Mad River Glen is a skier's bastion. Rugged, demanding and intentionally rough around the edges, Mad River Glen is an anachronism. Mad River Glen and its iconic single chair are as much a part of the fabric of Vermont as maple syrup and covered bridges.
One of the great things about the sport of skiing is that its participants can visit its most special venues. Little Leaguers don’t get to play in Fenway Park, high school football teams aren’t invited to tread upon the hallowed ground of Lambeau Field and a golfer has a better chance of being elected to Congress than playing Augusta National. As long as you slide downhill on two planks not one, you can ski one of the most historic ski resorts in the country and ride one of the few remaining single chairlifts in the world.
Part living history museum, part ski hill and part social science and corporate governance experiment, Mad River Glen is unique in the landscape of American skiing. Mad River Glen is the only resort in the United States owned by a cooperative comprised of its skiers. When faced with the very real prospect that it massive load of debt would force the mountain to close, its skiers banded together to save it. Today, Mad River Glen is still run by its co-op.
The ski slopes of General Stark Mountain seem to attract a special breed of skier. A typical Mad River Glen skier is more likely to have duct tape than fur on their jacket and far more likely to be a rugged outdoorsy type who enjoy mountaineering and backcountry skiing. It’s a mountain love story unlike any other in the country. In fact, Mad River Glen skiers have taken the love of their mountain almost to the level of a religion. Those who ski the mountain regularly most certainly fit the definition of a cult, but all for a good cause – preserving this special ski resort. They are passionate to the point of obsession about preserving Mad River Glen’s unique history and are not shy about vociferously extolling its virtues…
As for the skiing, Mad River Glen isn’t for everyone. Most obviously, if you’re a snowboarder you won’t be allowed to board the lifts – try Sugarbush next door. Mad River Glen attracts a heartier breed of skiers. The co-op has had many heated discussions about the extent to which is wishes to permit snowmaking on the hill, but currently snowmaking only covers a very small portion of the lower mountain.
When conditions are good, the skiing is great. When the skiing is bad…it’s dirt, rocks and stumps. Mad River Glen skiers take it all in stride, as does the resort’s management which dutifully changes a sign at the base of the resort to reflect the mood of its skier base. On our last visit to Mad River Glen we lucked out and caught a 26″ powder day and the sign read “Bullseye.” The day before it quite forthrightly proclaimed “This Sucks.” Mad River Glen in a nutshell – its skiers take the mountain as they find it. Complainers can head elsewhere.
Expert skiers flock to Mad River Glen for its well-deserved reputation for steeps and trees; the Paradise trail is perhaps the most difficult in New England. Intermediates have a surprising number of options, but the skiing is certainly on the more difficult side of the blue spectrum. Beginners are welcome too and can even ride the single chair if they get off at the midstation.
Apart from a handful of vacation rentals and the six ski club lodges that were built when Mad River Glen opened, there is no slopeside lodging. The base village consists of a few ski resort buildings and small day lodge, affectionately referred to as “the Basebox.” The nearest town is Warren, Vermont.