Good ol' Mad River Glen

Brian Mohr/Ember Photo

Vermont's Mad River Glen has been open since 1948.

This past summer, Vermont's Mad River Glen ski area, known for its legendary steeps and trees, all-natural snow conditions and its cooperative ownership, became the first ski area in the U.S. to be listed as a historic district in the National Register of Historic Places. The designation encompasses the entire ski area, including its recently refurbished single chair.

"We're incredibly honored. We've been working on this for over a dozen years," said Mad River Glen marketing director Eric Friedman. "But it doesn't change a thing, and I guess that's the whole point."

Since the mountain opened in December 1948, Mad River Glen has remained committed to the vision of its founder, Roland Palmedo. Palmedo believed skiing was a sport, not an industry; that our mountains were for recreation, not for profit; and that we should strive to maintain the natural state of the places in which we recreate. In the late 1930s, Palmedo had helped to develop Vermont's Stowe ski resort, and he was instrumental in the formation of the National Ski Patrol. Palmedo eventually left Stowe and a few years later, Mad River Glen was born.

Mad River Glen

The nomination places a special emphasis on the natural flow of the Mad River Glen's ski trails, most of which were cut by hand, without the use of dynamite and large machines, and without altering rock ledges and other natural features. "Most of Mad River Glen's carefully placed trails become visible only to those who are descending the mountain," reads the nomination. "These trails define the skiing experience and are much less intrusive to the face of the mountain than the broad, open swaths visibly apparent at other ski resorts."

In 1975, avid skier Betsy Pratt took full ownership of the mountain and was determined to preserve the classic character of the area. She succeeded, and 20 years later, she sold the ski area to the cooperative of skier-owners that is the lifeblood of Mad River Glen today.

The nomination recognizes the co-op's mission, " ... to forever protect the classic Mad River Glen skiing experience by preserving low skier density, natural terrain and forests, varied trail character, and friendly community atmosphere for the benefit of shareholders, area personnel and patrons." There are no hotels ringing the base of Mad River Glen, which is one of three ski areas in the U.S. that still doesn't allow snowboarders.

Said Terry Barbour, the area's ski school director, a few years back, "Mad River Glen is like skiing in a museum."

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