“Ski Mad River if you can” is the famous slogan of the home of the single chair in Vermont. Mad River Glen’s following is cult like. It is the Grateful Dead of ski resorts. Its non-grooming policy is legendary. It is said if you can ski Mad River you can ski anywhere! Many hail Mad River Glen as true East Coast skiing. Well I can say I have proudly skied Mad River! However the Mad River I was skiing is some 500 miles southwest of the more famous place with Glen at the end of its name.
Mad River Mountain, OHIO is another rising star in Peak Resort’s quiver of midsize low rise ski areas. If Mad appears in the name you know the terrain is going to be out there. It also helps to show up the day after a blizzard. The area received over 10 inches of snow the two days before my arrival. I could have skied the parking lot of my hotel and raved about it.
The resort is situated near the highest point of Ohio which is really not saying much when the total elevation is only 1,400 feet above sea level. The surrounding terrain is really more rolling than mountainous. It is located about a one hour drive from Dayton or Columbus. Most of the skier traffic is drawn from these cities.
The traditional layout has the lodge at the bottom of the hill. The 15 trails spread across the hill are predominantly light blue affairs. These are serviced by 6 lifts of varying ages and speed. Much of the terrain is short cruiser, but the layout does take advantage of some gladed areas offering some advanced pitches. The total drop is a mere 300 feet - nothing like its name sake back East.
Mad River Mountain recently spent $2.5 million on an expansion to add a new lift, 2 new trails and a tubing park. But I really don’t see why they bothered with the new trails. They are long flat affairs that would be green trails in any other part of the country. These trails probably spread out weekend crowds, but add nothing really to the trail map. The tubing park draws well but they should have saved their money on the new trails.
Surprisingly the “older” terrain is better. Advanced trails “Launch Pad,” “Peril,” and “Zero G” have all been converted to terrain parks. These boasted some of the best jumps, hits and features I have seen in the Midwest. Another nearby trail “Sugar Bush” provided a nice speed run that still had some powder stashes. This whole area was served by an old double that was cranking up the mountain faster than any other lift on the hill. This combination provided most of the fun to be found on the hill during my time.
Now if Mad River Glen is true East Coast skiing, then Mad River Mountain is true Midwestern skiing. They both share a penchant for old chairs and cold temps. It was 19 degrees when I started my day but 9 degrees when I finished. In the Midwest you have to want it. The slopes are short, the lifts are slow, and the air is cold. But if you work hard at it you might just have fun.
I can’t wait to tell my skiing friends back East, I skied Mad River the day after a blizzard. I will just skip the part about being in Ohio and not Vermont!
Robbie Allen is an avid small hill skier. He has written several articles on the many small hills he has sought out.