Mad River Glen, Vermont
Mad River Glen is one of the handful of iconic resorts in North America that preserve the best of our ski culture. It’s the only ski area in the US that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. On paper it doesn’t compare well with most of the other resorts on this list, but don’t judge it by stats alone. It’s a great place to ski and every serious skier should check it out. The location near Burlington is very convenient and it makes a great ski week to ski Stowe, Sugarbush, and Mad River Glen. This review is based on one visit during above average conditions in late January, and a distant memory of visiting as a child in the 70’s.
|Real Vertical ?||2,037′, Rank: 69|
|Size||915 Acres, Rank: 79|
|Annual Snowfall ?||250″ claimed / 269″ actual, Rank: 63|
|Lift Pods ?||4, Rank: 72|
|Distinct Trails ?||45, Rank: 88|
|Review Date||January 2019 (multiple from 1974)|
|Number of visits||3|
Mad River Glen Review
We skied Mad River Glen as part of a 3-resort east coast trip in January, 2019. It turned out to be a great time to go. Cold temps, no rain and a well above average snowpack made for some stellar conditions. This resort depends largely on natural snowfall and has a very limited grooming operation, so you will be skiing on whatever nature provides. That means you better be lucky if you have to plan your trip well in advance like we did. That season was the longest in Mad River Glens 70-year history, which gives you an idea of how abnormally great it was.
The ancient chair lifts
There are 4 lifts, but only 2 run mid-week when we were there. These are the main lifts that run from the compact base area to the top of the 2 mountains. All the runs funnel down to the base eventually, with no artificially cut roads that you have to traverse back to the base on. That is very unique in the ski industry. The runs are also generally very narrow which is something we are not used to since we ski mostly in the West. It was fun for us skiing terrain which was so different with a very private feel.
Still SINGLE after all these years
The main chair is one of the most iconic in North America: Single Chair #1. That chair was built in 1948 and is one of the last 2 single chairs on the continent and the only one that runs regularly. The terrain off that chair is more advanced, but there is a groomed blue “Antelope” from the top that snakes down the mountain (traversing several different trail names along the way). There are really only 10 or 11 different trails of varying length from Chair 1. We took all of them except the wind-blown and bare “Chute” under the lift.
The most difficult run on the mountain is “Paradise”. This is often considered to be the most challenging run in the East on lists. It’s gladed, narrow, steep, and full of rocks and ice falls that in some cases must be skied (or aired) since there is no way around those. Getting to the bottom unscathed will give you a great sense of accomplishment!
Food and lodge
We felt like we had the whole mountain to ourselves on several of those Chair 1 rides since we were nearly the only people riding it. I think we met just about everyone on the mountain that day and it was fun talking and having lunch in the main lodge with the 20 or so people that were skiing. The food is standard ski area fare, but was cheap and well made. The lodge itself is tiny and ancient, but it’s a family-style dining experience that reminds me of growing up skiing in Western New York at the small local areas there.
Chair #2 is a much different experience with some varied terrain of all abilities. Most of the user-friendly blue runs are accessible from that lift. We had fun finding all the different ways down the mountain on the twisty, sometimes narrow runs.
Good for day trip
We skied until the end of the day and were able to ski most of the marked runs. It’s a small resort so skiing multiple days will get repetitive, but it’s a great place to pop in for a day between skiing the bigger resorts to the north and south. You’ll be glad you did!
- Most authentic ski culture in North America
- Plenty of challenge will keep you interested
- Usually uncrowded
- Proximity to Burlington
- Unique old-school narrow runs
- Virtually no snowmaking and frequent rain/freeze cycles — pick your day carefully
- Single chair has very limited capacity so be prepared for lines on powder days
- Lodges and lifts are very old and need replacement
- Co-op ownership means that it’s a very lean operation
- Limited grooming capacity
The Bottom Line
This was one of the most unique and fun ski days of the season for us. We loved it and would ski there regularly if we lived on the east coast.