gunstock resort
Gunstock's Panorama High Speed Quad; (photo/Clapus via Wiki Commons)

‘Nuclear Option:’ Entire NH Ski Resort Management Team Quits at Once

Barbed relations between multiple managing groups, including state entities, boiled over at New Hampshire’s Gunstock Resort on June 20.

Gunstock Resort took a massive staffing blow in June, when each management member, from the president and general manager Tom Day on down, quit their job in one fell swoop. The staffing calamity puts an exclamation point on a virulent dispute that stems from the resort’s unique management structure and terminates its summer operations.

Gunstock Adventure Park at Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford, N.H. closed on July 21 and will remain closed until further notice. That’s after the resort’s entire management team resigned during a meeting the previous evening.

Tom Day served as the location’s president and general manager until resigning amid mounting turmoil between his team and a five-member board of appointees called the Gunstock Area Commission (GAC). Day issued his 2-weeks’ notice along with six other upper management professionals including Gunstock’s chief financial officer, facilities operations director, and marketing director.

Resigning was a “nuclear option,” Day told the Laconia Daily Sun. “We didn’t want to do this.”

Who Actually Runs Gunstock?

The reasons they did it boil down to prickly bureaucratic misgivings.

The GAC has existed since the 1950s. Because Belknap County owns the resort, its County Delegation (a budget-focused group of N.H. state legislators) chooses the five appointees who sit on the Commission for 5-year terms. The GAC’s stated task is “managing [the resort] as a financially independent, self-sustaining organization.”

The current GAC appointees gradually ran afoul of Gunstock Mountain Resort management. According to the New England Ski Journal, tensions escalated when the GAC tried to wrestle control over day-to-day operations away from Day’s team.

At one June meeting, GAC vice chair Dr. David Strang outright asked Day who was in charge of the resort. Day replied, “I am.” Strang retorted, “I disagree, and I’m very concerned that you’re in charge of the mountain. What role do you think that the commission has?”

According to New Hampshire Public Radio, the role the commission has recently played has been political. Under the leadership of controversial County Chair Michael Sylvia, the Delegation itself has fought for financial control over the resort in recent months.

Sylvia is a five-term state lawmaker with a developing reputation as a fringe conservative. He previously signed a document declaring the state government illegitimate and made headlines for using racist language during a campaign to get New Hampshire to secede from the United States.

Now, he’s brought his fiery attitudes into meetings regarding Gunstock’s future. Sylvia has accused some of its now-former management team of criminal defamation, improper influence, conspiracy, and alleged various other wrongdoings against them, per NHPR. He also dismissed some of the people opposing the delegation’s recent actions at Gunstock as “Marxists” seeking to protect the interests of the elite.

Said actions, according to NHPR, focus around controlling operations through GAC. But while the delegation alleged financial mismanagement and a lack of transparency, locals didn’t exactly join its rallying cry.

 

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Last winter, the mountain reported a record-setting season, and Day’s team worked alongside the GAC to develop a plan to nearly double its rideable terrain. All of that led the public to voice clear opposition to the delegation’s plan to transfer full financial control of the resort to the County.

‘Lost Trust’ and Lost Employees

State governor Chris Sununu echoed his constituents’ feelings in an open letter on June 21, the day Gunstock announced its closure.

“Members of the Gunstock Area Commission have lost the trust of the citizens of Belknap County. These individuals have made bad decisions, and until they are removed from their positions and replaced with good people who recognize the wonderful asset that Gunstock is, the County will continue to suffer,” Sununu wrote.

He added that opportunities in the state parks department awaited Day and his team. “As someone who has worked in the resort industry, I can say without hesitation that the management team at Gunstock who submitted their resignations yesterday are among the best New Hampshire has to offer, and the loss of their expertise will be felt at Gunstock for years to come,” he concluded.

At the meeting, Day reached the boiling point when organizers directed him and his team to seats in the audience, rather than at their own table as usual. Day asked the reason for the new arrangement. When commissioner Peter Ness said “We just did that to be more consistent with the way other delegations and committees work,” Day put in his two weeks.

“I’d like to tender my resignation and give my two weeks’ notice,” Day said. “It seems there’s a lot more control that wants to come from your side of it so I feel that my role here is diminished.”

One by one, the other six Gunstock management employees followed suit.

Gunstock Area Commission Responds

In a statement, Ness wrote, “The GAC planned discussions with management about ongoing expansion plans. Instead of discussing those plans, the GAC was met with an unsolicited and spontaneous resignation by senior managers and a commissioner. The GAC will not speculate as to why those persons took those actions.”

Faced with the resort’s closure and any resulting backlash, he wrote “in light of [Wednesday] night’s unprecedented actions, the GAC is developing plans to ensure Gunstock’s continued operations as seamlessly as possible. The GAC’s objectives are to remain open, continue employment of valuable staff, provide guests with exceptional experiences and fulfill the GAC’s obligations to the taxpayers by securing financial stability of the Gunstock Mountain Resort.”

Ness added that “Gunstock has an important legacy in the ski industry’s history and the GAC intends to maintain that legacy.”

But as of now, the resort’s future remains unclear. So do those of the 65 full-time, year-round employees and 150 seasonal employees who work there.

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Sam Anderson
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Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.