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Downhill ethics: Free skiing at Cannon, for some

January 21. 2012 10:13PM

No wonder the privatization of Cannon Mountain meets with such resistance among New Hampshire legislators. They are skiing there, for free.

That assessment may not be totally fair. Some legislators may actually have good reasons for opposing privatization of the state-owned and run mountain. But the perception of one hand washing the other is very much the conclusion people will draw from this freebie, and who can blame them?

Ski lift tickets are no cheap thing. An adult one-day ticket at Cannon costs $68. And that puts this perk well over the $25 limit that the state ethics law allows. So ruled Ethics Committee chairman Martin Gross this month.

In fact, Cannon has been giving free lift tickets not just to each legislator who wants one, but to a 'guest' each day as well. No wonder the number of free ski days at Cannon doubled in the last six years. Cannon, as it happens, also is one of the state's finest ski areas.

But some legislators are in high dudgeon over Attorney Gross' ruling.

'It doesn't make sense having such a stringent condition on legislators,' sputtered Rep. Edmond Gionet, R-Lincoln. He may have a special reason to gripe. He is not just a legislator but a member of the Cannon Mountain Advisory Commission, whose members each receive FIVE free ski passes to Cannon.

Rep. Kathleen Taylor, D-Franconia, also enjoys skiing for free at Cannon in her backyard.

'The $25 rule or value limit was for lobbyists or companies trying to influence us,' she told the Sunday News. 'This is a state entity.'

And a state entity, over which you have legislative authority, wouldn't and couldn't possibly influence you, Rep. Taylor?

Cannon general manager John DeVivo, understandably, doesn't view free skiing as a legislative perk.

'We want (legislators) to be very well-informed as to what is happening at Cannon and why,' he explained.

Sure. You can't expect legislators to be well-informed about a slope with snow on it if they don't get to ski there, for free, whenever they want.

What to do? Being legislators, some have proposed a legislative remedy. They want to change the law to exempt their free ski tickets from the ethics rule.

That may be, pardon the expression, a bit of a slippery slope and not in the Legislature's best interests.

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