Vermont’s favorite ski-racer-turned-rockstar talks about her favorite ski and apres ski spots and why the Mad River Valley really rocks.
We call this column ‘The Chairlift Interview” since it’s a quick way to meet a Vermonter. So if we were on a chairlift now, which one would it be?
The single chair at Mad River, of course! But you’d have to be shouting up the questions to me!
Ok, I’ll shout one up: What was it like growing up in the Mad River Valley?
My parents were ski bums, with my dad making signs for ski resorts around the country and my mom, an artist. I was really absorbed in the ski culture and I was competitive, so I grabbed as much as I could out of skiing. When I was in grade school, I’d get out on half days on Fridays to ski. Later I went to the Green Mountain Valley School and got into ski racing with some pretty amazing athletes like Olympic racer Doug Lewis. I learned so much from them and I have awesome memories of skiing at Sugarbush and Mad River Glen.
Do you still ski race?
No, I just telemark. I haven’t had much time to ski in the last few years but I think it will come back when I have kids. The last time I skied Mad River was with my sister Charlotte and we had a blast.
I hear you are also a mad sledder.
Oh yeah! I am a mad, mad sledder! Ask Alex Crothers (of Higher Ground) about a night that he and Jess (Crothers’ wife) and Matt (Burr, Potter’s husband) and I went down one of the steepest runs at Mad River. We were going like 40 mph and I’m the queen of bailing out—there was almost no Grace Potter at the end of that! When I was growing up in the Valley everyone was inventing things and testing different gear out. Dave Sellers (the architect) gave us one of the early Mad River Rocket sleds he invented. I still have a 1978 Rocket original with a rainbow strap and foam kneepads.
What’s your favorite song on your new album Midnight?
The song “Low” is an astounding representation of what is going on in my brain on an emotional level. I wrote it after getting a tour of these underground tunnels in Las Vegas where artists, poets and homeless people live and work. But the song is really more metaphorical: I tend to almost drown people I care about with love and I won’t let them go through a hard time alone.
Last night, you were on Conan O’Brien. You’ve opened for President Obama. Your Kenny Chesney duet, “You and Tequila,” was up for a Grammy. What’s the highlight of your career, so far?
It was definitely singing ‘Gimme Shelter’ on stage with the Rolling Stones this year—there’s no way I’m going to beat that. There was such a synergy that night. It felt like all the pieces were coming together at once, right down to the fact that I was wearing a silver dress and Mick was wearing a silver jacket—we hadn’t planned that. This Vegas mafioso fashion designer had made me that dress—the same one who gave me a tour of the underground tunnels. It was a really cosmic way to see all my passions and parts of my life come together, kind of like in a movie.
Do you and your husband (drummer Matt Burr) still consider Vermont home?
We are Vermonters through and through! Yup, I still live in the compound we call Potter Ville where I grew up. I’ve turned my dad’s old sign-making studio into our house, recording studio and my own yoga retreat.
You love good food, you’re friends with chefs such as Mario Batali. So when you are in the Valley, where do you hang out and where do you like to eat?
I love the Big Picture Café & Theater (in Waitsfield.) My first high school job was in the movie theater and I used to make the popcorn there. Later I was a bus girl at American Flatbread and that’s my other home away from home. There are so many great places in this valley. I love, love Mad Taco and Georgia Von Trapp is doing it right. But the closest I get to the food and the ski culture of the 1970s that my parents always talk about, is going to Chez Henri. Henri is such an amazing part of Sugarbush. I love hanging out there with him. He really has his claws in skiing.
You started Grand Point North festival in Burlington (held Sept. 12-13 this year). What’s your vision for making it grow?
My vision is NOT to grow it. It’s like Vermont: we want it to be intimate. I love exploring the power of Vermont, both artistic and entrepreneurial. We all like living against the odds here. Yes, it’s a tough place to live, but we get our stack of wood and store it and heat with it. There’s a pioneering spirit here.