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A rookie's thoughts on Mad River Glen

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
I gave a quick one paragraph trip report on Mad River Glen (MRG) elsewhere, but a little more detailed info follows.

Friday was my first-ever experience at MRG. I had long-since heard of it, but the reputation of the mountain had always scared me off in the past with their famous "ski it IF you can" motto. This has been a great snow year in the north-east, so I finally decided to give it a try.

Woke up Friday morning to about 2 or 3" of snow on the car, with it still snowing fairly steadily. Not hard, but enough to let me know it wasn't going to let up anytime soon. MRG is a little ways up Appalachian Gap, which is a driving experience on a nice sunny summer day. It was semi-plowed on Friday morning -- i.e., just hard-packed "white". MRG was further up the road then I remembered it being, so as I was going up I was wondering if I had managed to drive past an entire ski area, but going around one of the bends the road got a lot wider (i.e., welcome to MRG's parking lot), so I pulled over.

MRG has by far the smallest base lodge of any ski area I've ever been to, but it being a weekday and there being no-one else around, there was enough room to get geared up.

There's basically only two lifts -- the double and the single, and they're both right there when you step outside from the lodge. The terrain on the single is legendary, so I decided I'd probably be safer taking a few warm-up runs off the double.

The double disappeared into the clouds on the upper-third of the mountain, but not before passing over one or two small cliff bands. I couldn't really tell what was under the chair due to the fog, but it looked steep. Wound up taking something that was a cruiser; Quacky to Bunny, I believe, as I wound up crossing under the single. Nice layer of fresh on everything, but pretty icy or at least crusty underneath.

Rode the double back up, and decided it was time to experience MRG bump runs. Started down Gazelle (right under the double), and quickly found absolutely solid, teeth-rattling bumps that I couldn't see in the fog. : I saw a cut-over to Partridge, so I took that and discovered even more teeth-rattling icy bumps that I couldn't see. Got tripped up by something under the snow, took a little slide -- i.e., the usual "is this supposed to be fun?" experience.

About this time I was really wondering why anybody would want to preserve the "MRG way" -- i.e., trail signage is somewhat minimal, the bumps are icy, the lifts are slow, the ... I tried to keep in mind two of my favorite Bob Barnes-isms:
  • Being able to see and being in balance are luxuries you shouldn't depend on
  • Bump skiing is 50% doing it right and 50% doing it anyway
The pitch eased off a bit, I got out of the fog, and I was able to get a nice little bump skiing rhythm going. And that's when I discovered that while the bumps were rock-hard, they were also beautifully consistently round. No jarring drops, no getting slammed -- just bumps the way they were meant to be.

Took another run off the double and skied down Canyon. "Average sized" bumps to one MRG regular that I met, but pretty big by most standards. Again, just nice consistent lines. Three inches or so on top was helping substantially, and I was probably glad that I couldn't see much as Canyon is a looonnnnggggg bumpy run!

With MRG very rapidly "growing" on me (I wasn't bothering with the trail map as the trails twist and turn so much that staying on any one trail isn't that easy, so I was just skiing whatever I happened to run into) I finally hopped on the single.

There was a sign at the top saying something to the affect of "Base is firm and icy! Cliff areas do exist! Don't blindly follow tracks! Don't go anywhere if you don't know what's beneath you !". : Great! I have no idea what's on any of these trails (other then that Lift Line looked really scary !)... Uhhhhhhhh.

I found the only blue off the top (Upper Antelope) which had been somewhat recently groomed -- i.e., mini bumps were starting to form. I think MRG is the only area I've ever been to that would call Antelope a "blue"; it and Cantamount (another "blue") twist around each other; I don't think it's possible to know which one you're actually on, but they do get narrow, and I do mean narrow, in places. Again, nice rhythmic bumps in the tight spots help out immensely.

Blundered into Lynx, which is the first glade I've ever found that I would call "fun". Next time up I skied down Lower Antelope; every ski area deserves a trail like this -- lots of twists and turns, narrow spots, "wide" spots, flat spots, steep parts. Just a non-stop adventure all the way to the bottom, complete with a hike-out at the end.

Upper and Lower Glades were also fun. (Me? Saying glades are fun? Must be the MRG magic). Chute (right under the single) kicked my ass; I'd blame the fog, except I think it would have humbled me even on a sunny day.

I avoided Lift Line -- those cliff bands looked really intimidating, although I did see one guy cruising down it exerting about as much energy as I do on the bunny slope. He was just making big cruising turns over massive bumps, jumping as need be to clear any obstacles in the way. I was in awe. Fall Line seemed like a bad idea as well given that Chute was a rather humbling experience. Never saw Paradise, but from the map it looks like it's off Fall Line anyway.

By the time I reached the bottom, I really appreciated the slow ride back to the top. Gave my legs a chance to recover and reload for the next round of bumps!

Met up with vrcka and her husband and took a couple more runs off the double -- Quacky, Canyon, basically whatever we blundered into. Took one or two more runs off the single before calling it a day.

I wasn't about to go wandering off into the unmarked trees, but thanks to the zero liftlines, I got to a good percentage of the stuff that's actually "on the map". I didn't really find the various trails that I actually skied to be abnormally steep (compared to Stowe or Cannon, for instance, two areas that I know reasonably well); the trails, however, are narrow. i.e., don't stop turning!

I had asked before my trip if somebody was around to show me around the place, but in retrospect, I'm glad that I got to explore the place by myself. It was definitely a little scary at first -- the lift rides are intimidating, no doubt about it, but to me, a good portion of the MRG "magic" is that the mountain -- even the "on the trail" stuff -- just begs to be explored. Point 'em, go, and just ski whatever winds up underneath your skis. It was easily one of the most fun days I've ever had on skis, anywhere.

My final two acts at MRG were to have a glass of Single Chair Ale (highly recommended) and to get a "Mad River Glen: Ski it if you can" helmet sticker, which is now proudly affixed to the back of my helmet. I was taking a break at Sugarbush (which is literally about two miles away from MRG) on Sunday when somebody noticed my MRG sticker and proceeded to describe how horrible MRG is, how he hopes the place goes away, how it deserves to close, how that "stupid sticker" should be banished, how... I was speechless and finally just got up and left, with him still railing about how much he hates MRG. I guess it's not for everyone, but MRG sure is on my short list of the most awesome places I've ever skied. Can't wait to get back!
post #2 of 27
Nice report Kevin. My first and only time there was last year and I'm disappointed I didn't get back this year. Definitely high on the list for next season.
post #3 of 27
Great report. Unfortunately you hit it after a thaw/freeze cycle, you should see it when it's got good snow. The bumps are always like that, I wonder if it's due to the lack of snowboarders, or the quality of the skiers, and Paradise is nowhere near Liftline. It's a short hike and long traverse to the right off the single chair.
post #4 of 27
Welcome.
post #5 of 27
Nice report Kevin and if that guy would of said anything to me my reply.

"I am sorry MRG is for the best you must not be amoung them"
post #6 of 27
Great report, I think you captured the essence of MRG. Obviously that dude at SB just doesn't get it....
post #7 of 27
Kevin,
Nice report, the guy at Sugarbush was probably a snow boarder.
You missed it by 2 days. I was there Sunday.The sun was shining,it warmed up nicely.The exposed trails softened up. The real treat was in the woods,we found soft and luscious snow all over the place.
Sat. we skied Sbush,wicked cold,wind but still fun.
post #8 of 27
I'm not a good skier at all, and stick to Blue runs, and I love MRG. The blue runs are interesting, challenging, variable, and beautiful. Sometimes narrow, sometimes wide, with varying pitches and twists and turns, they keep you on your toes. The first time I went there, I drove into the parking lot, looked up, and almost kept driving--there's no way I could ski here. But I sucked it up, and rode the double to the top. The view was spectacular, and even the green runs down were fun and interesting.

But the feel of the place is what makes it special. People seem so happy to be there, and seem to accept anything with a smile. I was there the 2nd day of the Telemark Festival. It had rained most of the night, and then froze hard. And the wind was absurd. The double didn't even start turning until 11AM--there was 3/4" of ice on the lift, and downed trees had blocked some trails. But people were taking runs off the practice chair, scratching down the porcelain with smiles on their faces. Eventually the double opened, with an "experts only" sign. I finally got brave and rode up. They'd groomed enough that I could ski, although if you veered off the trail it got scary fast.

Earlier this year, after a powder week, it was jammed on Saturday, and the wait for the single was around 40-45 minutes. Yet nobody was stressed--just happy to be there.

Hopefully someday I'll be able to ski some of the bumps and trees there, but it's still my favorite New England area.

Dave
post #9 of 27
Kevin, great report. I was hoping for a similiar review, as I was there for the first time a weekend before you were. I couldn't have written it better or much differently for that matter. Like you, I enjoyed it very much. The scenery, the people (local or otherwise, who smiled at anything and chatted with anyone - which got me thinking "what if I had a snowboard with me?"), the challenge (I hack my bumps and trees - to put it nicely - hence my quad were shot after the two days but I loved it) and uncrowdedness (except for Easter Sat when it was packed).

My observation:
1. it's not a hill for a typical green/blue groomer seeker (pretty much all of which is over by the Birdcage lift) unless one is willing to go a bit out of his way and do a bit more work to get there; no ski-in-ski-out for sure
2. I have never seen, skied or heard of a longer, more bumpy, more twisty, more variable, more tiring, less chance to bale (and charming may I add) run like Lower Antelope. The (seemingly long) hike out at the end (which the map doesn't show) is enough to do most people in (unless either they are young or in very good shape)
3. I am sure most people don't realize; the challenging and charming part of MRG ski much like Smuggs (my family's long time favorite) minus the village, the traffic, the condos, the entertainment and the masses of instructors.
4. I was surprised to see so many kids there - being what MRG is; the youngsters that I saw weren't necessarily good skiers but they were much more gung-ho and daring about skiing the mountain and having fun doing anything on it

Now, one question for the regulars... What is that tight and steep glade access just off the top of chute (enroute to Paradise and Liftline(?))? Is that off the map. Between it being the third day and lack of skills, my legs were completely jello and I had the hardest time coming down that run. Very pretty and enjoyable (visually anyway) indeed.
post #10 of 27
Great report Kevin!
We stayed at MRG for next two days and pretty much did all you described (minus chute and lift line) and had enormous fun doing it. Deffinitelly the most unique and fun place to ski in the East. I was amazed how many very young kids were there and how well they skied the huge icy moguls. 5, 6 year's old skiing glades without parents anywhere around! And not a single crazy 50mph-show-off-while-I-am-on-the greens/blues. I guess that's why parents feel comfortable leting their kids play by themselves.
We followed bunch of kids and their parents off Snail trail and ended up on the unmarked "fun run" kids like to call Rat. I am still smiling just writing about it.
What a great weekend in Mad River Valley!
post #11 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF View Post
My final two acts at MRG were to have a glass of Single Chair Ale (highly recommended) and to get a "Mad River Glen: Ski it if you can" helmet sticker, which is now proudly affixed to the back of my helmet. I was taking a break at Sugarbush (which is literally about two miles away from MRG) on Sunday when somebody noticed my MRG sticker and proceeded to describe how horrible MRG is, how he hopes the place goes away, how it deserves to close, how that "stupid sticker" should be banished, how... I was speechless and finally just got up and left, with him still railing about how much he hates MRG. I guess it's not for everyone, but MRG sure is on my short list of the most awesome places I've ever skied. Can't wait to get back!
My first impulse is to say the person at Sugarbush probably is not a good enough skier to enjoy Mad River Glen.

I not only have the helmet sticker, but also the bumper sticker and the T-shirt!

My first experience at MRG was with a friend who grew up skiing in that area and was our guide. He took us places I could never find by myself. Give Paradise a try next time, it is great fun, and relatively easy to find. Just get off the single chair and walk uphill to your right.

MRG is great! Don't pay attention to the person at Sugarbush.
post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dauntless View Post
My first impulse is to say the person at Sugarbush probably is not a good enough skier to enjoy Mad River Glen.

I not only have the helmet sticker, but also the bumper sticker and the T-shirt!

My first experience at MRG was with a friend who grew up skiing in that area and was our guide. He took us places I could never find by myself. Give Paradise a try next time, it is great fun, and relatively easy to find. Just get off the single chair and walk uphill to your right.

MRG is great! Don't pay attention to the person at Sugarbush.
X2


Funny though, last time I was at Sugarbush, I saw a MRG:SIIYC sticker on the back of a helmet of a woman who could barely get off the lift. Looking at her outfit (inc. white rear entry boots) she was obviously a ski bunny. I was tempted to ask her to remove the sticker and that she didn't deserve it.
post #13 of 27
Quote:
I'm not a good skier at all, and stick to Blue runs, and I love MRG. The blue runs are interesting, challenging, variable, and beautiful. Sometimes narrow, sometimes wide, with varying pitches and twists and turns, they keep you on your toes.
Ah, the little-known: MRG is also a great mountain for cruising. Nice report, makes me homesick.
post #14 of 27
Kevin, I envy you in a huge way.
I really really want to ski MRG.
Maybe someday I'll get a chance to get my butt kicked around there by a special bear or two.
post #15 of 27
I was down in that area three years ago (late season) and we missed the opportunity to ski MRG (They were understandably closed during the week while we were there to hopefully make the best of a weekend). Your post certainly has me considering making the trip down (6 hrs) ... perhaps next winter.

Although we missed MRG on that trip, we did have the opportunity to ski Stowe, Smuggs, Sugarbush, Killington and Jay. Nine straight days and enjoyed every one of them. Although we had other options ... we had to draw the line somewhere.

The folks in Vermont are very fortunate to have so many great options for skiing in a relatively small area. Never take it for granted, as there are many of us less fortunate that have to travel quite a distance to enjoy what you have in your own backyards.
post #16 of 27
Nice report Kevin. I've got to get there before I get too old to really enjoy it. Mad River is definately a must ski mecca for the dedicated skier.
post #17 of 27

Having skied Mad River many times...I found Kevin's report very interesting. However you would have a much better

appreciation for the magic of MRG if they have good conditions(all natural no grooming) and if you skiied w someone who knows the mountain.

They would know certainly that Antelope and Catamount are very different(Antelope a s curve James Bond like chase and Catamount a bump bowl...)

 

Some of the best runs are off map...the woods runs are spaced well ,heavily skiied by great skiers and exciting...

 

Also... if you didnt ski Fall Line or Paradise

you missed a big part of it...and then you might not be saying MRG is easier than steeper trails at Stowe and Cannon(Paradise is more narrow and difficult than Goat).

The narrow twists and turns and and wooded trails are beautiful and challenging..there are so many crossover quick blast bumps to build up your skills for the aspiring bump skiier...natural jumps and cliffs(Three Cliffs) and even in Birdland ,the off map wood trails are phenomenal..Partridge,Panther and Links are more fun than Gazelle. Glades w bumps in woods is more fun than the Chute...

 

Go again and discover MRG!

post #18 of 27

Kevin:

I don't know if you remember me but we met up for a few runs at Sugarbush a few years ago (I was with my wife, so we did maybe 4-5 runs, then I had to bail and spend the remainder of the day with her).  You certainly have the ability to ski MRG well...I'm surprised it's taken you so long to get there!  LOL

When I first started skiing in 1975, a good high school friend had some college buddies that were MRG regulars (one is a shareholder now) and rented an apartment nearby; they were up there every day they were not in school. I was lucky enough to be invited up a few times. So you can imagine my impression of the place skiing there my second full year of skiing!   (funny thing is my skis are shorter now than they were that year  LOL)  It kicked my ass, but made me step up my game a lot quicker. 

When conditions in general suck, MRG is a horrible place to be, but when conditions in general are good, there's no better place to be.  I'm betting if you return at the end of March, you will have an absolute blast!

post #19 of 27
Thread Starter 

Wow.  Thread bump city.  So that first post was from almost six years ago now...  I have skied MRG a couple times since then.  I know I've been to Paradise at least twice.

 

I haven't been to MRG yet this year; hope to get there sometime in March.

 

@NJskier164, yep I remember taking a few runs with you at Sugarbush.  Good memory!  Hope you've been well.

post #20 of 27
Thread Starter 

One more thing...  In twenty+ years of skiing, I have saved exactly one lift ticket:

post #21 of 27
Only was there once in the late 70's. I have all the respect in the world for those that ski there. I actually got injured there (blood clot in leg) when my plate Besser bindings released because of the icy conditions and I went sliding head first off the trail and my leg hit a tree .


My foot actually came out of my ski boot. Thought I broke my leg but fortunately didn't. There's tough skiing IMHO and there is Mad River. Not my thing for sure , maybe on a soft fluffy day I could handle it better. But I am not ashamed to say it intimidates me.

It's great it is still operating and available for the skiers that have the skills to ski there and enjoy it.
post #22 of 27

I finally ski Mad River Glen since you first posted this thread. It was a highlight of the season for me. Jamesj and son sent me over the falls on Paradise. The snow was great, all natural, firm but edgeable. Lots of fun.

post #23 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF View Post
 

Wow.  Thread bump city.  So that first post was from almost six years ago now...  I have skied MRG a couple times since then.  I know I've been to Paradise at least twice.

 

I haven't been to MRG yet this year; hope to get there sometime in March.

 

@NJskier164, yep I remember taking a few runs with you at Sugarbush.  Good memory!  Hope you've been well.


Let me know when you might get over there and I'll try to get over there.

post #24 of 27

I finally made it to MRG this year (I was there the day before the V-day storm) and at first I had the same feeling of intimidation that you mentioned in your OP.  It was tough for sure,but also a lot of fun.  I also really enjoyed a few Mad River Lagers in the lodge after I called it a day.

post #25 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF View Post
 

Wow.  Thread bump city.  So that first post was from almost six years ago now...  I have skied MRG a couple times since then.  I know I've been to Paradise at least twice.

 

I haven't been to MRG yet this year; hope to get there sometime in March.

 

@NJskier164, yep I remember taking a few runs with you at Sugarbush.  Good memory!  Hope you've been well.


LMAO...I just noticed the date of the original post now.  Been good but only one day on the slopes this year, which was local here in the Poconos.  Hope to get to Roundtop this weekend for some nice mush skiing LOL

post #26 of 27

There is Mad River Glen and then there is everything else.

Hail mad River!

post #27 of 27

Mad River pics from today here. Fantastic skiing in unexpected localized freshies.

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