“As the largest employer in the Mad River Valley and one of the largest in Washington County, we hope that those who represent us both in Washington, DC and in Montpelier understand our business and are open to listening when we have issues with which we may need their help. Both our senators who represent Vermont in Washington and our sole congressman have always been available and supportive of the ski industry. Unfortunately, we have found that to be less the case when it comes to our own state government. Last year was a particularly troubling legislative session for the ski industry and had it not been for several gubernatiorial vetoes we would have seen our sustainability seriously impacted. As a locally owned and operated business, we are facing growing challenges as our industry consolidates. Some of the legislation proposed would have increased our costs significantly and made it far more difficult for us to compete with the larger out of state owned competitors.
One bill in particfular was extremely concerning – S-105. While it began with good intentions of preventing unreasonable clauses in employment contracts, its final language would have seriously undermined the enforceability of participant agreements and waivers that we and all other recreational activities and events depend upon for legal protection. This would have been true for both Vermont businesses like us, non-profits like The Special Olympics and the Green Mountain Valley School, and events, like the Mad Marathon and Green Mountain Stage Race that bring visitors and their business to the Mad River Valley. Cross country and alpine ski areas, guide services, trail-based organizations, recreational event providers, environmental and educational programs, college outing groups, land owners, and summer camps all use participant agreements and waivers for protection under the law when a participant in the activity has agreed to assume the associated inherent risks. These entities depend on a strong legislation to help enforce these agreements and waivers. This bill would have made it easier for recreation participants to sue in out of state jurisdictions were juries are less likely to understand our business, and it would have made it more difficult and costly for recreation providers to secure adequate liability insurance.
Of those representing us in Montpelier, only Ed Read understood the unintended consequences of S-105. Others told us not to worry – you are not the focus of this legislation. Our attorneys and insurance agents told us otherwise. An amendment was actually introduced to exempt recreational activities, but this was voted down and the bill passed the House with only Ed from Washington County voting against it. Fortunately, the bill was vetoed by Governor Phil Scott.
Ed demonstrated that he was capable of understanding a complex issue that could have impacted the economy of the Valley as well as Vermont as a State. This demonstrated to me how important it is to have Ed as a representative of the Mad River Valley.
On Tuesday, October 30th, the Mad River Chamber of Commerce is hosting a discussion on the changing environment of the ski industry. It will be held in Sugarbush’s Gatehouse Lodge from 5-7 p.m. I, along with Matt Lillard from Mad River Glen and Molly Mahar, President of the Vermont Ski Areas Association, will be on a panel to discuss this and take questions from the audience. The entire Valley community is invited, and we also hope that all of those running for office in Washington County will attend to gain more insight into an important economic driver of our region.”