Mad River Glen possesses a certain mysticism among skiers. Unbending toward industry convention, Mad River does not simply embrace its independent image: it defines independence. From its reverence of the past, to its commitment to the future, this mountain continues to provide visitors the classic New England ski experience.
Mad River, owned by a coop of devoted skiers, recently replaced the famous single chair with a famous single chair. While other resorts are racing to install quad and six-pack chairlifts, Mad River Glen recognizes the single chair defines the mountain and the experience. Adding to its devotion to tradition is the fact that Mad River and Alta are the last remaining resorts to refuse snowboarders. This mountain maintains antique legitimacy in an era in which escalators carry skiers to the base of treeless bowls.
My first and only visit to Mad River came on a Friday late last April. The mountain was scheduled to close at the end of the week and sunny spring conditions limited the terrain to General Stark’s Mountain. Fewer than fifty skiers enjoyed the resort, half of which telemarked soft, smart-car sized moguls. I started my day on the single chair, lapping the bumped-up, lift-line trail “Chute” to an extended version of “China Cat Sunflower,” re-loading at the mid-station manned by the bearded, middle-aged lift operator blasting The Grateful Dead.
Legs loose, I searched for “Paradise.” This is Mad River’s signature glade run, riddled with frozen waterfall drops and fat man-squeeze trees. Until recently, this trail was unmarked, and skiers were challenged to find Dante’s vision of heaven. “Antelope” is another run to explore, a trail described by the mountain as “part old country road and part rollercoaster.” This classic jaunt is exhausting, and after 2,000 feet and countless moguls, I retire to General Stark’s pub and enjoy a beer on the sun-soaked porch.
While I did not get to experience Mad River on a February powder day, the mountain experience offered on this warm spring afternoon was enough to verify its legend. To borrow images from The Dead, Mad River Glen is "day-break on the land" of corporatized ski resorts. All skiers have lists of resorts they would like to visit. These lists typically consist of Western and European resorts: Alta, Whistler, Jackson, Chamonix. It is time to add Mad River Glen to your list.
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