Mad River Glen – A Pictorial
By Jim Kenney, aka JamesJ
EpicSki Travel Correspondent
Please don’t tell me recreational skiing at its most rewarding level is reserved for the rich only. Several friends and I made a great visit to Mad River Glen (MRG) ski area in northern Vermont during the first week of March 2013. We skied at MRG for three out of four days in good, if slightly boney conditions. This challenging, one-of-a-kind mountain is truly a cathedral of our sport and just about everyone you encounter there a devout practitioner of the faith. For this divine weekday experience our toll was a mere $74 each for a three day lift ticket from Liftopia.com.
The beauty of MRG’s 2,037' vertical drop, 45 trails, and 800 acres of boundary to boundary off-piste access can be captured to some degree by images, but there is also an old school gnarly charm to the place you just have to soak up in person to fully appreciate. If you love the history of our sport and have never taken a ride on the iconic Single Chair (~2000’ vertical) you owe it to yourself to make a visit, preferably on a weekday with no lift lines. If you're a tree skiing freak and have never explored the labyrinthine forest that lies below the frosty, foreboding summit of General Stark Mountain (el 3637’), you owe it to yourself to visit, preferably after a nice dusting of new snow. MRG was founded by Roland Palmedo in 1948, but it’s been Co-Op owned since 1995. Operated by skiers for skiers, MRG is one of the most astonishing and successful nonconformities in the modern ski industry.
I had skied throughout the US for 40 years before ever visiting MRG, but since 2010 I’ve put it on the itinerary of three different trips. Although MRG has only minimal snowmaking capacity, they do some great trail grooming and beyond the renowned challenges of the upper mountain there is lovely lower level terrain. I would not generally recommend MRG for mindless cruising, but novices and intermediates should not be deterred by the “ski it if you can” reputation. All skill levels will be pleasantly surprised as they navigate the imperfections of MRGs all-natural snow base - real snow holds a ski edge like no frozen manmade surface can ever quite duplicate. If I had one criticism for the MRG Co-op and sacrilegious though it may be, I'd say open up this hallowed ground to snowboarders. Everybody deserves a shot at Paradise!
Please click on the photos for expanded views. All photos are by Jim Kenney
View of MRG from the base area. The Single Chair is to the left and the Sunnyside double chair (vertical 1405’) is to the right. The yellow building in the foreground hosts an excellent general store/gift shop.
The blue Basebox Lodge at MRG is the ultimate retro, throw-back, old school, après ski hangout. It includes the General Stark Pub where you can sample a local microbrew and relax around a roaring stone fireplace with MRG regulars and Co-op shareholders.
This is a mogul filled section of the upper Single Chair liftline called Chute. The Single Chair was rebuilt in 2007 as the fastest fixed grip lift in North America.
Dodging "polished rocks" on MRGs steeps is part of the area's mystique. This view includes a peek at Camel’s Hump, elevation 4083’, the highest undeveloped mountain in Vermont.
MRG is a breeding ground for skiing excellence. Here young ski schoolers regroup after a run down double black diamond Fall Line trail.
One of our days at MRG coincided with the 2013 EpicSki Gathering in Northern Vermont and a bunch of us completed a challenging pass through Paradise, one of the great glade runs anywhere in the US.
MRG will make you bring your A-game every time out. This is EpicSki member Freeski919 mastering Paradise.
EpicSki member SKI-3PO deep in MRG’s glades, this is all natural snow possibly in the area called Upper Glade near the Single Chair.
EpicSki members Matthius99 and Lily enjoy an easy way down in the Birdland section of MRG beneath the Sunnyside double chair.
This is the fleeting North American migratory species Bushwackus Maximus. Ranging from Pennsylvania to Utah to Vermont, the precipitous trees of Mad River Glen are typical of its preferred habitat.
MRG website: http://www.madriverglen.com/
MRG trail map: http://www.madriverglen.com/maps/
About the Author
- Husband, father and civilian employee of the Department of Navy, Jim Kenney is a Washington D.C. area native and has been skiing recreationally since 1967. Jim’s ski reporting garnered the 2009 West Virginia Division of Tourism’s Stars of the Industry Award for Best Web/Internet/E-Magazine Article. To read other articles by Jim, click here.