When the ski gods smile and a carpet of white snow covers Vermont’s green mountains, thousands of skiers and snowboarders pack their gear and head to the slopes. On weekends, however, visitors find themselves spending time on long lift lines rather than the powdered trails.
Entrepreneurs Jim and Donna Barnes had a better idea: Why not create a private ski club where a limited number of members and their families could enjoy the best of winter as well as year round activities? In 2007, they bought the Hermitage Inn in Wilmington, Vermont and gradually purchased properties around it. In 2011, they acquired the Haystack Club and rebranded the entire property — The Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain.
Located within a few hours drive from New York, Connecticut, and Boston, the property rests on a 1,400-acre enclave spanning West Dover and Wilmington. It is the only private ski club on the East Coast, and attracts upscale residents from the major metropolitan areas.
The number one benefit of the club is uncrowded skiing and “zero” lift lines, a privilege for which members are willing to pay an $85,000 initiation fee and yearly dues of $8,500 per family. Many members have already built their own vacation homes on the property or purchased slope-side condos. New developments, including a ski-in, ski-out hotel are being added, while management carefully monitors and expands the mountain’s capacity.
The focal point of the resort is its clubhouse, a four-floor, 80,000 square foot building overlooking the mountain and sprawling vistas beyond. The clubhouse’s main level is a supersized dining room set around a soaring four-sided stone fireplace. Other levels feature a full service spa, state-of-the-art fitness center with lap pool, movie theater, children’s play areas, as well as services such as a ski valet, day care center and even a business center.
Next to the clubhouse, skiers can hop on the recently installed high speed Barnstormer, a six-passenger bubble-enclosed heated lift that whisks them to the mountaintop in minutes.
Snow quality is another major attraction. Since slopes are open only on weekends, during the week a dedicated team grooms, grades and “caresses” the snow to perfect conditions. At the Hermitage Club, they believe ice belongs in a cocktail glass, not on the slopes.
Visitors also frequent the resort to dine in its fine restaurants, all open to both members and the public. At the helm of the Hermitage Club‘s cuisine is Executive Chef Chris Bonnivier, a veteran chef who has worked at Michelin rated European establishments and at some of the highest ranked restaurants at inns and resorts in the U.S. Chef Bonnivier is committed to a farm-to-table approach, sourcing mostly local and New England ingredients. His elaborate dishes are a symphony of textures, flavors and colors.
If your are not yet a club member, you can still enjoy the private facilities, including the ski lifts, by staying at one of the inns operated by the club: Hermitage Inn, White House Inn, Snow Goose Inn, Inn at Sawmill Farm, Vermont House and Brook Bound Lodge. Our favorite was the Whitehouse Inn, an historic mansion built in 1915 and lovingly preserved and restored to its original glory. Visit their respective websites for room types and decor as no two rooms are alike.
YOUR DAY AT THE RESORT
You are here for skiing, but after a few downhill runs, it’s time to take a break from the slopes. Leave your ski boots in your heated locker and grab a chair by the floor-to-ceiling windows. Order your favorite cocktail or coffee and watch the winter wonderland scenery and the excited skiers flying by. When you get hungry, head to the Chef’s Kitchen for a fast made-to-order salad, sandwich or burger. Enjoy a leisurely a-la-carte gourmet lunch or just nibble on the creative sushi rolls and sashimi. On Sundays, depending on guest occupancy, experience a lavish buffet brunch with multiple stations ranging from breakfast favorites to chilled seafood, baby back ribs and more.
If your body aches from too much skiing or you just want some pampering, head to the club’s state-of-the-art spa. Soothe your muscles with an after ski massage or treat yourself to a rejuvenating facial. Enjoy the steam and sauna rooms and unwind in the coed relaxation room, a cave-like sanctuary with a murmuring waterfall. After that, you can still get in a few afternoon runs. Conclude your day with an elegant dinner at one of their fine restaurants.
The Hermitage Club is a year round retreat, with plenty of activities for every season including private golf, hiking, watersports and almost any outdoor activity you may think off.
So if you’re looking for an upscale skiing experience, or just a weekend escape in beautiful lower Vermont, the Hermitage Club is your ideal destination. For information and reservations visit http://hermitageclub.com.