Vermonters own our mountains and we want the world to enjoy them too. So we generously allow many ski resort operators and, in some cases, the resort’s parent corporation, to lease them from us.
This past ski season was a record-breaking one for Vermont’s ski industry. With 4.67 million skiers flocking to our state, our resorts made record profits. But did you know that Vermonters don’t benefit much at all from the ski industry’s higher profits?
Early in 2015, Vermont State Auditor Doug Hoffer released the findings of an investigation that showed some of the leases the state signed with major ski resorts are outdated and that payments have actually declined over the years, when adjusted for inflation. This has resulted in the resorts enjoying some very lucrative deals, which has allowed them to expand and reap higher profits.
Vermont Senator Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) had the courage this session to pen a letter to the ski industry, asking the owners of Bromley, Okemo, Killington, Stowe, Smuggler’s Notch, Burke and Jay Peak to willingly reopen lease negotiations, even though their leases don’t expire for several decades. Ashe wrote, “the ski world of the lease’s origin would be unrecognizable today.” Auditor Hoffer supported Ashe’s effort, saying, “I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone to ask the question ‘are taxpayers getting a fair term?’”
So what was the ski industry’s response to renegotiating their outdated leases and giving a little more to help Vermont better weather these tough economic times? A non-starter… not going to happen.
A smack in the face to the Vermont taxpayers who generously allow these resort operators to lease our mountains. Instead of supporting the request for resorts to give a little more, Governor Shumlin, most lawmakers and elected officials were silent.
But the Governor and others had no issues with asking VSEA members to help generate money for Vermont by reopening their contracts (which were just negotiated in good faith) or risk more public service and job cuts.
VSEA members and other working Vermonters are frustrated that our lawmakers and elected officials continued this session to rely heavily on cuts to state services and positions to address Vermont’s ongoing budget deficits. As VSEA members have said repeatedly, Vermont cannot continue to just hack away at public services to bring down the deficit, especially in these tough economic times when so many more Vermonters are in need.
This past session, VSEA members introduced several proposals to generate new revenue for Vermont, and while some were adopted, many were not, including a $2 increase on a hotel night’s stay, which would have raised the revenue needed to prevent cuts to things like 911 emergency services or services for the blind and disabled.
So while Vermonters in need continue to see their services cut, and state employees are being asked to reopen and amend their contracts to find the State some money, you have to wonder…
Will Vermont’s Ski Industry Finally Be Asked To Renegotiate Their Leases After A Record-Breaking Year?
Send a message today to Vermont Ski Areas Association, asking the organization to reconsider its opposition to making these resorts’ outdated leases better reflect the economic boon they are experiencing.
Vermonters know that the public sector has given more and more to keep Vermont afloat financially, but now it is time for the private sector to step up, especially these ski resorts. Vermonters own our mountains and it’s only because of our generosity that these resorts are able to enjoy record-breaking seasons.
We urge you to also make this same request to your local Vermont legislators. Find a listing and contact information here.
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