By Kara Herlihy
Welcome to the fourth and final installment of "Where have all the young people gone?" In this last look at the fleeting youth population, The Valley Reporter will investigate perhaps the most telling component in measuring the youth exodus-social hubs, or in The Valley's case, the lack thereof.
This is not to say that such a place does not exist. The Hyde Away Inn and the Phoenix in Sugarbush Village are perfect après-ski watering holes that host people of all ages and definitely appeal to the younger set.
But, glance up and down Main Street in Waitsfield, Warren or Moretown -- and all you'll find are delis and real estate agencies. The inns and bed and breakfasts are alive and well, restaurants like the Spotted Cow are doing just fine, but there remains a noticeable lack of bars, live music venues, and moderately priced hole-in-the-walls.
It wasn't always like this in The Valley. Anecdotal tales of bountiful nightlife are heard from former ski bums, coworkers and those who have been here since they were young people. In the days of yore, skiers could stop for an après-ski beverage at Sugarbush, The Blue Tooth, the Beef and Bottle and several other afternoon watering holes.
Tales of wild nightlife in the 1980s and early 1990s abound. In addition to the legendary restaurants, skiers, young people and not-so-young people had many places to choose from depending on whether they were in search of dancing, a quiet beer or a jam-packed social scene. In Warren, there used to be a cozy pub where one of Sugarbush's admin buildings is located, known as the Golden Lion. There was, of course, The Blue Tooth, a night spot of great repute which closed its doors two years ago to cede its land for affordable housing.
Warren also used to host the Back Room at Chez Henri where dancing and socializing was hot during the ski season, but also during the Sugarbush Horse Shows (formerly held at Kenyon's in August). Another night spot was Rogo's on the Sugarbush Access Road, a pub/restaurant. Fayston used to have the Dipsy Doodle, which later became the China Barn (with a bar upstairs) on Route 17 where Bongiorno's is now located. A fair amount of après-ski and nighttime socializing used to take place at The Den in Waitsfield and the intersection of Routes 17 and 100 used to be home to two hotbeds of nighttime dancing and carousing: Mooselips and Gallagher's. Both were bars/nightclubs in the pool table, beer, dancing and socializing sense of the word. Gallagher's became a restaurant, Egan's. Mooselips became the Mad Mountain Tavern and attracted the attention of the state police for alleged lax serving practices and ceased to be a bar. It has been reincarnated as a smokehouse restaurant. Waitsfield also used to host a drinking and eating establishment called Straw, which became Olde Tymes, which became Arvad's, The Mad Mexican, and ultimately a physical therapy office. The Yestermorrow School is located at the site of the former Alpen Inn where a pub and restaurant were part of the social scene of the 1980s. It's a pretty long list of what used to be, compared to what is now.
VALLEY -- A GRAVEYARD OF FUN
The Big Picture Theater in Waitsfield has responded to the youth's cry for entertainment by hosting DJ's and dance parties. But, where does one go for a beer if they don't feel like clawing their way up the Sugarbush Access Road to The Phoenix or braving German Flats Road to Slide Brook Tavern during a blizzard?
The Mad Bus does run seasonally, which makes getting up and down the mountain safer, easier, and more economically and environmentally sound.
PROOF? SEE PUDDING
The proof is indeed in the pudding. The Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce is a valuable resource to Valley residents and vacationers alike. The website plays host to myriad restaurants, inns, activities and real estate agencies, everything one might need to plan a vacation to The Valley, buy a home here, or simply find a restaurant or deli's phone number. What's noticeably missing is a 'nightlife section.'
Take Killington, Vermont, a seasonal resort community similar to The Valley but much smaller in size. It too hosts a few very popular ski resorts, has great golf courses, and in the last few decades has seen an increase of retirement-age residents. On Killington's chamber website, a 'nightlife' icon sits on the top of the page where restaurants, bars, and even -- gasp -- nightclubs are listed that have live music every weekend. There aren't more young people in Killington, but there are more things to do -- why?
Stowe is another ski town full of places to eat, drink and be merry. The Rusty Nail and The Shed both have music and dancing most every weekend and The Matterhorn serves the après-ski crowd and hosts live bands on the weekends. Piecasso is more of an upscale martini lounge, with great sushi and a mix of young and old alike.
Where have all the young people gone? They've gone somewhere where their job can pay their bills and rent in the same month, where there is a barstool open for them in a town where someday, just maybe, they can afford to build a home.