Along the same 9-mile stretch of ridgeline, Sugarbush Resort and Mad River Glen have long been the two top ski destinations in Vermont's storied Mad River Valley. Yet, despite their proximity to one another, the mountains have been less than chummy neighbors over the years -- maybe due to the fact that Sugarbush founder Damon Gadd snapped up Mad River GM Jack Murphy to open a competing mountain 5 miles away, but that was back in the 50s. The animosity is about to change. This season, for the first time in their 54-year history, these two opposing ski areas are joining forces to give a crucial demographic of guests unrestricted access to the entire Valley through a combined season pass.
Sugarbush Resort, originally known as Sugarbush Valley, came onto the scene a decade behind Mad River Glen (MRG), but in the decades that followed, saw faster and more expansive growth than its elder neighbor. It merged with Glen Ellen Ski Area in 1979 (now Mt. Ellen), a third ski area that emerged on the same ridgeline, and went on to develop at an exponential rate to its current four-season resort status. The resort was voted Best Terrain and Overall Resort in the Northeast by OnTheSnow visitors in 2012 and now offers 111 trails and more than 20 wooded areas spanning between two mountains, with a growing selection of high-end residencies.
Meanwhile, Mad River Glen held fast to its no-frills, classic New England ski experience, from its legendary single chair to its ban on snowboarding (still in place, sorry brah). Since the late 1990s the mountain has been owned outright by a cooperative of loyal skiers and today, they hold true to the "winter community" vs. "four-season resort" mentality on which the mountain was founded. Capital improvements are slow to come, but that's the way they like it.
Putting their differences aside during a press conference held this past weekend in Sugarbush's Lincoln Peak Village, ski area officials from the two mountains announced the details of their long-overdue partnership. The primary objective: to target destination skiers and encourage the millenial generation to keep a foot in their ski and snowboard boots.
"Over the years, people are realizing it makes sense for us to work together for the youth and to bring people to this destination," says Mad River Glen Marketing Director Eric Friedman. Retention of season pass holders has been dwindling for many resorts as millenials get out of college, begin to have children of their own and are hit with the added expenses and the reality of life with a family. "You can't argue with the numbers. Looking at the demographics of the ski industry we realize the kids of the baby boomers just aren't returning to the mountain. We gotta do whatever we can to bring those people to the Valley."
Enter, the Ski The Valley Plus ticket. This is available to skiers and riders who book extended ski and stay packages (3 night minimum) with local lodging members. It includes unrestricted access to all three peaks along with extra "pluses" good for things like appetizers, movie tickets and yoga classes at businesses throughout the Mad River Valley.
In addition, the Threesome College Pass gives full-time college students unrestricted acces to all three mountains for just $359 (before November 7). Plus, purchasers of Sugarbush's popular For20's pass (ages 19-29) can "Add Mad" for $80 more and enjoy unrestricted midweek skiing at MRG.
The partnership also means some collaborative events for Valley faithfuls including the Randonee Rally, a backcountry ski race linking the three mountains together and The Big Kicker, a season kick-off party at the Big Picture Theater and Cafe in Waitsfield, featuring a screening by SKI THE EAST/Meathead Films. A sponsored bus will help to get students from Burlington to both MRG and Sugabrush on scheduled days during the season.