Each and every Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 AM you can join one of our Naturalists for a guided snowshoe trek tailored to your interests in the ecology and wildlife of Stark Mountain! Our outings and content vary each week, depending on snow conditions and participants. Learn about the hardwood forests of the Green Mountains, as well as our resident moose, bear, deer, fisher, coyote, red fox and more! Snowshoe rentals available for only $5 with the program!
Please note: Advanced registration is required. Naturalist Programs start at 10:30 AM. They are approximately 2 hours in duration and are easy to moderate in terms of difficulty.
Mad River Glen’s Naturalist Program seeks to educate the public about the ecology and conservation of our unique alpine environment and to advocate the stewardship of Stark Mountain for recreation, healthy forests, and wildlife habitat. Our education program provides alternative recreational activities at Mad River Glen and strives to inspire young people to become involved in the Cooperative mission and the protection of our natural world.
The program was founded in the fall of 1996, by Sean Lawson, Program Director, as an integral part of the Cooperative’s mission “to preserve and protect…” the forests and mountain ecosystem of General Stark Mountain. Mad River Glen’s unique effort has evolved over the years to include seasonal weekend snowshoe treks, full moon outings, seasonal hikes, group and school programs.
Our team can develop a special program just for your family or group. We offer guided family adventures, snowshoe treks, school field trips, ecology hikes, wildflower walks, bird watching and slide show presentations on a variety of topics. Our award-winning staff includes several Naturalists available to lead trips for all age groups!
Our staff are experienced environmental educators who enjoy working with people and provide excellent leadership and fun outings at the mountain.
Sean Lawson, Naturalist Program Director
Sean developed a love of the outdoors at an early age and got hooked on Vermont through visits to family and skiing. That led to studies at the University of Vermont (UVM) where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies and a Master’s Degree in Forestry. He has experience as a wildlife educator with Keeping Track, a Park Naturalist for the State of Vermont, and a Forest Scientist for the State of Vermont and UVM. In 1996, Sean founded the Naturalist Program at Mad River Glen inspired by the Cooperative’s mission to “Preserve and protect” the forests and mountain ecosystems of General Stark Mountain. Sean has prior experience as a Mad River Glen Ski Patroller, first responder and wildlife educator. Sean is known as a family man, he and his wife Karen have two daughters. He has gained recognition widely by crafting exceptionally tasty beverages at Lawson’s Finest Liquids (LFL). You can usually find them on tap at Stark’s Pub, where LFL was first tapped in 2008.
Jeannie Nicklas, Staff Naturalist
Jeannie has been a natural history educator/freelance scientific illustrator for over 30 years and began her career while studying for her M.S. in Forest Biology. She has taught natural history at summer camps, nature centers and in local schools. She created content and artwork for the Eaton Woods interpretive trail signage in Warren, Vermont. This project engaged several classes from the Warren Elementary School to delineate the different ecosystems along the trail. She has produced scientific, wildlife and botanical illustrations for various educational institutions, government agencies and consulting firms. Jeannie operates a landscaping business when the snow is not on the ground and can be found on the ski slopes, leading snowshoe tours or sledding down Lincoln Gap throughout the winter.
The Kent Thomas Nature Center, located at the base of Slalom Hill, houses interpretive displays focusing on the ecology, wildlife, geology and other natural wonders found on General Stark Mountain. The goal of the center is to help educate the public and further Mad River Glen’s mission of protection and preservation of the land under the Co-op’s stewardship. The center is open year-round and is linked to Mad River’s existing snowshoe trail network.
We can develop a special program just for your group or family. We offer guided family adventures, snowshoe treks, school field trips, ecology hikes, wildflower walks, bird watching and slide show presentations on a variety of topics.
Mad River Glen’s Naturalist Program has been recognized with the Vermont Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in Education, as well as the National Ski Areas Association Silver Eagle Award for Excellence in Environmental Education. The Naturalist Program has also been featured in many articles including SKI magazine, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Hartford Courant and many other digital and print media.
Mad River Glen Naturalist Programs
are generously sponsored by:
At Stark Mountain, the forests have many large stands of American beech trees (Fagus grandifolia). Beech nuts are a favorite food for our resident American black bears (Ursus americanus), as well as turkey, grouse, and a variety of other mammals. Beech stands are important to the health of our bear populations. However, the health of our beech forests has been on the decline for over a century.
Beech bark disease represents a unique relationship between an insect and a fungus. Beech scale (Cryptococcus fagisuga) was introduced to America in the early 1900s and has been slowly progressing through the United States. The insect feeds on nutrients by accessing the tree’s phloem cells with a needle-like mouthpart, in turn damaging the bark. The damaged bark allows several types of fungus to move in, primarily the fungal pathogen (Nectria coccinea). As the fungus gets established, it will produce red fruiting bodies (usually seen in late summer and fall), and the wounds, appearing as black cankers, can be detrimental by girdling the tree. A weakened tree is also liable to being wind-blown, a condition known as beech snap.
Many of the beech trees are able to live productive lives despite the destructive cankers and some are resistant to the scale insect and will reproduce resistant saplings. Forest management is complicated yet there are a few measures that homeowners can take to prevent further spread of the disease. Contact a local professional forester or the UVM extension service for more information. We hope that disease-resistant beech will continue to thrive and provide the annual crop of beechnuts that our resident wildlife at Stark Mountain relies upon.
The black-capped chickadee is one of our most popular winter residents, especially welcomed at bird feeders. They are a non-migratory songbirds found year-round in our local forests and throughout North America. Besides being downright adorable, chickadees have evolved remarkable adaptations to withstand freezing cold weather.