Over the nearly seven decades that Mad River has been in operation, the mountain has achieved an international reputation by blazing its own path and staying true to the simple but compelling vision of Roland Palmedo. The mountain has remained small and noncommercial, intimate and friendly, simple and unpretentious. Most importantly, the overriding mission at Mad River has been to steward the unique and natural ski terrain upon which the reputation of the mountain has been forged. Narrow, winding trails that follow the natural contours of Stark Mountain; simple but functional facilities such as the Basebox, Birdcage, and Stark's Nest; and a mountain ethos that puts the enjoyment of the terrain and natural snow ahead of corporate imperatives to maximize uphill capacity and the bottom line.
During his years of stewardship, Roland carefully and incrementally expanded the mountain, adding many new trails, and the Sunnyside Double and the Birdland chairlifts. Many memorable and colorful individuals had a place in this long history: Charlie Lord, who laid out the original trails; Ken Quackenbush, who managed the mountain for nearly three decades and left his stamp in so many ways; Bud Phillips, who put the Mad River Glen ski school on the map; Allen Clark, who headed the ski patrol for many years and was the prototypical strong Mad River skier; “Tex” Thompson, who established a tradition of simple, good food; George Neil, who ran the Single Chair for decades; and too many others to name. Roland established many distinctive Mad River traditions, such the No-Stop No-Fall contest, the Family Tournament, and the Easter parade.
When Truxton Pratt, Betsy Pratt, and Brad Swett purchased Mad River in 1972, they made significant infrastructure upgrades, including the practice slope chairlift, an expanded Basebox, and snowmaking on the lower reaches of the mountain. Even more importantly, they preserved and maintained the integrity of Mad River’s terrain, ensuring that the mountain would remain unspoiled, natural and challenging. It was Betsy Pratt who first envisioned selling Mad River to a “cooperative” of committed and loyal skiers and began to champion this concept.
True to Mad River’s history of doing things its own way, in 1995 a new era was launched when the skiers came together and transformed Mad River into the first-ever cooperatively owned ski area. Although there was no precedent for this model in the ski industry, the Cooperative went on to successfully recruit 2,000 shareholders.
Against all odds, after its founding the Cooperative went on to achieve success and operational stability.
Key accomplishments include:
- Paid off a $2.5 million mortgage early
- Rehabilitated the historic Single Chair after raising $1.8 million from 1,647 donors
- Achieved National Register of Historic Places designation
- Extensively upgraded the Sunnyside Double, including new towers, chairs and cable
- Invested $2.2 million dollars in capital expenditures in addition to the Single and Double Chair upgrades
- Developed a Forest Management Plan to ensure restoration and stewardship of a 700-acre Green Mountain ecosystem bordering 1.6 miles on the Long Trail
- Created the Naturalist Program and Kent Thomas Nature Center
- Renovated the Stark’s Nest shelter at the top of the Single
- Achieved financial stability in a difficult industry
- Consistently received top industry honors from “best terrain,” to “best Après-ski,” to “best place to grow up skiing” and “best overall ski experience”
- Forged a critical philanthropic partnership with Stark Mountain Foundation to protect Mad River and facilitate tax-exempt donations
- Built a strong and vibrant organization, including an elected nine-member volunteer board of trustees, seven full-time and 200 seasonal staff, 100 volunteers, and 2,000 cooperative members