By David Schissler and Eric Friedman, Mad River Glen, VT
(November 2012) Not many ski areas can claim the longevity, or have the loyalty of its customers to such a degree they qualify to be on the National Register of Historic Places. In fact, there’s only one: Mad River Glen. On July 5, Mad River Glen became the first ski area in the nation to be listed as a historic district in the National Register of Historic Places, the National Park Service’s official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.
It’s been a decade or two since I last skied there but I’m reasonably sure very little has changed. That’s what fans like about it! The area’s not big on snowmaking, not big on lifts, not big on grooming, just big on vintage Vermont. Steep and narrow? Ayup. Snow surface left “natural”? Ayup. Lifts a little slow? Ayup (although I’ve been told the signature single chair is the fastest fixed-grip lift in North America). None of it matters. Why not? Simply put, Mad River Glen is a constant that brings skiers back to an early, purer time. It’s just genuine.
According to MRG spokesperson Eric Friedman, while the National Park Service approved Mad River Glen’s nomination, the longstanding loyalty and commitment of the Glen’s skiers is ultimately what secured the mountain’s place in American ski history. Mad River Glen’s commitment to its founders’ original vision became even more evident in 1995, when ownership passed to the Mad River Glen Cooperative, the country’s first skier-owned co-op, he added.
Mad River Glen’s historic nomination encompasses the entire ski area—not just its Single Chair lift—and interestingly, the most significant contributing factor to the Glen’s nomination have been the ski trails themselves. Unlike many ski resorts, Mad River Glen’s trails were cut by hand instead of created by large bulldozers, machines or dynamite. The trails follow the contours of the mountain and little effort was made to alter cliffs, rocks or other natural features in their construction. “Most of Mad River Glen’s carefully placed trails become visible only to those who are descending the mountain,” the nomination states. “The design of those trails is historically one of the ski area’s most important qualities. 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.”
Other factors that contribute to the ski area’s historic value include its view-shed and other buildings, its proximity with the Long Trail and, of course, Mad River Glen’s Single Chair. For more info contact Eric Friedman at: [email protected] or visit www.madriverglen.com