By Lisa Loomis
There wasn't a dry eye in the house as Mad River Glen's Single Chair ascended Stark Mountain for the last time on April 8 with former general manager Ken Quackenbush in the last chair.
Mad River Glen is replacing the 59-year-old diesel-powered chair with a new electric-powered replica at a cost of $1.5 million. The old chair, sometimes known as 'Old Faithful,' will be dismantled as soon as weather allows and the individual chairs parceled out to those who purchased or won them. One last chair is being auctioned on eBay this week and is currently at $3,550. Mad River Glen's skier cooperative sold the other 140 chairs, raising $240,000 in the process. The ski area has also raised a million dollars in donations towards the $1.5 million cost of replacing the Single Chair.
On Sunday, snow was falling heavily during closing ceremonies that featured remarks, essays and even a round of 'Taps' as the last chair disappeared up the mountain. Skiers toasted the lift with libations and tears, gathering around the base as mountain marketing director Eric Friedman, his two sons and Quackenbush boarded the last four chairs. Friedman bought the rides at a fund-raising auction.
Quackenbush was general manager of Mad River Glen for 25 years and worked for the mountain in that and other areas for 40 years, from 1952 to 1992. The three winning essays, which were read on April 8 were submitted by Michael Boland, Ellen Eurich and Tom and Leigh Clark. They are printed below.
By Michael Boland
It is hard to identify why Mad River Glen is so special. The co-op, the minimal grooming, the no snowboarding rule, the legal tree skiing and, of course, the single chair. Mad River is defined precisely by its status as an outlier among ski resorts, and its iconoclasm is well documented and duly praised. For me, though, the attraction goes back to my first run down the mountain.
I first came to Mad River in my early '20s, ending a hiatus from skiing that lasted nearly a decade. Seeking to recapture the thrill that had electrified my days on the slopes as a kid, I skipped the southern Vermont resorts I knew from childhood and headed further north, alone. With a borrowed set of Dynastars in the trunk and the challenge of a ubiquitous bumper stick on my mind, I set my sights on the Mad River Valley.
After disembarking from an enjoyable first ride up on the single chair, I quickly tumbled into a minor but animated spill on a wooded trail whose name escapes me now. Catching my breath, I sat for a moment surveying my equipment protruding at odd angles from the soft moguls of the glade. A light snowfall fell through the silence of the pine forest, and the emptiness of the woods began to suffuse me until I felt a solitude I had never experienced on a ski slope before. Sitting alone in that glade, I may as well have had the whole mountain, the whole world, to myself. I wasn't halfway into my first run there, and already I knew Mad River Glen was a place unlike any other.
But Mad River's singularity comes not only through the solitude it offers. It also has the most wonderful kind of skiing community, bound not by money or great gear but by a pure and seasoned love of the sport. On that first day, the other skiers on the chairlifts talked not of real estate prices and highway traffic but of Tuckerman Ravine and tree-skiing, of hidden cliffs in the woods and spectacular crashes on Lift Line. Most of all they shared in an unspoken but palpable bond of skiing in its purest form. I knew right away that this is where real skiers came.
Yes, there is a community, and that is well. But I confess it isn't the community alone that draws me to Mad River. It is the promise of that same sensation I felt on my first run, the feeling of skiing as a true wilderness experience unsullied by money, pretense or pomp. To those of us who know and love it, Mad River Glen is simply the last great place where skiing is stripped to its bare and sublime essence. It is far more than a ski hill--it is an ideal, a belief, a testament to the timeless mountain credo, "the freedom of the hills." Its call echoes in the heart of every true skier.
By Ellen Eurich
10 Years Old
I think I should have a single chair because my family grew up at Mad River Glen. My grandma worked there for 43 years, and my dad always skied there when he was growing up. I love Mad River because it was my first ski mountain. I met a lot of good people including GoGo, Peter, Johnny, Tex, Gordie, Steve and JoAnn. My grandpa worked on the Single Chair, he used to jump towers to grease the wheels, while my grandma rode up the single chair to help run the Stark's Nest on top of the single chair. My grandma started there when she was 13 at the Base Box. She said, "It was the best place in the world to work and meet friends." Her memories have entertained me and my family for years and years. The one thing she always said was, "We always worked as a family there." My dad started skiing there when he was four and the crew there treated him like their own son. He had the fortune to learn skiing from the great instructors that have worked there through the years. Tiger Baird and my dad Gordie Eurich knew and loved the mountain. They used to get in trouble for building jumps and the ski patrol had to tear them down. My dad started taking me to Mad River when I was one, he strapped me to his back. Then when I was two I started skiing on my own and learned the beauty of the mountain. Also, my great-great grandfather Roy worked there parking cars. Many of my family members worked there. I also remember going into the kitchen to help grandma make pies. Everyone at Mad River has been so good to me, and Mad River is my favorite place in the WHOLE WORLD!!!!!!!
By Leigh and Tom Clark
Mad River Glen runs in the roots of our family. Our story begins in the fall of 1947 when Allen and Nancy Clark moved to the Mad River Valley from the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Shortly after moving here, Allen became employed at Mad River, assisting with the building of the single chair, the original basebox, and the cutting of the early ski trails. After Mad River opened, Allen was one of the very first ski patrollers at MRG, later moving on to be the patrol director and then a ski instructor. Nancy stayed home to tend to the "The Clark's Lodge" on Route 17, presently the Mountain View Inn.
In the early '60s, Dave and Helen Prescott with their children, Leigh and Linc, started coming to Mad River from West Hartford, Connecticut, to ski and staying at the Hartford Ski Club.
Our two families did not know of the other's existence until after Leigh's parents rented the "Little House" from Tom's parents in the mid '70s. We met; we fell in love and then married. In 1978, we built our home adjacent to Allen and Nancy in direct site of the beloved Mad River Glen with a perfect view of the Catamount, the Sunnyside double chair and adjacent trails. Does it get any better than this?
Mad River is so much a part of our lives. Tom is a 33-year veteran on the patrol and has skied 51 years at Mad River. After a few years on the patrol, Leigh decided to teach skiing and has been teaching 31 years for the MRG ski school and is currently the assistant ski school director. The third generation of our family started when Hilary and then Brooks were born. Hilary can be seen around Mad River assisting with the MRG Ski Club race program, as well as doing some part-time ski instructing. Hilary is always recognizable by her enthusiasm and easy smile. Brooks and Hilary went through the ranks of the MRG Racing Team. Brooks is one of those gifted skiers who is incredibly relaxed and is able to "float" down the mountain and racecourses making it look so effortless! For the past three years, Brooks has been seen using these skills racing his Late Model racecar with the Mad River Glen insignia around the Riverside Speedway and Thunder Road racetracks. Leigh's brother is a veteran ski patroller and her father Dave volunteers on many projects.
From our home, in direct view of Mad River, is our extensive perennial garden. The sole missing item not currently residing in this garden is a part of Mad River Glen history, a single chair. Imagine it; sitting in a single chair, swinging in the breeze overlooking the majestic garden, and taking in the stunning view of our beloved Mad River Glen; how could it get any better? General Stark Mountain, with its world famous single chair, the family history and the memories!!!! Long lives Mad River Glen!!!!