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Sugarbush Resort, Vermont

The Mad River Valley is home to two ski resorts that leave you with very different impressions of what a ski vacation is all about.

Sugarbush Ski Resort, VermontConjure up a Hollywood-influenced image of Vermont, and chances are you’ll picture the Mad River Valley. It’s equal parts Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and “The Bob Newhart Show.” The rolling, pastoral countryside is dotted with clapboard farmhouses, restored barns, restored inns and those iconic Vermont cows. The mountains rise sharply, and sideroads to ski areas wind through ledges cutting the landscape.

Once the playground for the well-to-do, the out-of-the-way Mad River Valley gradually fell out of favor with the “in” crowd and became the place that time forgot. This is a good thing. The valley remains free of large chain hotels, fast-food restaurants and other sprawl. Two small towns, Waitsfield and Warren, provide everything a visitor might need, and do so in that oh-so-Vermont, New York-accented country-store fashion. You may be rusticating, but you needn’t do without a fine wine and a fancy meal.
Sugarbush and nearby Mad River Glen are the ying and yang of the Alpine world. They balance each other and manage to entertain everyone from just-happy-to-be-together families to death-defying extreme skiers. Sugarbush has lots of snowmaking and plenty of condos and relatively wide trails—from an Eastern point of view.

Mad River Glen is the way skiing used to be, because, well, little has changed here over the years. Home to one of the few single chairs left in the country, Mad River has almost no snowmaking and no condos. Narrow trails cut down the thickly wooded mountain are merely suggestions of where to ski. Diehards ski all over Mad River Glen, through trees, over frozen waterfalls and down cliffs. Its terrain attracts such a devoted following that Mad River is America’s only skier-owned, nonprofit cooperative.