Cover image by Brian Aust
I pulled up to Mad River Glen around 9 AM on a Tuesday morning. There was a thick layer of fog that blocked our view of the top of General Stark Mountain, but I could see the famous single-chair disappearing into the mist. The hair rose on the back of my neck. I was in for a truly unique experience at MRG.
I have skied all over New England, but until this day had never made my way to MRG. I heard whispers of the extreme terrain, and have seen stickers adorned on helmets across the country that read “Mad River Glen. Ski It If You Can.”.
Admittedly, I was under the impression that MRG followed a similar model to Mount Bohemia, MI. Somebody once told me that MRG didn’t groom their slopes or make any snow. I found out after getting off the Single Chair that this clearly wasn’t true, and honestly I wasn’t disappointed.
My first run started on the skier’s right off the Single Chair on Upper Antelope. I was immediately entranced by the old-school style of MRG’s groomed runs. Upper Antelope is a narrow winding trail with great pitch. I was carving tight turns with trees flanking close by. This is an experience you can’t find at a modern-style resort with “super-highways” jam-packed with skiers.
MRG’s Single Chair keeps the slopes open and free of traffic. On this particular Tuesday I didn’t wait in any lift lines, but I can imagine that, on a weekend, lines could potentially build up. However, after talking with locals at MRG, they don’t mind the wait. They’re willing to trade a line at the bottom for open slopes up top.
I can’t argue with that reasoning. We’ve all seen those horror videos of hundreds of skiers coming down the slopes at the same time. I can guarantee you will never experience that at MRG.
The Single Chair is obviously the most unique feature at MRG. It has run on General Stark Mountain since Roland Palmedo built it in 1949. But what sets MRG apart from any ski resort in the world is the ownership.
MRG is the only co-operative ski resort in North America. This means that shares of the resort are owned by every-day people that ski MRG. Translation: Big corporations or commercial interests are simply not a factor at MRG. Rather, the skiers and community have a say in how the resort operates.
These shareholders are the ones who elected to refurbish the Single Chair in the early-2000s, with custom parts, and at a great expense, rather than put in a new lift. The shareholders believed in preserving the history of MRG rather than turn it into a modern-style resort with flashy lifts and accommodations.
Skiing comes first at MRG, and boy does the resort have some terrain to serve-up. Paradise on the skier’s left side of the mountain is a must-ski tree run with incredible views of the valley below. Lower Antelope is a long ungroomed trail that had my quads screaming with delight.
Lastly, ask a local and maybe they’ll show you their favorite line in MRG’s side-country runs called “The 20th Hole”. I found fresh untouched snow 3 days after MRG’s most recent storm.
I was enchanted by the experience at MRG. The resort feels like a time-capsule to 1960, and I promise you that’s a very good thing. It was refreshing to be in a place that values the skiing experience above all else. The community at MRG is keeping the traditional experience alive through preservation of the Single Chair, great ski runs, and friendly faces.