by Elizabeth McClure
Haystack Mountain, located in Wilmington, VT, will re-open its doors and slopes in the coming weeks as an exclusive, private ski resort. The resort plans to sell 900 family memberships that include benefits such as un-crowded skiing as well as a golf club and equestrian center. A thirty-five thousand square foot slope side Club Lodge promises a stone hearth, spa and wellness center, five star restaurant, ski valet, and 24 hour concierge.
Haystack Mountain first opened in the 1960’s as an alternative to larger, more crowded resorts in southern Vermont. The resort was bought in 1991 the owners of nearby Mt. Snow, who started promoting the two resorts as one. Due to financial difficulties, the mountain was sold in 2005 to a group of local businessmen who planned to turn the mountain into an upscale, private area.
Since then the resort has undergone many renovations including the addition of a hybrid lift known as a “chondola” (part chairlift, part gondola).
The resort opened briefly in 2009 but quickly closed after Mt. Snow sued them for water rights. Jim Barnes, owner of the nearby Hermitage Inn, purchased the resort in October for 6.5 million dollars. He plans to open the resort on weekends later this month. The 450 homes and condos that line the property will start at $650,000. For a fee (not a small one I’m sure) members can enjoy “Untouched
snow…no lift lines, room to turn, and snow conditions that are as good on your last run as on your first.” The resort website (http://www.haystackclub.com/home.php) paints the Haystack Club as a serene,
secluded getaway where members can experience a ski trip filled with luxury and pampering. Barnes also plans to offer 250 daily passes for residents of nearby Wilmington and Dover.
But is there really a market for private ski areas during these times of economic uncertainty? When skiing has already become a sport geared to the upper classes, these private resorts have tried to create the ultimate ski experience for the super elite. The Yellowstone Club, near Big Sky, Montana, offers 2,200 acres of private pow. As of June, 2009, entrance to the club cost a whopping $250,000 membership fee, plus purchase of a 5-35 million dollar mountainside home, as well as annual dues of 20,000. The Stratton Mountain Club, with its five-figure price tag, allows its members early lift access, giving them first dibs on the groomed corduroy and any freshies that happen to fall. Yet the Stratton Mountain Club currently has a waitlist and despite financial difficulties back in 2009, the Yellowstone Club continues to thrive.
Maybe Vermont’s own private ski enclave at the Haystack Club will boost the local economy in a region devastated by flooding from Hurricane Irene. Barnes has already hinted at possibly directing some of the funds for the resort into rebuilding downtown Wilmington. In the meantime, me and my ramen eating ski bum friends will be hiking up backcountry trails to enjoy our own private stashes that we don’t have to pay a penny for.
Unofficialstowe.com would like to thanks Elizabeth McClure for her contributions! Great First Post Liz!