Mad River Glen was one of the first resorts to allow snowboarder and after banning them in the ’90s is now famous as one of the last holdouts. We caught up with Eric Friedman, Mad River’s marketing and shareholder relations director to find out why. Friedman, who has been with the resort since before it became a co-op in 1995, related the following story:
Betsy Pratt was the former owner of the ski area and also the founder of the co-op. She allowed snowboarding initially and that worked out OK, this was early-mid 80's so there wasn't a lot of them. We were the second ski area in the country to allow it, Stratton was the first one.
It worked OK for a while and then they started encountering problems. We have the last single chair left in North America and it's a flat landing at the top, there's no ramp, so when you get off the lift you step off the right. What snowboarders would do, they'd push off the chair, not having any poles, to get themselves off to the right. They had problems in that it was screwing up how the chairs were going into the guide on the bullwheel. So she had to hire an extra person to stand out there to catch the chairs as they were coming back into the guide. That sort of worked out, but the bottom line was that there weren't enough of them to warrant the expense.
So what she did was, we have three other double chairs, so she said that snowboarders were free to go on the double chairs and free to hike, but couldn't' go on the single chair. At this point it's probably like '87, 88. That worked out OK for a little while, but the problem with that is the single is really where the goods are. Everybody wanted to go up there, and you couldn't blame them for that. There started being rumblings about it and some of the local riders started getting pissed off at Betsy and there were a couple of kind of legendary confrontations and the most legendary and the final one, she was accosted by a couple of local riders in the supermarket and this is in the summer, and they stuck the camera in her face and said [cussed her out and asked why they couldn’t ride there.] And she tried, I saw the video, no BS, and she tried to calmly explain her rationale, and the kid cut in, "well whatever bitch, now I know what it's like to be a ni$%er in the 50's." And she was like "you're done, there will be no more snowboarding at Mad River."
That was like '91, and then Betsy was pretty old. She was in her 70's – she's 83 now – and she wanted to sell the ski area. This was when all the corporate take overs from American Ski Co. and places like that were coming in. She had the opportunity, but she didn't want to do that. So she created the vehicle to sell it to the skiers. At that time, every snowboarder at the time had the opportunity to buy shares here but they didn't. That policy could have been changed at any time, and till this day could change tomorrow if [snowboarders] chose to buy shares.