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The single chair (2015)
Mad River Glen
Waitsfield, Vermont
Status: Open
First Season:1948-49
Vertical Drop:2037 feet
Standing Lifts:3 doubles, 1 single, surface lift
Past Lifts:Surface lifts
Left: The single chair (2015)
Recent NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News:
11/10/2017: Ski Areas Open in 4 States This Weekend
SkiNewEngland.net Profile
Located on the eastern face of General Stark Mountain, Mad River Glen is a well-known "old school" ski area, famous for its unique terrain, single chairlift, and snowboarding ban.

The Antithesis of Stowe

While serving in World War II, Roland Palmedo started thinking about developing a new ski area. Palmedo, a naval aviator, airline executive, and banker, had been instrumental in the growth of skiing, as he was involved in the founding of the Williams Outing Club, the US women's ski team, the National Ski Patrol, and Stowe's Mt. Mansfield Lift company. As the decade progressed, Palmedo was becoming frustrated with issues surrounding the ownership and direction of the increasingly glitzy ski area, feeling it was not capturing the essence he wanted. According to a biography written by his son Philip Palmedo, Roland "was chagrinned at how quickly success was spoiling the rural character of Stowe."

Development and Delays

1947 rendering of the Basebox
1947 rendering of the Basebox

Scouring maps, Palmedo's Mt. Mansfield Lift company colleagues James Negley Cooke, Nancy Reynolds Cooke (United States Womens Ski Champion), and Charles "Charlie" Lord made site visits in his absence. Twenty-eight potential sites were studied over a three-year period. Palmedo strongly considered developing a ski area on Mt. Abraham before discovering the characteristics of General Stark Mountain. Not only did the mountain have excellent snow-retention features, but the land was not encumbered by state ownership.

In November 1946, Palmedo's group formed what would become the Mad River Corporation and acquired options on the land owned by Parker Young Lumber Company and Ward Lumber Company. Initially known as the Catamount Corporation, the company flew under the radar until amendment carrying Palmedo's signature in early January resulted in press stories about "what may be the next addition to Vermont's thriving ski industry - and perhaps the largest one." Weeks later, J. Negley Cooke was named executive vice president of the company. Cooke was also reportedly executive vice president of Mt. Mansfield and a director at Hogback.

In early spring, the Mad River Corporation announced it had completed lift line surveying and had ordered an aerial chairlift from the American Steel and Wire Company, designed by Gordon Bannerman with Claire Beatty serving as construction engineer. Trail surveying continued in April with Cooke, Olympian Robert Schwarzenbach, and Charlie Lord (who had overseen trail development at Mt. Mansfield).

In June 1947, details emerged about the proposed development, such as a planned 2,000 vertical drop served by a "chair lift of the latest type," and Lowell Thomas, Mrs. W. Douglas Burden (later of High Pond), and two members of the Rockefeller family being on the Board of Directors. Charlie Lord was named manager. The development was expected to "complement" Mt. Mansfield and make the region the most extensive and attractive for skiing in the east. Clearing was already underway at this point and a large hotel was planned near the base area. Meanwhile, the state was set to spend $75,000 on improving the McCullough Mountain Turnpike from the south to the ski area, with Mad River kicking in $2,000 for a 150-vehicle parking lot.

Construction of Mad River Glen
Construction of Mad River Glen

In August, the Mad River Corporation announced R. J. Pierce would be constructing the base shelter. Designed by Delano & Aldrich of New York, the plans included a huge stone fireplace, "thermopane" picture windows, modern restrooms, a ski shop, a first aid room, employee living quarters, and a 100-person cafeteria. Later that month, the corporation filed that it had received nearly $200,000 in stock sales.

On November 23, 1947, Mad River Glen picked up nearly a foot and a half of snow, making it difficult for lift installers to work. Following a two-day meeting of the Mad River Corporation and American Steel and Wire, the ski area announced it would have to postpone its debut until the 1948-49 season. At this point, the Basebox shelter was largely complete, most of the lift footings had been poured, and 14 towers were reportedly standing.

Work continued in 1948 with sixty-eight chairs being installed on the 140 horsepower chairlift, as well as a mid-station. The summit featured the Stark's Nest shelter, while the Basebox shelter included a Sig Buchmayr ski shop. Trails cut for the debut season included Catamount, Chute, and Fall-line from the top, and Grand Cabyon and Porcupine below the mid-station. By this point, the total project cost was reported as $400,000.

Mad River Glen Opens

The Single Chair dedication (left to right, Roland Palmedo, Governor Ernest Gibson, Sandy McIlaine (General Stark), Howard Moody, J. Negley Cook, Charlie Lord
The Single Chair dedication (left to right, Roland Palmedo, Governor Ernest Gibson, Sandy McIlaine (General Stark), Howard Moody, J. Negley Cook, Charlie Lord

In November, Mad River Glen announced a December 11, 1948 dedication with Lowell Thomas serving as master of ceremonies and Governor Ernest W. Gibson as the guest of honor. The grand plans fizzled, as a lack of snow prevented skiing, Lowell Thomas was unable to attend due to illness, and Governor Gibson was late due to a trip out of state. Nevertheless, a crowd of 500 to 800 attended, including young Olympic skier Andrea Mead and Miss Vermont Jean Peatman (who cut the ribbon for the new lift). Chairman of the Vermont Development Commission Sam Ogden took the first ride on the lift.

Mad River Glen finally opened to skiers the day after Christmas likely on the lower mountain only, though "the skiing left something to be desired." The lift closed soon thereafter after "Tropical breezes from the south have moved in." The Burlington Free Press declared, "The New Year's skiing weekend has been killed."

The Mad River Ski Club was started in January 1949 with the purpose of developing recreational and competitive skiing at the area.

The Single Chair dedication
The Single Chair dedication

Lift served skiing likely resumed in mid-January with poor to fair conditions before being halted yet again. By this point, Mad River Glen had lost an estimated $40,000 and had laid off 30 employees. Skiing resumed on the lower mountain at the end of the month, with top to bottom skiing kicking off the start of February. By mid-February, Mad River was reporting two to three feet of base until a rain storm hit.

According to the Boston Globe at the time, "the trail layout on the mountain is unique in that all start from the top and then regroup at the mid-station, where they again diverge and use different types of terrain to the bottom."

In February, Mad River Glen and Mt. Mansfield ski area management expressed interest in developing the Long Trail for "high mountain ski touring." Meanwhile, the Tucker Hill ski area opened nearby, providing five slopes served by a rope tow and featuring night skiing.

A snowstorm brought roughly a foot of snow for the second weekend in March, providing "the best skiing of the year." Skiers reportedly fled the long lines at Mt. Mansfield for Mad River Glen, where the wait for the single chair was only ten minutes. Days later, Mad River Glen hosted its first sanctioned race, the United States Eastern Veteran's Championship and the Eastern Father and Son Championship. The season likely came to a close at the start of April.

The Mad River Glen chairlift debuted for scenic rides on July 2, 1949, operating on weekends and holidays that summer and fall.

Improvements for the 1949-50 season included the Foot-o-Mount open slope, complemented by a 1,200 foot rope tow and night ligthing, and the novice Snail trail, the lower part likely incorporating an unplowed stretch of McCullough Mountain Turnpike. In addition, Stark Mountain Road was widened to become the 19th Hole Trail.

Though the 1949-50 season saw early snowfall, "Disappearing snow and tropical downpours" left the lifts idle until the end of December, when the upper mountain likely opened with poor conditions. Once again a winter with subpar snowfall put the ski area in the red.

A 1950s Mad River Glen advertisement
A 1950s Mad River Glen advertisement

10th Mountain Division veteran and Mont De Luc General Manager Jack Murphy became General Manager of Mad River Glen for the 1952-53 season, recruiting friend Ken Quackenbush from North Creek to be his assistant.

In 1953, Connecticut resident Betsy Stratton met a banker friend of Palmedo while skiing at Mad River Glen. She and Truxton Pratt married in 1954 and celebrated their honeymoon at the ski area.

The Single Chair
The Single Chair

Circa 1957 Quackenbush took over as General Manager when Jack Murphy left to develop a new ski area down the road. Sugarbush opened for the 1958-59 season, while Mad River Glen installed a T-Bar on the Practice Slope.

As the ski industry went into its major growth period, Mad River Glen did too. The Sunnyside complex opened for the 1961-62 season, giving Mad River Glen its second top to bottom lift, as well as some non-expert terrain.

The Birdland complex, featuring novice and intermediate terrain, debuted for the 1966-67 season.

Pratt Ownership

Mad River Glen in the 1970s
Mad River Glen in the 1970s

In early 1972, real estate developer Bradford Swett and Truxton Pratt formed McCullough Corp. Circa early March, the company purchased 92% of Mad River Corp., making Swett President, Pratt Chairman of the Board, and General Manager Ken Quackenbush Vice President.

For the 1972-73 season, the Practice Slope Chair was installed, replacing a T-Bar. To date, this is the last net new chairlift installation at Mad River Glen.

Snowmaking made its debut at Mad River Glen for the 1975-76 season, covering the Practice Slope.

The mid 1970s proved to be a sad time at Mad River Glen, starting off with an accident on the single chairlift in February 1975. In July of that year, Truxton Pratt passed away at the young age of 49 after a long fight with cancer. Founder Roland Palmedo passed away in March of 1977, followed by J. Negley Cooke in 1978.

Following her husband's death, Betsy Pratt took control of the ski area, eventually acquiring a principle stake. Reflecting years later, Pratt said, "I consider ownership to be stewardship."

In 1984, Mad River Glen introduced its now famous 'Ski It If You Can' bumper sticker, emphasizing the character of the terrain, as well as the lack of snowmaking/grooming.

Though snowboarding was allowed at Mad River Glen starting with the 1986-87 season, snowboarders were banned from the single chairlift due to deropements. After a confrontation between young snowboarders upset about the partial ban and Betsy Pratt, snowboarders were banned from the entire area starting in 1991-92.

Meanwhile, circa the 1990-91 season, Pratt made known her intentions to sell the area, as well as her desire to keep it from being purchased by a corporate entity seeking to make it a destination resort. With Sugarbush bouncing from one corporate owner to another, the contrast was stark.

Mad River Glen Cooperative

Former owner Betsy Pratt
Former owner Betsy Pratt

On September 27, 1994, the Mad River Glen Cooperative was registered as an entity in the State of Vermont. After nearly a quarter of a century of ownership, Betsy Pratt entered into an agreement to sell the ski area to the cooperative in December of 1995, even buying a few shares herself and providing startup funds. Planning immediately began for long term improvements while retaining the character of the ski area, as snowmaking was prohibited above 2,300 feet in elevation. One core value was clear - snowboarding would not be allowed.

In April of 1998, the coop sold its 1,667th share, raising enough money to own the ski area outright. Much needed lift improvements were about to begin.

The Sunnyside chairlift was rebuilt for the 1998-99 season, dramatically extending its useful life. After the season, Robert Mazza stepped down as General Manager. Bob Ackland took over as General Manager for two seasons before departing to join a new ownership group at Sugarbush in 2001. His assistant Jamey Wimble took over as the next Mad River Glen General Manager.

In April of 2007, the single chairlift carried its last skiers before shutting down for an unprecedented construction project. That off season, Doppelmayr-CTEC completed a $1.5 million renovation of the lift, including restoring towers and terminals while fabricating replica replacement chairs, sheaves, and bullwheels. The rebuilt lift was completed in the fall of 2007.

Mad River Glen in 2015
Mad River Glen in 2015

Jamey Wimble stepped down as General Manager in September 2016. Matt Lillard, formerly of Eaglecrest, Magic, and Okemo, took over as General Manager in March 2017.

The Mad River Glen Cooperative continues to sell shares to this day in lump sum and payment plan options, with well over 2,000 (of up to 3,000 allowed) sold to date. Concern about not operating during periods of poor snowfall has once again raised the question of whether or not to install a larger snowmaking system. For now, a meager snowmaking set up covers a small portion of the ski area, as Mad River Glen decidedly remains a natural snow skier's destination.

NewEnglandSkiConditions.com Reports
Month Average Percent of Terrain Open
January100%    (1 report)100 Open
March100%    (1 report)100 Open
Recent Conditions Reports
Jan. 28, 2020 by bostonbob
Powder, Powder
Mar. 22, 2015 by rocket21
Packed Powder, Loose Granular
Mad River Glen on NewEnglandSkiConditions.com

Expansion History
Project
Season
Sunnyside Area
Open
1961-62
Birdland Area
Open
1966-67

Image Gallery
1952-53 Eastern Ski Map1954-55 Eastern Ski Map1955-56 Eastern Ski Map1956-57 Eastern Ski Map1959 Appalachia1960 Appalachia
View All Images in Mad River Glen Image Gallery
Lifts
Click on lift name for information and photos
Standing Lifts
Installed
The Birdland Double in 2005
Birdland Chair
Mueller
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1966-67
The Practice Double in 2005
Practice Slope Chair
Mueller
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1972-73
The Single Chair circa the 1960s
Single Chair
American Steel & Wire Company-Doppelmayr
Chairlift - Single - Fixed
1948-49
The Sunnyside Chair in 2005
Sunnyside Chair
Mueller-Borvig-Doppelmayr-CTEC
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1961-62

Past Lifts
Seasons
The Practice Slope T-Bar circa the 1960s
T-Bar
Hall
T-Bar
1958-59
-
1971-72

Maps
2022-23 Mad River Glen Trail Map
1948-49 Mad River Glen Trail MapEarly 1950s Mad River Glen Trail Map1960-61 Mad River Glen trail map1973-74 Mad River Glen trail map1996-97 Mad River Glen trail map1997-98 Mad River Glen trail map
View All Mad River Glen Trail Maps

Year by Year History
Adult Weekend Full Day Lift Ticket; Adult Full Price Unlimited Season Pass
2020s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2022-23$99.002022-23 Ticket Price Graph$1058.942022-23 Season Pass Price Graph10.7 daysDecember 172022-23 Skier Visit Graph
2021-22$97.002021-22 Ticket Price Graph$1058.942021-22 Season Pass Price Graph10.9 daysDecember 11March 272021-22 Skier Visit Graph
2020-21$92.002020-21 Ticket Price Graph$1037.742020-21 Season Pass Price Graph11.3 daysDecember 12March 272020-21 Skier Visit Graph
2019-20$92.002019-20 Ticket Price Graph$1037.742019-20 Season Pass Price Graph11.3 daysDecember 7March 152019-20 Skier Visit Graph
2010s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2018-19$89.002018-19 Ticket Price Graph$1022.902018-19 Season Pass Price Graph11.5 daysNovember 24April 202018-19 Skier Visit Graph
2017-18$89.002017-18 Ticket Price Graph$992.002017-18 Season Pass Price Graph11.1 daysDecember 15April 861,3972017-18 Skier Visit Graph
2016-17$79.002016-17 Ticket Price Graph$992.002016-17 Season Pass Price Graph12.6 daysDecember 10April 962,1502016-17 Skier Visit Graph
2015-16$79.002015-16 Ticket Price Graph$992.002015-16 Season Pass Price Graph12.6 daysJanuary 9March 1351,2852015-16 Skier Visit Graph
2014-15$75.002014-15 Ticket Price Graph$963.002014-15 Season Pass Price Graph12.8 daysDecember 12April 192014-15 Skier Visit Graph
2013-14$71.002013-14 Ticket Price Graph$963.002013-14 Season Pass Price Graph13.6 daysDecember 15April 1264,5272013-14 Skier Visit Graph
2012-13$69.002012-13 Ticket Price Graph$963.002012-13 Season Pass Price Graph14.0 daysDecember 24April 765,0382012-13 Skier Visit Graph
2011-12$66.002011-12 Ticket Price Graph$963.002011-12 Season Pass Price Graph14.6 daysDecember 30March 1862,7252011-12 Skier Visit Graph
2010-11$65.002010-11 Ticket Price Graph$944.002010-11 Season Pass Price Graph14.5 daysDecember 24April 1075,8292010-11 Skier Visit Graph
2009-10$62.002009-10 Ticket Price Graph$944.002009-10 Season Pass Price Graph15.2 daysDecember 12April 374,6582009-10 Skier Visit Graph
2000s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2008-09$60.002008-09 Ticket Price Graph$944.002008-09 Season Pass Price Graph15.7 daysDecember 13March 3177,2832008-09 Skier Visit Graph
2007-08$54.002007-08 Ticket Price Graph$899.002007-08 Season Pass Price Graph16.6 daysDecember 62007-08 Skier Visit Graph
2006-07$54.002006-07 Ticket Price Graph$780.002006-07 Season Pass Price Graph14.4 daysDecember 30April 860,0002006-07 Skier Visit Graph
2005-06$50.002005-06 Ticket Price Graph$780.002005-06 Season Pass Price Graph15.6 daysDecember 17April 169,0002005-06 Skier Visit Graph
2004-05$50.002004-05 Ticket Price Graph$780.002004-05 Season Pass Price Graph15.6 daysDecember 16April 1075,2122004-05 Skier Visit Graph
2003-04$45.002003-04 Ticket Price Graph$740.002003-04 Season Pass Price Graph16.4 daysDecember 7April 384,0912003-04 Skier Visit Graph
2002-03$42.002002-03 Ticket Price Graph$650.002002-03 Season Pass Price Graph15.5 daysApril 685,9642002-03 Skier Visit Graph
2001-02$40.002001-02 Ticket Price Graph$650.002001-02 Season Pass Price Graph16.3 daysApril 785,0232001-02 Skier Visit Graph
2000-01$40.002000-01 Ticket Price Graph$650.002000-01 Season Pass Price Graph16.3 daysApril 292000-01 Skier Visit Graph
1999-00$36.001999-00 Ticket Price Graph$650.001999-00 Season Pass Price Graph18.1 daysDecember 23April 21999-00 Skier Visit Graph
1990s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1998-99$36.001998-99 Ticket Price Graph1998-99 Season Pass Price GraphApril 41998-99 Skier Visit Graph
1997-98$34.001997-98 Ticket Price Graph$620.001997-98 Season Pass Price Graph18.2 days1997-98 Skier Visit Graph
1996-97$32.001996-97 Ticket Price Graph$590.001996-97 Season Pass Price Graph18.4 days1996-97 Skier Visit Graph
1992-93$26.001992-93 Ticket Price Graph1992-93 Season Pass Price Graph1992-93 Skier Visit Graph
1991-92$26.001991-92 Ticket Price Graph1991-92 Season Pass Price Graph1991-92 Skier Visit Graph
1990-91$26.001990-91 Ticket Price Graph1990-91 Season Pass Price Graph1990-91 Skier Visit Graph
1989-90$26.001989-90 Ticket Price Graph1989-90 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 21989-90 Skier Visit Graph
1980s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1988-89$24.001988-89 Ticket Price Graph1988-89 Season Pass Price Graph1988-89 Skier Visit Graph
1987-88$22.001987-88 Ticket Price Graph1987-88 Season Pass Price Graph1987-88 Skier Visit Graph
1986-87$22.001986-87 Ticket Price Graph1986-87 Season Pass Price Graph1986-87 Skier Visit Graph
1984-85$20.001984-85 Ticket Price Graph$265.001984-85 Season Pass Price Graph13.3 days1984-85 Skier Visit Graph
1983-84$19.001983-84 Ticket Price Graph$440.001983-84 Season Pass Price Graph23.2 days1983-84 Skier Visit Graph
1982-83$22.001982-83 Ticket Price Graph$440.001982-83 Season Pass Price Graph20.0 days1982-83 Skier Visit Graph
1980-81$17.501980-81 Ticket Price Graph1980-81 Season Pass Price Graph1980-81 Skier Visit Graph
1979-80$17.501979-80 Ticket Price Graph1979-80 Season Pass Price GraphApril 61979-80 Skier Visit Graph
1970s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1978-79$15.001978-79 Ticket Price Graph1978-79 Season Pass Price Graph1978-79 Skier Visit Graph
1977-781977-78 Ticket Price Graph1977-78 Season Pass Price GraphApril 171977-78 Skier Visit Graph
1976-77$13.001976-77 Ticket Price Graph1976-77 Season Pass Price Graph1976-77 Skier Visit Graph
1975-76$11.001975-76 Ticket Price Graph1975-76 Season Pass Price Graph1975-76 Skier Visit Graph
1974-75$11.001974-75 Ticket Price Graph1974-75 Season Pass Price Graph1974-75 Skier Visit Graph
1973-74$10.001973-74 Ticket Price Graph1973-74 Season Pass Price Graph1973-74 Skier Visit Graph
1969-70$8.501969-70 Ticket Price Graph1969-70 Season Pass Price Graph1969-70 Skier Visit Graph
1960s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1966-67$7.001966-67 Ticket Price Graph$115.001966-67 Season Pass Price Graph16.4 days1966-67 Skier Visit Graph
1964-65$6.001964-65 Ticket Price Graph1964-65 Season Pass Price Graph1964-65 Skier Visit Graph
1963-64$6.001963-64 Ticket Price Graph1963-64 Season Pass Price Graph1963-64 Skier Visit Graph
1962-63$6.001962-63 Ticket Price Graph1962-63 Season Pass Price Graph1962-63 Skier Visit Graph
1961-62$6.001961-62 Ticket Price Graph1961-62 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 16April 221961-62 Skier Visit Graph
1960-61$5.751960-61 Ticket Price Graph1960-61 Season Pass Price Graph1960-61 Skier Visit Graph
1959-60$4.751959-60 Ticket Price Graph1959-60 Season Pass Price Graph1959-60 Skier Visit Graph
1950s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1957-581957-58 Ticket Price Graph1957-58 Season Pass Price Graph25,0001957-58 Skier Visit Graph
1949-501949-50 Ticket Price Graph1949-50 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 301949-50 Skier Visit Graph
1940s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1948-491948-49 Ticket Price Graph1948-49 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 261948-49 Skier Visit Graph

Visitor Memories
"Spent nearly every Christmas week and winter break week skiing there throughout the 70's. Got real familiar with the 70's new england variety of snow. The kind you need sharp edges to ski on. I recall dad waving to Roland going up the single chair once. I think it was the time the single chair reopened after it slipped the cable that one time. We went up too and got exhausted plowing down the Chute through over a foot of powder that accumulated during that lift outage. Nearly every night after hours, we would sled down the hill on borrowed cafeteria trays and prank the rockefeller tramway and run off. Good times."
David Tiblin, Mar. 13, 2019
"Skied The Glen regularly in the late 50`s for four years. Favorites were the Chute & Fall Line. Yes, 'Ski it if you can' and it was great. I remember skiing with Betsy Pratt in the 60`s. In the late 50s we would regularly leave skis and poles in the out-door rack returning to fetch them and ski the next day. Those were the days. And yes, I was at the bar as Gussie was first opening! Great memories of my favorite, General Stark Mt. and Mad river! Greetings to Betsy and all. Newt"
Newton Pendleton, Feb. 25, 2016
"I used to go to shaker mountain school out of Burlington and starksboro.Thanks to the ownership we were able to get lift tickets to Mad River glen on Thursdays for $1,this was in 77-78.What a good time we all had on the slopes.The climb up the mountain off of RT116 some mornings in those ole late 60s dodge vans was pretty rough.If anyone reading this remembers please write back,Thanks."
Eric Edwards, Dec. 2, 2015
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External Links
  • Mad River Glen - official site
  • Last updated: January 24, 2023

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