My brother David and I were born and raised in Waitsfield. I remember riding to the mountain in 1947-48 with my dad to watch the construction of Mad River Glen. My late ex-father in-law, Howard Moody, was the first manager of MRG. He and his wife Martha bought my parents’ first home on Bridge Street when they moved to Waitsfield. Howard had been a ski instructor at Stowe for a number of years, so he knew Roland Palmedo, part owner of Stowe, well. When Roland left Stowe to begin Mad River Glen, he hired Howard to manage it.
My dad, Riford S Joslin, worked in Sig Buchmayr’s first ski shop in the basement of the Basebox and carried the pies and cakes that my mom and Martha Moody baked on Friday nights and Saturdays to supply Tex Thompson’s Basebox. In the initial years there was insufficient housing for the sudden influx of skiers. Most Valley natives would rent out empty beds every weekend to the visitors. Even then, there were not enough beds to accommodate the skiers. Many Friday and Saturday nights the assembly room on the second floor of the old Waitsfield High School became a ski dorm. Folding army cots were set up there and probably on the stage too. My dad was one of the villagers who would volunteer to sleep on a cot in the boiler room to keep the coal-fired boiler stoked to maintain heat for the skiers.
David and I learned to ski at Mad River Glen on Franny Martin’s rope tow powered by a Model A engine. We went through many pairs of mittens and at least one jacket each year. I started working at the mountain during eighth grade on the packing crew; sidestepping down the mountain with Raymond Weston who always tried to sneak us in some vertical skiing without being caught by Roland or Ken (Quackenbush). In high school and college, I worked every weekend and vacation at mid-station, most always with Bover Graves. I vividly recall the lack of restroom facilities at mid-station. By working on the Single, David and I got to know most of the skiers and their children by name.
During the summer of 1961 I mowed trails by hand and helped pour the tower bases for the first double. The concrete piers for the new double were poured in place on the mountain with a gas-powered hand-fed cement mixer. The gravel for the concrete was shoveled into burlap bags, five shovels per bag and then taken to the loading deck of the single. A single bag of gravel was then put onto each chair and taken up to mid-station. There each bag was hand unloaded and put on a trailer pulled by a dozer and transported across to the new lift line where it was hand shoveled into the mixer. David worked all through high school, college, two winters after college and one summer selling tickets, sanding the parking lot, packing trails with Billy Stearns, lift duty, trail mowing, running the snack sled at times, pouring concrete for the new Birdland lift and driving a Sno-Cat with Jack Larrow.
I remember the great bands that played at Birchluf every weekend and sneaking libation at the Dipsy Doodle. My daughter, Cara, and my son, Seth, have both skied MRG. David’s sons and their children continue to squeeze in an occasional run. “Moody’s,” formerly Moody’s Creek, is named after my daughter’s grandfather supposedly after he ended up in the small brook that was at the top of the cut off. I even spent one night in the Starks Nest to shovel out the chairs at the top in the morning after one heavy storm so that the chairs would not drag in the snow and pull the cable off the bull wheel.
My great-grandparents, Hugh and Elizabeth Baird, owned the property that is now the Mad River Barn. In fact, Hugh at one time owned a large portion of the land now owned by Mad River Glen.
Both David and I recall, with smiles now, our run-ins with King George (Neill) on the Single, it was his kingdom. Occasionally, a mechanical failure would mean we could not ride down the lift at the end of the day. We would ride a barn shovel, the handle out in front, down the Porky to the bottom. God forbid that the handle got stuck in a mogul. I was asked only once to help change a pulley assembly and it was on tower No. 10. I was afraid of heights and used both feet and both hands to hold onto the top of the tower; I was not much help. We would swing into the tower from the moving chair and climb to the top and jump another moving chair coming down to leave.
David and I, along with most of the other Valley kids who worked at Mad River, have fond memories of our associations and particularly those incidents that we did not get caught doing to make the cold more bearable. Those stories would make another essay.
When Mad River became a co-op, I was a member for a number of years and then transferred my share to my daughter Cara, granddaughter of Howard Moody, first manager of Mad River Glen.