New Haystack Owner Wants To Make It Members-Only Resort
12/02/11 5:50PM By Susan Keese  Download MP3
(Host) The shuttered Haystack Ski Area has a new owner who plans to turn the complex into an exclusive, members-only resort.
As VPR's Susan Keese reports, those plans could mean an economic boost for southern Vermont's flood-ravaged Deerfield Valley.
(Keese) Haystack has a Dover address, but much of the resort spills over into Wilmington. The Hermitage Inn's recreation area meets the Haystack land at the border between the towns.
Jim Barnes, a Connecticut businessman, bought the Hermitage in 2007. He's turned it into a popular destination.
This October, Barnes paid $6.5 million for the Haystack ski area and golf club. He says visitors will soon be able to ski off the mountain to the inn.
(Barnes) "For us, you know the Haystack acquisition made a whole lot of sense because literally the trails go there, the roads go there and it can really be a natural extension of what the Hermitage is starting to become."
(Keese) Haystack has been closed for six or seven years, though its golf course has stayed open.
The mountain's previous owner tried twice to develop it as a members only ski club, with million dollar homes and $80,000 membership fees.
The club opened briefly for skiing in 2009, but had to close because of a water dispute with nearby Mount Snow.
But Barnes has settled that issue, and now intends to resurrect the members-only plan. He's lowered some prices - the 450 planned homes and condos will now start at $650,000.
He thinks he can succeed because he's got momentum and something to show, rather than just drawings and plans.
(Barnes) The Hermitage has gained a great reputation as a quality inn and restaurant and we have homes that we have built and are continuing to build surrounding the property and sales are going very well. So people like the idea of this lifestyle."
(Keese) Bill Colvin is the Economic Development specialist for Dover and Wilmington.
(Colvin)"I think a lot of people know Mr. Barnes, ...and I think people are, optimistic or at a minimum cautiously optimistic that things will go as planned and this will be a positive development for the region."
Barnes says downtown Wilmington will be important to the resort. He says it may be possible to include some redevelopment funds in his own financing to help restore empty storefronts left by the recent flood.
(Barnes) "I have to tell you it's one of the most quaint intersections I've been to in the United States. So, I think just everyone wants to see that rebuilt and returned to a place where you see people walking and shopping and dining."
(Keese) Barnes expects the mountain to be open weekends, starting later this month.
The ski area is promising uncrowded slopes to prospective members, but will offer 250 lift tickets per day at reduced prices for residents of Wilmington and Dover.For VPR News, I'm Susan Keese