Going Back in Time at Mad River Glen

Mad River Glen is old school. And I love it. I had heard of MRG but never skied there until recently. I also had no idea about all of the quirks and character that make it pretty unique in the New England ski scene. Kat, the kids and I checked it out over a few days during the kids’ winter vacation and minus one torn ACL (I’ll come back to that) it was an awesome experience.

Years ago Kat and I had college student passes that got us on the lifts at several mountains in New Hampshire, including Cannon which quickly became our favorite. One of the things we liked about it was the laid back vibe and general lack of the pretentiousness that can be pretty common at a lot of ski places. The trails were challenging and fun, and you could even find acres of natural powder caches over on Mittersill (which wasn’t officially open to skiing back then).

MRG is similar to Canon in a lot of these great ways, but still totally unique, and may be my new favorite mountain.

First, some quirks:

  • there are basically 2 lifts; one of them is a single chair
  • they don’t allow snow boarders
  • they do very little snowmaking and grooming

A note on the lifts: MRG people will try to tell you there are like 4 or 5 lifts. This is technically true but if you’re after the terrain that MRG is known for there are really just 2 (or even just the single chair) that you’ll be using most of the time.

You can read all about the Mad River Glen philosophy on skiing here.

I have to admit, I was skeptical of the chairlift situation. Having skied mostly at places that are falling all over themselves to install more high speed quads this idea of intentionally limiting uphill capacity was pretty foreign. When I read that it was to guarantee “low skier density on the trails even on the busiest days” I felt like they forgot to mention the “ridiculously long lift lines”.

So I was pumped to find lift lines shorter than I’ve experienced in ages and mercifully empty trails. Total win-win.

Piper enjoying a wide open trail

I can’t emphasize enough how awesome it was to be able to bring Piper (age 3) up to the top of the double chair and let her take her time winding all the way down without getting run down by the barely-in-control hordes typical of most places. It may have taken us 2 hours to get down (I’m not joking) but she loved it and we couldn’t have done that anywhere else.

The conditions were great so whatever they’re doing (or not doing) with the snow is working. It’s been a pretty weak winter here in New England but you wouldn’t have known it.

The terrain lived up to expectations for sure. It was challenging and fun for the more advanced skiers in our group, but the best part was the beginner+ type runs through the glades that allowed everyone to get a taste for what sets MRG apart even if they weren’t up for Fall Line.

Overall it was also just a fun place to hang out. We got a table at lunch without issue, didn’t have to wade through 3-deep ski bags all over the floor in the lodge, and everyone was smiley and helpful. Maybe Vermont people are just nicer?

This was all made possible by the amazing hospitality of our hometown friends Chris, Graeme and Cally who warmly welcomed us into their ski home and introduced us to this special mountain. We feel very lucky to have friends like them.

about that knee

Kat had been dreaming about this ski trip for months so of course she fell and tore her ACL on the first run.

I wanted to write something like “on the plus side…” but there’s really no plus side. It just sucks. Even the sled ride down, which had potential for “at least the sled ride was exciting!” just made her feel nauseous.

The MRG ski patrol folks were super nice and helpful, as were the doctors over at Sugarbush which is next door and has a University of Vermont orthopedic clinic. They made the best of an impossibly frustrating situation for her.

Not pleased

The good news is she’s a rockstar patient and is up and about, ready to tackle surgery and recovery as soon as she can.

MRG, see you in 2021.

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