Hometown Mountain Shoutout: Embracing Tradition at Mad River Glen, VT

Kenneth Condon |
A happy skier waves to the camera as they ride up the iconic Mad River Glen single chair.
image: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur, burlingtonfreepress.com

Nestled in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains, Mad River Glen remains a sanctuary for skiers and locals alike. Those holding on to the nostalgia of the fabled and now disappearing sleepy east coast ski town, flock to the Mad River Glen (MRG) single chair every winter to enjoy its unique beauty and the challenging terrain it provides. The iconic Vermont mountain sets itself apart from the wave of corporate and cash-hungry resorts by adhering to its history as a “skiers only” mountain and by being community owned. Talk to the locals ripping deep tele-turns through the Lower Glade and they’ll regale you in a tale of the ‘70s and ‘80s, when they skied a deep powder day on acid after watching a Grateful Dead show in Burlington the day prior. To them, times have changed but the mountain sure doesn’t look much different.

Mad River Glen’s history traces back to the 1940s by a group of investors who wanted to create a dedicated ski area in the region. The mountain remained relatively unchanged, sold and passed on twice, until in 1995 it was bought by a group of skiers and the Mad River Glen Cooperative was formed, marking a significant turning point in the ski area’s evolution. The innovative co-op model ensured that local skiers and the community had a direct say in its management and future. The cooperative system has remained in place ever since, making MRG one of the only skier-owned ski resorts in the United States.

One of the most iconic features of the mountain is the beloved ‘Single Chairlift’, a vintage lift that has been a symbol of the resort since its construction in 1948. First-time riders compare it to a time machine, transporting them up to the summit, and in a way, they wouldn’t be wrong.

Mad River Glen boasts a unique and distinct culture that sets it apart from typical corporate-run ski resorts. With a strong emphasis on preserving the mountain’s character, the community has committed itself to its founding principles and traditional aesthetics. This includes limiting commercial development and eschewing modern snowmaking and grooming practices — for better or worse, you can decide, but the locals won’t care. If you’re fortunate enough to land a ‘heavy’ 12-inch powder day on this legendary East Coast hill, you’ll hear the yips and howls of 50-plus-year-old skiers, locking deep drop knee tele-turns through the wooded powder stashes. Head back toward the mountain’s base, and, cutting through the cold winter air growing louder, you will begin to make out the ripping of guitar chords playing from the lodge speakers, bringing you back to the golden days of rock’n’roll. I’ve never heard the “Freebird” guitar solo played more often anywhere else in the world.

Skier jumps cliff into powder at Mad River Glen
Image: @jakecousteau_ | Ski The East

Conditions at Mad River Glen are known for their challenging and varied nature. Located in the snowbelt of the Green Mountains, the area receives an average of over 200 inches of natural snow annually. Most years the New England winter weather doesn’t let the fresh conditions stick around. The rugged terrain and limited snowmaking cater to more advanced skiers, seeking thrilling off-piste adventures and occasional powder-filled glades. Get to know the mountain for a season, or stalk the local shredders and you can find yourself on hidden runs tucked in the pined steeps reserved for the most skilled of skiers. (Tip: ask a local telemark skier to show you the Octopus’s Garden run, or Rat Tail.)  New to the sport or inclined to save your knees some wear, you can spend your morning at the Birdland lift lapping long easy greens until you crave the warmth of the lodge and the taste of the locally brewed Sip of Sunshine IPA always stocked.

Mad River Glen Ski Area stands as a living testament to the enduring spirit of skiing and community. With its rich history, unique co-op model, and commitment to historical preservation, it continues to captivate visitors seeking an authentic skiing experience. Those who crave a cheap lift ticket and an escape from modernized ski resorts will find solace and adventure at this Vermont gem. I did for years and hope to make it many more.

Trail Map of Mad River Glen Ski Resort
Art by: James Niehues | Madriverglen.com


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2 thoughts on “Hometown Mountain Shoutout: Embracing Tradition at Mad River Glen, VT

  1. Apparently this writer doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground…

    1. He only mentions Smellyheads like they’re
    the only skiers at MRG.
    2. The Stark Mountain Foundation was
    started in 2000. NOT the 1940’s!!
    3. Also, the Mad River Coop was founded on
    Dec. 5, 1995. NOT 1947!!

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