All photos/art by Erik Rank
Perhaps you’ve seen the red-and-white bumper sticker “Mad River Glen: Ski It If You Can.” If you have and you can, then chances are you’ve met Eric Friedman, marketing director for Vermont’s most traditional ski area. When the lines for the East’s only single-chair lift start getting long, it’s Eric who personally greets skiers and eases the wait.
“Like the state of Vermont, we’re sorta renegades,” Eric says of his home mountain. “We’re the only co-op-owned major ski area in America. This isn’t a consolidated or homogenized corporate facility–this is a small, special place. The co-op cares about protecting the actual mountain and the forests, but also the experience of skiing. Our skiers aren’t flashy–they’re here to ski.”
Located southeast of Burlington, the Mad River Valley enfolds the small towns of Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren, and Fayston, which hug the waterway and Route 100 in clusters of white-steepled churches, galleries, restaurants, and gear shops. It’s a gorgeous place where people take advantage of the outdoor life year-round, but at its heart is the winter season, when the mountains are covered with snow. Lisa, Eric’s wife, and their two sons–Ben, age 11, and Eli, age 9–are also committed to the valley and to the mountain that dominates the views from their home.
“We’re constantly in motion,” says Lisa. During the winter, the boys’ school makes use of the local mountains by including a half-day of skiing as part of the physical-education program. A lot of the parents strap on their skis, too. “I love to get out there with my boys,” Lisa adds. “They’re both really good skiers, and they love the mountain, too. We’re lucky that they’re into it and understand where they’re from. If we lived on an island and they didn’t like to swim, that’d be a challenge.
“When the boys have their school day on the mountain, I try to ski, too. I know I’ll see other parents and friends there, so in a small valley, that means there’s often a call for an apres-ski get-together, and we love to host. I like having everyone back at the house afterward. I’ll invite some friends beforehand, but I make enough food so that I can invite people I run into and want to catch up with.”
Lisa owns a catering company, so her index of ideas and recipes is well vetted. She insists that nothing has to be fancy–but organization is key. “It doesn’t take a lot of time, but once you lay the groundwork, it makes everything easier,” she notes. “Oddly, the structure actually lets all of us be more spontaneous.”
But how to run a business, ski all afternoon, and host a houseful of guests? “I do a lot of the prep work the night before, and I cook while people are at the house,” Lisa explains. “People love to watch and help. And frankly, we keep a clean house, but I’d never pass the white-glove test. I’m not going to be slowed down by a little dust on a lampshade or rafter.” Perhaps the best advice yet.