A Perfect Weekend: Mad River Valley

With Sugarbush and Mad River Glen ski areas just a few miles apart and cross-country skiing at Ole’s and Blueberry Hill, the Mad River Valley has been a skiers paradise for more than 70 years. Waitsfield is a bustling small town, and the tiny village of Warren, with its covered bridge, classic meeting house and Colonial-era homes is as Vermont as it gets. Here are two ways to enjoy a weekend in the Mad River Valley — be it a 25th anniversary celebration where you’re ready to go all out or a budget trip with buddies.


Last week, you looked at the weather report. Snow. Lots of it. Seeing the forecast, you booked a ride for the coming weekend on the Sugarbush Sunrise Tours. The weather delivered. It’s now 6:45 a.m. and you’re one of 8 guests in the Husky snowcat that’s leaving the Lincoln Peak base area. For $125 per person (plus an Ikon pass or other lift ticket) you should be able to get five runs in untracked powder before the lifts even start to turn. The rest of the ski day is gravy.

Want first tracks? Sugarbush’s powder cat delivers for Sunrise Tours. Courtesy photo.

By noon, your legs are sore so you stop for a sit-down lunch of sesame-crusted ahi tuna over artisan lettuce at Rumbles Bistro at the Lincoln Peak base ($31) before heading out for a Umiak Outfitters’s dog sled tour. The 1.5-hour tours leave from the Sugarbush golf course and cost $449 per sled (for two).

After, you are ready for the room and dinner at The Pitcher Inn in Warren and the massage you booked at the inn’s new spa. Innkeeper Tracy Kelly greets you with a warm smile and guides you across the street to where your massage therapist is waiting. The building has just been reopened as a spa and uses locally made natural products from Ursa Major and Lunaroma. There will be facials and other treatments available soon, but the spa just opened in early January.

Fireside dining at The Pitcher Inn’s restaurant, 257 Main, can mean meals cooked over an open hearth. Courtesy photo.

You almost fall asleep on the table as massage therapist Sally Kendall expertly works the kinks out of your quads and releases cricks in your back and shoulders. At $180 for an hour it is worth every penny. The space alone is calming. The works of local artists — including Rory Jackson and Kate Gridley — hang on the walls there and in the inn, a reflection of the fact that the Pitcher Inn’s owner also owns Edgewater Galleries, based in Middlebury. Returning to the Inn you discover with some delight that you are booked in the Ski Room, one of the inn’s dozen rooms and suites, each with a unique theme and design and ranging in price from $600 to $1,080.

The Ski Room (shown at top), like much of the inn, was designed by acclaimed architect (and Warren neighbor) David Sellers. Like much of Sellers’ work, it is both stunning and whimsical. A fire roars in a wood stove set into a massive brick chimney. You curl up in front of it on the leather couch and admire the vintage skis propped against the wall and the leather boots near them.
Next to the fireplace, Sellers installed an old ticket window salvaged from Mad River Glen. It opens into a small, private kitchen. The bedroom, clad in barnboard feels as if you were in your own Ralph Lauren version of a Vermont ski cabin from the 1960s, with vintage postcards, magazines, and even a pair of old ski socks hanging from the walls.

Before dinner, you head to Tracks, the Inn’s lower-level bar for a spot of Mad River Distillers’ whiskey and a game of shufflepuck.
Then it is upstairs to the main restaurant, 275 Main where a fireside table is set with white tablecloths. The inn’s chef, Jeff Innis, is known for using an open fire to prepare meals such as roasted vegetables and hearty game. Antique pots and pans hang from the mantel.

Tonight, you opt for a poached pear salad and a melt-in-your-mouth-tender Beef Wellington, made with local beef and plated with wild mushroom duxelles. The breads, desserts, and pastries are prepared fresh each day by Jordan Holmes whose croissants and pastries are also available at the Warren Store across the street. Sated, tired, and wanting to start fresh the next day, you sink into bed as the sound of the brook that runs past the inn lulls you to sleep.


In the morning, you make a pilgrimage to Mad River Glen where it’s still possible to purchase a weekend lift ticket for less than $100 if you buy ahead and online (or take advantage of the late-afternoon, two-hour $39 lift ticket.) Poke into the trees and you may still find some untracked stashes. For lunch, go for a grilled cheese on locally made Red Hen bread at the ski area’s General Stark’s pub. It costs $12 and local beef burgers just $16.

After a day of skiing, head to Mad River Massage to work out the sore muscles. Some therapists there have more than 20 years’ experience and an hour’s massage goes for $110. It’s a casual and warm place that also uses local Ursa Major and other brands. Then, go for a warm pretzel at Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ brewpub in Waitsfield and one of their award-winning brews, such as Maple Tripple Ale.

For dinner, don’t miss the original American Flatbread, located in the old farmhouse at Lareau Farm, for creative flatbreads topped with farm-fresh local produce, meats and cheeses.

The hearth at the original American Flatbread – Waitsfield, VT ©Brian Mohr / EmberPhoto.com

From there, It’s a short hop across Route 100 to the new inn at Mad Bush Falls, Rider’s Outpost. The simple, stylish rooms there start at $139 midweek. There’s an option to add on a $99 daily gear package that lets you demo a full set-up of ski, snowboard, XC ski, or fat bike gear from the on-site shop run by Outdoor Gear Exchange and swap them out each day. A $39 add-on package gets you a spot at the Savu Sauna communal hour and, if you are brave, a plunge in the Mad Bush falls that the inn is named for. After, your sauna package includes a pick of any appetizer on the inn’s Après-Piste menu.

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.