For Chuck Vanderstreet, it’s all action
by Janet Essman Franz
Chuck Vanderstreet, manager of the health and fitness center, country club, and ski areas owned by the Woodstock Inn & Resort, had never been on a pair of skis when he moved to Vermont 25 years ago. Nowadays, with Suicide Six in his back yard — and under his watch — he never misses a chance.
Community groups in the Woodstock region are thankful for Chuck Vanderstreet. They know they can count on him to volunteer at events, serve on committees and raise funds for local causes. He’s been doing just that for 22 years, ever since he was hired to direct sports facilities for the Woodstock Inn and Resort, the owner of Suicide Six Ski Area. In his post, he remains dedicated to Woodstock’s civic programs and a steadfast supporter of local youth recreation.
The resort’s amenities include not only Suicide Six, but also an alpine ski area in South Pomfret, three miles from Woodstock’s village; a Nordic ski center with 60 kilometers of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, which doubles in warm months as an 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Sr. golf course; and a fully outfitted health and racquet club. The resort also features a historic inn on the
Woodstock village green that offers AAA Four Diamond lodging, four restaurants, and a spa scheduled for groundbreaking this fall. A resort shuttle transports visitors between the inn and sports facilities.
The resort was developed by Laurance S. Rockefeller, who purchased the 1792-era inn, golf club, and alpine ski area in the 1960s and created a lodging and recreational complex. Rockefeller Family Associates owned the resort until last January, when ownership was transferred to the Woodstock Foundation.
Suicide Six Ski Area has its own claim to fame and place in history. In 1934, a group of Woodstock locals led by Wallace “Bunny” Bertram rigged a Ford Model-T engine to tow a rope up a hill in Clinton Gilbert’s pasture. Two years later, Bertram put the rope tow on a steep hill marked “No. 6” on a topographic map. The area became known as Suicide Six. Bertram operated it until 1961, when he sold it to Rockefeller. That same year, Rockefeller also purchased the Woodstock Country Club, which he developed into the Nordic ski touring center.
Today’s Suicide Six is a family ski area with 23 trails divided among beginner, intermediate, and expert terrain; modern snowmaking; and active lesson and racing programs. It is small by Vermont standards, with just 100 skiable acres and a 650-foot vertical drop. The cozy base lodge features an indoor and outdoor stone fireplace. “We’re known for having good food in the cafeteria,” says Vanderstreet. “Kids love our french fries and hot chocolate.”
Jason Moyer, the restaurant chef at Suicide Six and the Woodstock Golf Club, takes a breather to joke with Paula Boulrice, the food and beverage supervisor.
While the Woodstock Inn and Resort is a popular vacation destination for out-of-state travelers, Suicide Six and the Nordic Center cater to Vermonters. Local residents buy season passes, take ski lessons, participate in ski racing programs, and play outdoors with their families. Each Friday afternoon in the winter, hundreds of schoolchildren come to Suicide Six and the Nordic Center to take lessons taught by local volunteers. The resort is one of the area’s major employers, and it is vital to the local economy, Vanderstreet says.
The close-knit Vermont community is worlds apart from the environment where Vanderstreet grew up. He was born and raised in Brockton, Mass., and went to “the largest high school east of the Mississippi,” he says. “With 5,500 kids, it was like going to school in a small city.” His upbringing was humble: His father was a fireman; his mother, an office secretary; and he was their only child. The family lived in apartments until he was a teen. “We bought our first house when I was in high school, and that was a big deal for us,” he says.
As a youth, Vanderstreet did not ski, but he shone in team sports. In high school he ran cross-country and played baseball and basketball. He went to college at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, where he majored in health and physical education and played basketball.
“I was a 1,000-point scorer. Back then that was a pretty good accomplishment,” he says. After college graduation in 1977, Vanderstreet returned to Brockton to work for the local YMCA, where he led exercise classes, and supervised sports and fitness programs for adults and children. He married his college sweetheart, Linda, who moved to Brockton from Long Island, N.Y. In 1980 their first child, Jason, was born.
The cross-country ski area plays host to croquet matches in summer. The Woodstock Inn & Resort is a member of the U.S. Croquet Association.
That YMCA job became a springboard for launching Vanderstreet’s career in community and resort recreation. When his boss left the Y to form a company that manages health clubs and helped open the sports center at Stratton Mountain, he offered Vanderstreet a job as sports center director. In 1983, he says, “I packed up my wife and my small child and we moved to Stratton.” A second son, Ryan, was born in 1984.
During his three years at Stratton, Vanderstreet learned to ski. His first time out was with his brother-in-law on an expert trail, which, he says with a grin, encouraged him to improve his skills. “He took me down a black diamond run on my very first run! It gave me motivation to learn how to ski so that would never happen to me again.”
At Stratton, Vanderstreet also became adept at managing a multifaceted sports and fitness facility. In 1986, when the Woodstock Inn was building a 40,000-square-foot sports complex to complement its lodging, golf course, and ski area, the inn’s president, club manager, and controller turned to Vanderstreet for advice. They visited the Stratton Sports Center to observe the operation and ask him about his challenges, successes, and equipment recommendations.
“I spent a whole day with them,” he says, “and I really liked these guys. After that, on my own, I traveled from Stratton to Woodstock to check out the construction and operation. As soon as I saw the town of Woodstock, I fell in love with the place. The facility was magnificent, and the setting was fantastic, nestled in the Kedron valley here.”
The community impressed him even more. “Woodstock has a town and a nice village. At the center of town is the Woodstock Inn, and a short walk from the inn is the golf club, and a short walk from there is the racquet and fitness club, all of which are part of the resort. The school system is close to town and the town has a recreation department.”
He realized that Woodstock had a lot more to offer his family than Stratton did, he says, so he applied, and was swiftly hired as sports center director. “Then we bought five acres of land and had a house built in West Woodstock,” he adds.
Jim Gunnare is the Golf Club’s PGA professional. His boss, Chuck Vanderstreet, has his office at the golf club from April through October, then moves to Suicide Six Ski Area from November through March.
Vanderstreet quickly became immersed in the community. He coached Farm League and Little League baseball and basketball at his sons’ elementary school. With his wife, he volunteered for high school boosters, organizing bottle drives, car washes, and fruit sales to raise money for team uniforms and equipment.
He joined Woodstock Associates, a nonprofit group of local business leaders that guides community projects, from improving street signage to providing programs for children. He’s president of the group.
Woodstock Associates oversees a trust that funds the town recreation department, where Vanderstreet still referees basketball. In the early 1990s, the recreation center named Chuck and Linda Vanderstreet Volunteers of the Year.
“Chuck’s a guy who jumps in there and makes a community like this work. He’s very popular and approachable,” says Ron Jaynes, who owns a custom home-building company in Woodstock and serves on Woodstock Associates. A longtime member of the Woodstock Inn golf club and fitness center, Jaynes has known Vanderstreet since he came to work at the resort. “I think of Chuck as a positive guy who is eager and anxious to help. He is called upon frequently to help the nonprofits that make Woodstock the active place that it is.”
Promoted in 1994 to manager of the golf club, ski area, and racquet and fitness club, Vanderstreet reports to Chet Williamson, the resort’s president and general manager. Vanderstreet oversees a team of supervisors who run the day-to-day operations of each facility. His responsibilities range from monitoring capital improvements to establishing marketing goals to developing membership promotions. From November through March, his office is located at Suicide Six Ski Area, and in April he moves to the golf club.
“Some people say I have the best job in the world. My biggest problem now is, with managing all the different areas around the resort, it gets in the way of my recreating,” he says, only half joking. He does find time for skiing, golf, and tending his large vegetable garden. Now that their sons are grown, he and Linda enjoy traveling to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic on golf and beach vacations. Sons Jason and Ryan, both of whom live in the Boston region, visit frequently. “I love to shoot hoops with the boys when they come home,” he says.
On the job, weather and fuel prices present Vanderstreet’s most difficult challenges. Both influence customers’ decisions on recreation, and they directly affect the resort’s expenses. Making snow at Suicide Six requires a huge amount of fuel, so a good snow year means a lower utility bill. “This past winter was the best year ever, revenue-wise, at Suicide Six,” he says. “We had early and often snowfalls in December and January, and we didn’t have to make snow at all in February and March. Our utility costs at the resort have skyrocketed with increasing prices for oil and gas. We’re going to have to watch the weather closely and make sure we have a long stretch of cold weather before we make snow.”
At 53, Vanderstreet has no plans to retire. He only hopes to find a way between meetings to spend more time working out at the racquet and fitness club. That way he can stay in shape for skiing, golf, and refereeing basketball for the town children. •