If you have never skied Mad River Glen before you should understand what to expect because it isn’t like most any ski area you have ever been. So what is it that makes Mad River Glen so special and unique?
It’s a combination of many things, and for every skier the answer is a little different. The area’s character, the result of a long and proud history, reflects the terrain and natural beauty. There is a special camaraderie among the skiers, with its co-op ownership, natural snow conditions, non-commercial, family-friendly atmosphere, dedicated staff, and – of course- the Single Chair, America’s favorite ski lift.
Mad River Glen offers the most challenging and diverse ski terrain in New England. The trails were cut to follow the mountain’s natural contours. On the one hand skiers can descend the entire 2,037’ of vertical on true expert terrain with absolutely no run-outs. On the other hand, Mad River’s mountain layout with a single base area makes it an ideal family mountain with plenty of blues and greens to satisfy every level of skier.
The Single Chair (and our 3 double chairs) limit uphill capacity thus guaranteeing low skier density on the trails even on the busiest days. Mad River Glen is one of the last bastions of natural snow skiing in New England and is one of only three areas in North America that prohibit
Combined, these qualities create a ski experience that stands in stark contrast to the mainstream world of skiing. The various facets of the Mad River ski experience appeal to different skiers in different ways, but together they create a sense of place that is truly unique. The mission of the Mad River Glen Cooperative is to protect and preserve these special qualities. The skier-owners of Mad River Glen invite you to discover for yourself the experience we are dedicated to preserving.
Mad River Glen has long been renowned for going against the ski industry’s grain. The fundamental difference between Mad River Glen and most other ski areas is that Mad River relies almost completely upon natural snowfall, something unheard of for a major New England ski area. Modern snowmaking has conditioned today’s skiers to expect a very different experience from what they find at MRG. It is important that skiers understand both what makes the Mad River Glen experience so different and why this skier-owned mountain operates the way it does.
Snowmaking the Mad River Glen Way
Snowmaking is the most obvious example of what separates Mad River Glen from the rest of the industry. The snowmaking system is limited not because Mad River skiers don’t like snowmaking but because there has always been precious little water available to do more. Believe it or not, Mad River was at the forefront of snowmaking back in the 1970’s and would likely have increased output if additional water had been available. Instead, Mad River made do with what it had. As the industry changed over the years and became more reliant on snowmaking, Mad River’s lack of it helped to set the mountain apart. The benefit of this historical happenstance is that today Mad River Glen is one of the last bastions of natural snow skiing in New England. Generations of skiers have grown up without an appreciation for the feel of real snow, that is, until they come to Mad River Glen for the first time and come to understand what Mad River aficionados already know: there’s nothing quite like the real thing! The skier-owners appreciate natural snow so much that the Co-op’s bylaws explicitly restrict snowmaking above the elevation of 2,300 feet.
Many people think that Mad River limits grooming because Mad River skiers don’t like it— but that simply isn’t true. Many a Mad River skier loves screaming down freshly groomed trails. But Mad River Glen deals predominantly with natural snow and, at times, a limited amount of it. Each time a trail is groomed, the snow becomes denser and more likely to turn to ice. With natural snow, you get much better surface conditions when it is groomed less often. Thus, the trail grooming list is rotated from night to night. Skiers may not be arcing turns on corduroy all the time but the skiing surface generally remains far better than it would be otherwise.
Twenty of Mad River’s 45 marked trails are groomed on a regular basis. When the snow pack is abundant and the skier traffic warrants, nearly all of these trails are groomed nightly. Another 10 or so will be tilled occasionally when conditions allow. With its narrow, twisting, contoured trails, Mad River Glen is not your typical mountain to groom. The mountain operations crew, management and the ski patrol draw upon years of experience to make good grooming decisions. The crew takes a great deal of pride in providing the best skiing surfaces possible.
Snow Farming & Trail Maintenance
The Mad River Glen operations team has always done a lot of creative “snow farming.” Over the years they have created “inventory areas” for stockpiling snow so it can be moved to problem areas when needed. Every summer the Mad River Glen mountain operations team spends a great deal of time grooming and manicuring the trails, drainage ditches and culverts so that the bare minimum amount of snow is necessary to provide skiing.
As you can see, Mad River Glen operates with a very different philosophy which has served the mountain well for nearly 70 years. The fact is that Mad River Glen is not for everyone – but there are plenty of skiers who understand, appreciate and love the experience Mad River Glen does provide.
Certainly, challenges lie ahead for America’s only skier-owned mountain. Future changes are inevitable, but these changes will be made judiciously with an eye toward sustainability and adherence to Mad River Glen’s ethos and unique heritage.
The Stark Mountain Foundation is working tirelessly to aid Mad River Glen in its effort to fulfill its mission of protection and preservation. Learn how you can help by contributing to the Preserve Our Paradise Campaign.