. “But we decided we’re not opening for Thanksgiving weekend just to do the smart, responsible thing even though a lot of our members have homes here.”
Noting the governor’s new quarantine requirements on leisure travel from outside Vermont’s borders, Benneyan said quite a few members are relocating locally for the ski season. There’s a perception that out-of-staters are a risk in the pandemic, he said, but Colorado studies show incoming travelers don’t have as much of an effect as local behavior from “COVID fatigue” does.
Although the mountain isn’t open yet for skiing or riding, Benneyan pointed out there’s plenty of work available now.
“We’ve got lots of projects,” he said. “We’ve got lots of construction related to adapting to COVID. There’s a lot of ongoing preparations in the rental and retail shops. We also want to get people familiar with the facility and people working here.”
Once some natural snow started to appear, Benneyan said the club saw a bump in interest from job seekers. Despite challenges, he feels confident the positions will be filled.
“It’s no secret, I think, that labor markets are tight across the country and particularly in southern Vermont,” he said. “We have people coming from Massachusetts and New York to work here as well, which they’ll be able to do under the travel waiver.”
Travel for work is permitted by the state.
“The closer we get to opening, the more we see what we’re needing,” he said.
If someone is interested in finding a job that fits their interests, they can email email@example.com.
A lot of recent graduates from high school or college are taking a gap year, Benneyan said. He described working at the club as “a great opportunity in a great environment with great people who are all here for the same reason.”
“It was all founded on love of skiing, sports and outdoors,” he said. “It is member owned so our members are as invested and excited in how we operate as we are. I can’t say enough good things about it.”
Benneyan said the last six months have been “interesting” as the resort reopens under new ownership but the local community has rallied behind the group in making sure materials and supplies are delivered and projects get completed on time.
The resurgence of the club after its closure at the end of the ski season in 2018 due to financial issues is welcomed by Adam Grinold, executive director of Brattleboro Development Credit Corp.
“We know the hospitality sector continues to lag in the recovery and having another player step in who’s in need of staff is great,” he said. “We’re excited to see the club reopen and bring new opportunities to the region for sure.”
While acknowledging the challenge of the project in uncertain times brought upon by the pandemic, Grinold noted the brief history of the club under prior ownership showed it to be a significant employer in the region in hiring part-time and full-time staff. He remembered Hermitage jackets being a symbol reflecting the number of wintertime employees at the resort.
Grinold said the club also benefitted other hospitality businesses as well as construction crews and tradespeople.
“It’s so critical for them to have a good season as the new club reinvents itself,” he said. “We want those club members to have a great experience and we want our local folks to be able to engage with the new management, all in a way that complies with the COVID requirements and keeps everybody healthy.”