As Gunstock turmoil continues, mountain's future remains cloudy
Gunstock Area Commission Chairman Peter Ness resigned Friday, the latest development in the long-running feud over control of the Belknap-County owned Gunstock Mountain Resort.
Ness, of Belmont, had an antagonistic relationship with the top Gunstock Mountain Resort managers who resigned en masse last week, complaining of improper micromanagement by the commission that oversees operations at the mountain and by the lawmakers who appoint the commission.
Ness’s exit is the latest turn in the fight for control over Gunstock, which now also involves not just local and county officials, but Gov. Chris Sununu.
Sununu, whose family owns the Waterville Valley resort, last week called for Ness and other commissioners to be removed, and for the defeat of some libertarian-leaning Belknap County lawmakers – including county delegation chair Rep. Michael Sylvia, a Free State Project member – who he sees as hostile to Gunstock.
“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 said last week.
Sununu has since derided some of the Belknap Country lawmakers involved in the Gunstock fight as “crazy.”
“There are individuals that don’t believe in government. They don’t believe in America. They don’t believe in the Republican Party. They don’t believe in anything that we really stand for, so there really is no reasoning or rationalizing with them,” Sununu said Wednesday.
Sylvia, meanwhile, has called into question a $500 donation by Tom Day, Gunstock’s former general manager, written on a Gunstock check to Sununu’s 2020 campaign.
“Since Gunstock is owned by Belknap County, all of its funds are public monies and using public dollars to support a political campaign is clearly improper and possibly violative of law,” Sylvia said in a statement.
Sununu’s campaign has defended the contribution as perfectly legal.
The Belknap County Commission, which oversees all county finances but has no direct management of Gunstock Resort, has asked Attorney General John Formella to monitor Gunstock’s bank accounts. A spokesman for the Attorney General’s office has said it is looking into several matters about Gunstock that it is investigating.
The Commission asked Sylvia Thursday to schedule a meeting of the delegation of state lawmakers from Belknap County. In addition to items dealing with resignations and removals, the proposed agenda contains a single item: “Process for reopening Gunstock to full capacity.”
That’s a topic on the minds of many people in Belknap County right now. The resort is one of the largest employers in the region and a major tourism attraction.
Doug Webster, manager of Gunstock’s ski shop, says if he waits much longer to order the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ski gear he’d expect to sell in a normal year, it might not be available. He says it’s hard to do business now, with no clarity about Gunstock’s future.
“We have to be able to make decisions and go, and there’s no one here to go to right now,” Webster said.