Mad River Glen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Mad River Glen
The Single Chair at Mad River Glen (prior to rehabilitation)
The Single Chair at Mad River Glen (prior to rehabilitation)
Location Fayston, Vermont
 United States
Coordinates 44°12′03″N 72°55′28″W / 44.20083°N 72.92444°W / 44.20083; -72.92444
Vertical 2000 ft
Top elevation 3637 ft - (1108 m)
Base elevation 1600 ft - (487 m)
Runs 45
Lift system 4 chairlifts
- 3 doubles
- 1 single
- 1 surface lift
Terrain parks Yes
Snowfall 250 in. - (635 cm)
Snowmaking 15%
Night skiing no

Mad River Glen is a ski area in Fayston, Vermont. Located within the Green Mountain range, it sits in the Mad River Valley. Though not considered a large ski area, it has a vertical drop of 2,000 feet (610 m), which ranks 14th in New England,[1] and its terrain was ranked by Ski magazine as the most challenging on the east coast of the United States.[2]

Mad River Glen averages over 150 inches (380 cm) of snow a year and maintains a traditional form of New England skiing that emphasizes snow preservation on narrow trails with little grooming instead of man-made snow on wide boulevards. It has one of only two single chairlifts left in the country and does not allow snowboarding.[3]

It is one of a very limited number of ski cooperatives. Individuals purchase publicly available shares and attend regular "Town Hall" meetings, voting on issues regarding the area and management of the cooperative.


Mad River Glen was founded in 1947 by Roland Palmedo who led a group of investors that included members of the Rockefeller family. Palmedo was one of the founders of the Mt. Mansfield Lift Company which built the first chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort. Palmedo wanted to create a ski area for dedicated skiers, with a minimum of commercial interests and amenities. The Single Chair was completed and first operated in 1948. Additionally, five trails (Catamount, Chute, Fall Line, Porcupine, and Grand Canyon) and a small base lodge (still referred to as the "basebox") were also completed at that time. Over the next few decades, 3 double chairlifts and a rope tow for a children's learning area, and many new trails were added.[4]

In 1972, the ski area was bought by Truxton Pratt, then passed on to his wife, Betsy, after his death in 1975. It remained relatively unchanged until she sold it in 1995 to a group of skiers who formed a cooperative to own and manage the ski area.

On December 5, 1995, the Mad River Glen Cooperative was formed. Mad River Glen is now the only cooperatively owned ski area in America. In April 1998 the Mad River Glen Cooperative fulfilled its purchase agreement with the previous owner by selling its 1,667th share.

The Mad River Glen Cooperative continues to sell shares in an effort to broaden the base of support and to insure long-term viability for the area. Shares cost $2,000 each and are available on a 30-month installment plan.


The cooperative holds annual elections for a board of trustees, who oversee the management and business of the ski area. They also hire a general manager to handle day-to-day operations.

Matt Lillard, formerly of Okemo, Magic Mountain (Vt.), and Eaglecrest (Alaska), took over as GM in 2017.[5]

Single Chair[edit]

Single chair seen from above

Mad River Glen is one of two ski areas in the country to use a chairlift which seats just one person at a time. The other single chairlift is operated at Mt. Eyak which is located and owned by the City of Cordova, Alaska, and operated by the Sheridan Ski Club.

The original chair was manufactured by American Wire and Steel. In the summer of 2007, Doppelmayr CTEC was contracted to renovate the chairlift, while maintaining the classic New England feel. The tower foundations were new, along with close replicas of the chairs, grips, drive, and end terminals.[6] In addition, all the towers were taken to Maine for painting.[6]

The Single Chair is the fastest fixed-grip chairlift in the United States. Depending on the volume of skiers, average lift rides from base to summit are 9.7 – 12 minutes in duration. The Single Chair has a midstation that skiers can either unload or upload at.


Mad River Glen is situated on the backbone of the Green Mountains. The elevation allows for cooler air and more precipitation than surrounding terrain. The highest ridge of the Green Mountains not only gets the same snow that blankets the rest of New England but also picks up significant "backlash" snow after the storms have passed. Strong northwest winds behind the storms pick up moisture from Lake Champlain and are forced rapidly upward on their perpendicular ride over the Greens. This "orographic enhancement" of snowfall is the primary reason that Mad River Glen and similar locations often average triple the snowfall of many lower elevations areas of northern New England.


Mad River Glen offers 45 trails with a wide variety of difficulty. They range from the flat, open greens of Birdland to the large number of steep, moguled trails that dominate much of the mountain. These are the trails that have given Mad River its reputation as the hardest ski area in the Northeast. They have been kept much as they were when they were first cut, often by the skiers themselves, decades ago, and many are gladed and have natural features lying just beneath the snow; rocks, logs, bushes, etc. Even among these black diamond trails there is tremendous variety; the ambiguous short but steep Waterfall is sometimes rated a black diamond and sometimes an intermediate blue square, and the infamous 38 degree pitch of Paradise is still only rated at a black diamond, when it would earn two or three of those diamonds at other ski areas.


Mad River Glen is one of three ski areas in the U.S. that completely ban snowboarding, along with Utah's Deer Valley and Alta ski areas.[7] This has caused significant discussion, especially among the snowboarding community.[8] The Mad River Glen cooperative seeks to preserve the area as a "skier's mountain."

Mad River Glen was one of the first places in the U.S. to allow snowboarding during the 1986-87 season and lasted until the 1992-93 season. Unloading issues due to a flat run-off exiting the old single chair led the owner of the resort to limit them to the Sunnyside Double and the practice area chair.[9] Due to heated debate over this issue, Betsy Pratt, Mad River Glen’s previous owner, decided to ban snowboards entirely.[10] Since then, Mad River Glen has been subject to poaching.

Four years later the owner sold the mountain to the Mad River Glen Cooperative. The coop addressed the snowboard ban with a vote. Over 75% voted to keep the ban, and it will take a 2/3 majority to overturn that, making it unlikely that the ban will be lifted soon.

Woods Skiing[edit]

Mad River Glen is known for its tree skiing. Mad River's most difficult marked trail is a steep, rocky, thin, and usually icy path down from the top of the mountain called Paradise. To embark, skiers hike over and out of view of the chair lift. The entrance to the trail is not marked, although in 2004 it was added to the official trail map. The first pitch features mandatory air over a four-foot (1.3 m) high frozen waterfall that spans the full width of the trail.


While Mad River Glen does not allow snowboarding, it does have a large proportion of telemark skiers and regularly hosts the North American Telemark Organization's yearly festival weekend each March.


1947-48: Initial trails cut: Catamount, Lift Line, Fall Line, Canyon and Porcupine. November snows stop construction and the opening is postponed for a year.

1948-49: Trails improved, work tram, lift and Stark's Nest built. Opening ceremonies were held on December 11, 1948.

1949-50: No Stop No Fall and Easter Parade traditions begin.

1951-52: Father and Son Race moves to MRG from Stowe and evolves into the Family Tournament

1952-53: Jack Murphy becomes General Manager, Ken Quackenbush starts his career at MRG. Chalet 10 (little house across from Amateur Ski Club house) is built.

1953-54: Hartford Ski Club builds house at MRG

1954-55: Practice Hill Rope Tow is installed. MRG hosts the NCAA Downhill Championship Race. 68 new chairs are added to the 65 all ready on the Single Chair's line more than doubling the lifts capacity.

1955-56: The Base Box's first addition (the east end) is built. 1957. Rockefeller family decline cash buyout from Roland Palmedo and instead swap their portion of ownership for a building lot on the mountain. "Radical" A frame built up slope from the base area with its own private lift to access the house and Rockefeller's ski trail named for the house and family. A 1957-58: McCullough Turnpike (current Route 17), the road over the mountain is finally completed.

1958-59: New tower is added at the bottom of the Single Chair. Beaver trail is cut. T Bar goes in on the Practice Slope. Sugarbush Valley ski area opens.

1959-60: First Ski Shop is built over the brook.

1960-61: First Tucker Snow Cat is purchased. The second Base Box addition (currently Gen. Stark's Pub) is completed. Trails were cut for proposed Sunnyside double chair.

1961-62: Sunnyside Double Chair opens. First Green & Gold Weekend. The infamous Parachute Race into Catamount Bowl.

1962-63: A new trail, Quacky, is added and named for Ken Quackenbush.

1963-64: Lower Antelope opens. Another 25 chairs are added to the Single Chair making it a total of 158 chairs on the line.

1964-65: Upper Antelope opens.

1965-66: The last season for the Bud Phillips Ski School

1966-67: Birdland Trails open. Rudi Maier Ski School opens. Touring trails open.

1967-68: Birdland Lift opens. 10th Annual Kandahar Race. Base Box's third addition, the upstairs, is completed

1968-69: Birdcage Opens. Last season food and beverage are served at Stark's Nest. Saturday night movies!

1969-70: National Slalom held at MRG. Four tracked vehicles used on mountain.

1970-71: Junior Nationals held at MRG. Vermont's Act 250 development law is passed ending land sales on the mountain. Tennis courts built at Mad River Barn.

1971-72: T Bar dismantled and replaced by new Double Chair Lift. Mad River Junior Racing Program starts.

1982-83: Sunnyside Double Chair drive replaced.

1986-87: Snowboards first allowed at MRG.

1991-92: Snowboard ban begins at MRG.

1995-96: Mad River Glen Cooperative purchases mountain an December 5, 1995 and the mountain opens with ceremony at the Single Chair on December 7.

1997-98: The Ice Storm of 1998 hits Mad River Glen, causing a great deal of damage to the mid-mountain forest. Clean-up crews and volunteers have the mountain re-opened within a week.

1998-99: Mad River Glen celebrates 50th Anniversary with a re-creation of the original opening day. Just like the original opening the Governor, Miss Vermont (both 1948 and 1998) and George Neill were in attendance. 50th Anniversary Gala held in January 1996. Sunnyside Double Chair is replaced.

1990-2000: The Co-op sells the 1,667th share to pay off its mortgage. The mountain is now owned outright by the Co-op.

2000-01: Callie's Corner Handle Tow Area is added and Stark's Nest is renovated. Over 325 inches of snow allows skiing to continue until April 29, 2001, the area's latest closing date on record.

2005-06: The Mad River Glen Cooperative celebrates 10 years of skier ownership of the mountain.

2006-07: On Easter Sunday, April 8, the original Single Chair brought its last skiers to the top of Gen. Stark Mountain. The last rider was long-time Mad River Glen GM, Ken Quackenbush. Fittingly the Single Chair was ushered out of service in a snowstorm that ended the season in a fabulous powder day.

2010: Mad River Glen submits application to be included in the National Register of Historic Places

2012: Mad River Glen becomes the first US ski area to be listed as a historic district in the National Register of Historic Places.[11]

2015: Marten trail is cut.

Kent Thomas Nature Center[edit]

The Kent Thomas Nature Center features interpretive displays about the mountain's ecology, wildlife and geology. The center is open year-round and offers natural history programs with trained naturalists.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]