The good. First, it is neat that this little mountain in the Greens gets decent natural snowfall. There was a foot of power in the trees, all over the open trails and especially in the woods, which I accidentally got into. It was great to land in powder after launching off a large number of MRG's natural drops, jumps and dips. It was patchy in unpredictable locations, however, so one might avoid imagining one needn't be completely aware at all times, even if the snow is good. I like the preservation of the natural and cultural environment in the form of the single chair and absence of irredeemable condo and hotel developments. The Grateful Dead was playing out the mid-station radio on the single chair. Thankfully, no urban pop. The bar at the bottom was comfortable with some of the best French fries I've ever tasted. The beer was good. Catamount bowl to Catamount to Lower Antelope was one of the best ski runs I've had.
The bad. First, I felt compelled to admonish a fellow skier who was the first I talked to in a group or four who were accessing the double diamond terrain off the NE ridge of Gen Stark Mtn. I had just talked to a ski patrol person who advised that I should ski with others if I intended to ski Paradise which is where I intended to go. I told one of the group I was going to ski nearby just to have make sure others were in shouting distance, should I need to yell for help if something happened (so they could alert the ski patrol).The individual said I probably wasn't good enough for the run. Uh huh, 'how might you know?' I thought. Next, they caromed off into some trees (not Paradise) and in the middle of the run, which was made exceedingly difficult because of the fact that it was only one or two body widths wide in tight spruce for several hundred feet, the same fellow asked me to get out of the way when I had inadvertently gotten ahead of a couple of slower members of the group (the trail eventually branched). I was having a hard time on this dangerous run (having five-inch-diameter tree branches sticking up out of the snow at body level) and I must say, I thought that this kind of inhumanity and snobbery were out of bounds on this 'out of bounds' trail. Mad River is supposed to have this unique vibe - Had I found it?
Don't expect smiles and thanks at MRG, either. The people that work there would rather be having fun and having you serve them, not the other way around. Perhaps, though, smiles and service are reserved for the shareholders or those who otherwise fit the particular MRG archetype. The facilities also could have exhibited a little more Vermont home-made craft-making excellence. The most unique ski area "in the world" should demonstrate more than what any old mom and pop ski hill in the northeast has without touting they are the most unique ski experience “in the world” (particularly in Vermont where even gas stations can sometimes be aesthetically enticing).
One last thing. Mad River bills itself as having the most extreme terrain in the East "bar none." I can't agree with that. Apparently no one from MRG has skid Whiteface two hours away in the Adirondacks. Whiteface has twice the vertical, is way steeper over a much greater extent of expert terrain and has natural open super-steep slides where you see only the tips of your skis and then the base of the slides several hundred feet below, not simply a clear cut 'bowl' off the summit of a small, though interesting, hill. MRG does have better snow than Whiteface, it should be noted, but this would tend to make Whiteface "more challenging" everything else even, right? MRG has more drops and dips but an abundance of these at Whiteface would lead to a statistically unsupportable number of deaths each year. Whiteface is more challenging, really, MRG. All said, I highly recommend MRG’s good terrain, good snow and pretty environment.