INTERVIEW WITH Lu putnam
Lu Putnam is a long-standing member of the Ski Patrol, a former member of the Board of Trustees, and was instrumental in selling shares during the founding of the Co-op.
When did you first come to the mountain? What drew you to the area and to MRG specifically?
Lu: I first came to Mad River Glen for one day in 1949, when I was 16 and just starting to ski. Most of all I remember the super deep mud ditches in Route 17. I skied all the trails and probably fell most of the way down each. We had spent six days at Stowe previously, which was my first real skiing. My Mom did not ski, but for some reason wanted me and my sister to learn.
From then on, MRG was always on my radar but over the years I spent about five days a year at Stowe until 1965 when we came to stay with cousins at MRG. At that time I had four children and Mad River had a nursery and took babies, while Stowe did not. Wow, I was free! From then on, Mad River was and is my mountain. All the trails come together and I could let the kids ski on their own. I fell in love with it right away, though our weekends were crazy.
From then on, Mad River was and is my mountain.
By 1969 we were building a ski house and coming up every weekend from Syracuse, where I patrolled and taught during the week at Labrador Mountain. I was skiing five days a week, and by then my husband and I were patrolling weekends at MRG. Even though our five kids are spread around the globe and USA, they still consider MRG their mountain.
As a ski patroller, how do you experience the mountain differently than a regular day skier? Has the job of ski patrolling changed?
Lu: MRG is my family, my second home. I still patrol every day I am at the mountain although I no longer take toboggans down. Being on patrol is like being in a fraternity. Wow, what a wonderful group, what a family, always willing to help friends and fellow patrollers! Patrolling at MRG is much as it has always been, it does not change much. We are very close to one another and no one wants to retire. Over the years we have helped out MRG when finances were short and we still all do what we can for the mountain. Too bad all ski mountains are not able to be like our mountain!
The mountain has gone through its own evolution, including a big change when it became a co-op. What, in your opinion, have been the positive results of these changes.
Lu: I think becoming a co-op has been a big positive step for preserving the mountain. I think once you become “an owner,” myself included, you then want the area to survive in a healthy way. Of course, it has had its ups and downs with climate and board changes, but overall I think it has a strong foundation. Right now, with our new General Manager [Matt Lillard], I think we are in an up phase, with lots of mountain improvements including snowmaking, better grooming, and a sense that we are moving forward. It is not an easy business. Some may think that the buildings need big improvements, but to me keeping the mountain in good shape with equipment and trails is most important, it is the mountain that makes Mad River skiing.
Now we are in the middle of the Preserve Our Paradise Campaign. How do you see the next ten years and what planned improvements do you think are most important?
Lu: The capital campaign is in a bit of a quiet period over the summer, but once Green and Gold arrives it will get a push. In addition to fixing up the mountain, snowmaking, and lifts, let’s hope we can raise enough for a decent endowment. If we could get a good start on that it would help us survive the down seasons. If you love being at Mad River Glen, you too need to make a commitment! Personally, I would like to see a future double lift running alongside the present double but going up from the bottom to the top of Birdland with a midstation at Birdland. That would eliminate the morning crowds on the main double when all the classes go up at once. [Current plans call for replacing the existing Birdland lift but not installing a new lift from the base.-Ed.]
As hard as the ski patrol works, I know that the facilities are somewhat inadequate. What do you hope to see improved as a result of the campaign?
Lu: Right now we have been getting along in our crowded quarters generally fine, I guess we are just used to it. We do not need an elaborate building. I would just like to see us improve the bathroom facility, increase the room for the ski school and add an office for our patrol director. He is so crammed into a tiny, tiny space. I think we could raise the roof and put in a floor at about the level we have now and that would double everyone’s space. Actually many on our patrol could be hired to build this. We have to look at the building codes, keep it simple without changing the outside and do it the MRG way.
Can you share about your family, your husband Put, and your five kids? When and why did you move up to Phen Basin from Syracuse?
Lu: Put, my husband, patrolled for many years at MRG and loves it as do I. But unfortunately, he has been an invalid for eight years and had to give up patrolling. But he continues to be very interested in what is going on at MRG. We moved up to our ski house on Phen Basin Road permanently in 1980 when Steve, our third oldest, went to the Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS) in the winter. Shortly thereafter, our daughter Alison started eighth grade at GMVS and continued through grade 12. Our second oldest daughter, Robin, went in her junior year to GMVS for the winter term when it was Mad Academy and housed at John and Annette Schultz’s home in Moretown. The Academy skied MRG in those days. Our youngest son Scott was at GMVS for his four high school years. Our oldest daughter became a junior ski patroller at 15 and later the second woman in the east to become UPSPA and patrolled at MRG. Later, her sister Robin patrolled for at least ten years at MRG.
All of our children, and now our grandkids, continue to ski a lot. Lib makes lots of trips from New Orleans, skiing at MRG and at Alta. Robin skis and helps with racing at Stevens Pass in Washington state. Steve coaches weekends at Snowbird in Utah and skis at Alta. Alison coaches weekends and a weeknight at Snowbasin in Utah. Scott lives in France and skis the Chamonix area. All their children, our 12 grandkids, ski.