“The anger in that room was tangible. I mean, you could taste it.”–Sandra Mucci, Meredith Real Estate Agent on the Belknap County Gunstock Area Commission.
Back in December, I attended a meeting at Gunstock Mountain Resort that discussed their future plans. Their ambitions are massive: three new terrain zones, a slopeside hotel, new lifts, and much more. The catch to all this though is that Gunstock is run by the Belknap County Gunstock Area Commission, and the relationship with the local community is tense. New Hampshire Public Radio reported on how locals are frustrated with how poorly run the Belknap County Gunstock Area Commission is. The tensions come at a critical point for the mountain: visits were at an all-time high last season, and improvements and expansions are needed to maintain their comfortable carrying capacity.
Since 1959, the ski resort has been run by a five-person commission that is chosen by state representatives of Belknap County. Unfortunately, the board has become extremely political and has created a toxic environment. The committee has threatened to fire board members, and accused those who serve or opposed them of committing criminal activity. It is currently run by Mike Sylvia, who is a dingus. He signed onto a document that called New Hampshire’s state government illegitimate and called for New Hampshire to secede from the Union because of “those dirty Mexicans or Guatemalans or whatever are coming across the border and bringing COVID with them.”
Last month, Board member Brian Gallagher quit the committee over the dysfunction and tension that exists between them, the local community, and the ski resort. On Tuesday Night, the court-appointed Dr. David Strang to the board. Dr. Strang has a background in amateur ski racing and claims he would bring an independent perspective to the committee. In spite of his independent perspective, all individuals are from the same political party.
A few weeks ago, Belknap County representatives introduced a bill in the New Hampshire legislature that would the commission more control over the ski resorts budget. On Wednesday, the state house of representatives voted unanimously against the bill. Many say that the mountain is well managed, and were concerned that the bill would enact unnecessary control over the resort.
This news follows Gunstock’s massive expansion plans. Thirty-one new trails would be added, a slopeside hotel and glamping sites would be built, a road would be built to the summit that’s similar to the Mount Washington Auto Road, and more. The first phase of their plans, which were proposed to the county last week, will be the building of the hotel and the Eastside expansion area. This $18.65 million expansion would include the new slopeside hotel, “70 acres of new skiing terrain with snowmaking throughout, the construction of a 10,000-square-foot guest services building, and parking lot with room for 400 vehicles.” None of this will happen under the current Belknap County setup though, as they believe the resort is wasting money in spite of the ski resort not spending much money on improving the mountain over the last couple of seasons.
In my eyes, it’s time for Gunstcok to run without political oversight. The world we are living in will likely become more politicized, not less so. With so many ideas that would help grow the mountain into one of the most popular New England ski resorts, now is not the time for petty political battles. Image/Video Credits: Gunstock Mountain Resort, WMUR