Nov 1, 2019 at 8:00 AM
The Mad River Valley has been one of New England's premier outdoor destinations for decades, and the opportunities to play in Vermont's great outdoors continue to draw visitors and residents alike.
Everyday summer opportunities include everything from a stroll along the Mad River Path or a dip at popular and easy-to-access swimming holes—such as the Lareau Swim Hole on Route 100 and Ward's Swimming Hole on 100B—to challenging hikes up, along and over the spine of the Green Mountains. Mountain biking enthusiasts can enjoy the tremendous network of trails maintained by the Mad River Riders, while road cyclists from near and far enjoy the beauty and challenge of riding through Vermont's hillside farms and windy riverside roads. Those looking for a bit more assistance from gravity can also enjoy lift-served mountain biking at Sugarbush, while cyclists looking for a true test of their skill and fitness on the road can be found racing the Green Mountain Stage Race each Labor Day weekend, just as runners face the clock in each year's Mad Marathon.
Of course, windy mountain roads are popular with all two-wheeled enthusiasts, including those that prefer a motor; the Mad River Valley makes an incredible home base for touring the Green Mountains of Vermont, from the legendary gaps on both sides of the valley to the less-technical but incredibly scenic hillside roads that allow riders to enjoy some of the best views in the state. Riders looking to get a little dirty will find both well-maintained gravel roads as well as less-maintained forest roads (Vermont's famous Class 4 town highways) that provide great opportunities for exploration by any means—foot, mountain bike, horse, dual-sport motorcycle or street-registered 4x4—and the opportunity to see firsthand some of the transportation challenges that Vermont residents would have faced on daily basis in the 19th century.
From fall through spring, skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts flock to the Mad River Valley. The most dedicated (and perhaps slightly crazy) will start hiking for turns after the first dusting, often enjoying the mountains when a fresh coat of white contrasts will the brilliant foliage colors for which Vermont is famous. Sugarbush Resort fires up the lifts in November and uses one of the East's best snowmaking systems to provide access to many of its 111 trails and six peaks, with or without natural snowfall. All this acreage gives skiers and riders of every ability plenty of options to chose from and with a growing base area you can always find fun after the lifts stop turning at Sugarbush.
A few miles up the road from Sugarbush is Mad River Glen, the legendary ski area founded back in the '40s. The mountain's motto—"Ski it if You Can"—speaks both to the challenging terrain (renowned steeps found both on marked trails and in the woods) and the quality of snow—with exceptionally limited snowmaking, a good snow day at Mad River Glen provides the kind of fluffiness that only Mother Nature can.
On the other hand, it doesn't speak to the community that is Mad River Glen; a compact layout—all trails return to the same base area—complements an award-winning ski school and a tight-knit group of skiers united in their passion for sliding on snow. If you visit Mad River Glen, you'll find it's unlike anywhere else you've ever been.
Downhill not your thing? What about cross-country skiing?
Ole's and Blueberry Lake Cross-Country ski centers offer great cross-country terrain . Ole's is centrally situated in the Valley and you'll always find a friendly face, while Blueberry Lake's trail system abuts the Green Mountain National Forest and welcomes your canine companions (as long as you help them leave the trails clean).
What about ice skating? The Skatium offers public skating most days (weather permitting) and also pick-up hockey for the more adventurous.