It started off with a vision Jim Barnes had for a swank private ski club, The Hermitage Club, on the slopes of the defunct Haystack Mountain ski area, in southern Vermont’s Deerfield Valley. On Friday, July 26 it was announced that The Hermitage Club assets would be sold by a court-appointed trustee.
The Hermitage Club came to life in 2011 with a stunning 90,000-square- foot timber-frame clubhouse with plush carpets,$15,000 worth of antler chandeliers, private lockers done in polished wood, a vast, elegant dining area, fitness center and spa. Six lifts covered 45 trails, including the nation’s first six-passenger, heated Doppelmayr bubble lift. On March 29th, 2015 there was a reservation party at the club, for the soon to be built Hotel Hermitage – a luxurious 95 unit hotel/condominium that was expected to be available to members and their guests by December 2016.
The classic Inn at Sawmill Farm of West Dover was added to the property to house guests in 21 elegant rooms. The nearby Deerfield Valley airport was refurbished so guests could fly in on private planes. There was a concert series featuring such national acts as The Counting Crows.
It was all available to members only— those willing to pay the $65,000. as well as fees on top of that (such as $1300 for a locker rental) for a “Family Legacy Membership.”
In 2017, The Wall Street Journal called it a “Discreetly Fashionable New England Getaway.”
But over the last two years, The Hermitage Club has faced a host of legal and financial challenges. In February 2018 Berkshire Bank started foreclosure proceedings and the resort was shut down in 2018 by the state, after owing more than $1 million in back taxes. In February 2019, the Hermitage Club was also charged with paying $40,000 in restitution to a whistleblower who charged that Jim Barnes had engaged in illegal accounting.
In June 2018, the Inn at Sawmill Farm went on the auction block. In May 2019 two Hermitage Club entities filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and on Friday, July 26, a judge granted a motion to convert a bankruptcy case to “a Chapter 7 liquidation and ordered the appointment of a trustee to oversee the sale process,” according to reporting by Chris Mays in the Brattleboro Reformer.
The question now is what’s next? The club joins Jay Peak and Burke Mountain Resort on the list of Vermont resorts that are now being managed by a court-appointed trustee or receiver. And it joins now-defunct Plymouth Notch as one of two private ski clubs in Vermont that will be on the market. (A third, the Quechee Club. in the Woodstock area, appears active and financially stable).
However, the sale comes at a time when Vail Resorts recently announced its purchase of Mount Snow, as well as 16 other resorts under Peak Resorts ownership, for $264 million and there is a history of Mount Snow and Haystack Mountain, which are sharing ownership.
From 1991 to 2005, Haystack was owned by the same companies that owned Mount Snow—first S-K-I, then the American Skiing Company. ASC sold it in 2005 for $5 million to a group of local investors, including Jim Barnes.