I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I accepted an invitation to dine, sleep, and ski at The Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain, an exclusive members-only ski club in West Dover, Vermont, but I knew that it was most likely going to be pretty wonderful on the official “How Wonderful Is It?” scale.
A snowcat ride to the peak, a hard-hat tour of the under-construction Clubhouse, dining in the wine cellar, breakfast at the inn, skiing on fresh corduroy, maybe a little cross-country skiing: Okay, twist my arm; I’ll go.
Quite a few ski resorts in New England offer members-only ski clubs. But as soon as the members’ skis or boards touch snow, they are amongst the masses. At Haystack, only members can ski or ride the trails. That means when you are on snow at Haystack it seems like you have the mountain to yourself because there are no lift lines and no crowds. The marketing materials promise fresh corduroy till 3 o’clock. (They groom trails mid-day if needed.) The day I skied Haystack, they delivered on their corduroy promise.
Haystack Mountain opened as a ski area in the 60s and like many resorts has had different owners over the years, and lots of iterations and some lofty plans around what type of ski resort it would be. That’s not unusual with the ski business. Before the current owner Jim Barnes got involved, the mountain was run as a private ski club and there were plans to invest $450 million. Those plans did not happen. Jim purchased The Hermitage Inn in 2007. In 2011, he purchased Haystack Mountain and its golf course. The Tage — a new quad chairlift — and the Hermitage Club Ski Home Trail connect Haystack Mountain to the Inn. Jim also purchased the nearby airport.
Currently, The Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain is the only private ski club in Vermont. To put things in perspective on membership dues, The Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana, also operates as a private ski club. According to an article on CNBC.com by Collen Kane written in November 2012: “Membership costs $300,000. Then there’s the annual dues of $30,000, plus the required property purchase of a $2.5 million condo, a custom mansion, or a ranch that costs more than $10 million. (Residents can get their membership fees back if they sell their property.) There also used to be a minimum requirement of $3 million in liquid assets, according The New York Times.”
Memberships at The Hermitage Club start at $80,000 in 2018 and annual dues make that number even higher. Memberships are capped at 1,500. Because this is a four-season resort, not just a ski club, members have access to year-round recreational activities. In the summer, the sport is golf and members tee up on an 18-hole, Desmond Muirhead-designed championship golf course.
Also in the works during my visit in 2014, an 80,000 square-foot Clubhouse with dining, lockers, luxury spa and fitness center, pool and kids’ center. (It’s now open as the Wellness Center).
Perhaps you aren’t ready or able to invest in an exclusive private club. Non-members can stay at The Hermitage Inn, a 19th century Vermont farmhouse transformed into an elegant four-star inn. Guests at the Inn can enjoy activities and amenities (there is a fee for some) during their stay.
Fall and winter activities at the Inn include:
Sauna and Hot Tubs
Kids Snowmobile Adventure
Downhill Skiing at Haystack Mountain
Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides
Spring and summer activities at the Inn include:
Hiking and Bicycling
The Hermitage Inn is already a popular wedding spot. When the new hotel and Clubhouse open, The Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain will be able to accommodate larger groups and events year-round. With the world-class facilities, this is sure to be an excellent corporate event location.
And the food. Well, these pictures speak louder than my typed words. (Warning: Don’t drool on your phone. Also, the “B” should be capitalized in Brussels sprouts, but I am sure you get my point.)
As I guessed, my visit to The Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain hit the top of the “How Wonderful Is It?” scale. And here is my parting shot.
Have you ever experienced The Hermitage Club at Haystack Mountain in West Dover, Vermont?
UPDATEThe Hermitage’s resort at Haystack Mountain, golf course, four inns and several townhouses, went into foreclosure in the winter of 2018 and are currently closed. Hermitage officials hope to reopen sometime in 2019. Learn MoreThis post was first published in 2014 and has been updated.