Speak Out: In the Wake of Irene

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November 2011


Surviving Irene
Tropical Storm Irene did its worst damage across upstate New York and northern New England in late August, but it brought out the best in people and businesses-including the ski biz.

Resorts were mostly spared. (For some exceptions, see "Construction Site," page 56.) But many down-valley towns were hit hard. And almost without exception, resorts lent a hand in community recovery efforts.

First, though, areas tended to the welfare of their employees. "Immediately after the storm, the call went out, internally at Okemo, for donations to assist staff members who were in need," says PR chief Bonnie McPherson. "We had a couple of staff members lose their homes and all the contents. And sadly, we had one associate who lost his life to Tropical Storm Irene."

Okemo mobilized its staff and began rebuilding roads and assisting neighbors with cleanup. The resort helped sponsor a Phish concert fundraiser, established a flood relief fund, and raised $10,000 through a previously-scheduled music festival.

Mount Snow and Stratton provided free housing and shelter for those who were displaced. Killington provided housing and raised $27,000 for the VT Farm Relief Fund. In the Mad River Valley, Sugarbush and Mad River helped with clean-up and Sugarbush donated $100,000 to the Community Fund.
Plattekill Mountain, N.Y., also pitched in. "We packed up our skidsteers, etc., on trailers and helped clean parking lots, driveways, school tennis courts, etc., and volunteered at local food and clothing distribution centers," says spokeswoman Danielle Vatjay. The area collected donations from mountain bikers for flood relief, and donated 50 percent of ticket sales on Labor Day weekend.

Windham Mountain hosted a Hurricane Relief Benefit Dinner & Auction in early October to support the Town of Windham's recovery efforts; that yielded nearly $172,000. The area provided workers and equipment whenever it had manpower to spare, and hosted a Red Cross shelter for more than 100 on the second floor of the base lodge. As area businesses reopened, Windham's communication outlets got the message out.

Windham itself received several offers of assistance. Hunter's Russ Coloton and Bruce Transue visited the day after the storm to offer help. Laszlo Vatjay, of Ski Plattekill, Ted Blazer of ORDA, and several industry suppliers also called to help.

And these are just a few examples of how businesses and locals came together to help each other out. No doubt, there are still scars, and it will be years before all the damage has been cleaned up. But the overall recovery demonstrates the well-earned reputation of easterners as resilient and can-do kind of people.
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