Elevation: 3,637 feet Vertical Drop: 2,037 feet Snowfall: 250 inches Getting There: Mad River is 5 miles northwest of Waitsfield on Route 17, off Route 100; three hours north of Boston. Info: 802-496-3551, madriverglen.com
THE BETA: On any given day, half of Mad River's skiers can be found dressed in wool and weaving through the trees on core-shot tele skis. They'll be riding the nation's only diesel single chair, known simply as "The Single." Pasted on their car bumpers: the infamous red and white Ski It if You Can sticker. And if they act like they own the place, could be they do-it's a co-op.
Mad River's trail network is as twisty, narrow, and tangled as mating snakes. Countless lines lurk in the glades on the resort's two interconnected peaks. Factor in the dearth of grooming and snowmaking (only 15 percent of the terrain gets gunned) and you've got conditions only as good, or bad, as Ma Nature intends. In Vermont, this can mean moss-covered boulders, waterfalls, slush, ice, and chest-deep powder. In the same week.
Queue up at the Single at 8 a.m. At the top, sidestep the short rise on your right to Paradise, which is ordinarily anything but (see Marquee Route). On your next lap, blast down Chute, right under the lift. As Chute turns into Lift Line midway down, stick to skier's right for head-high drops. Next run, take Catamount Bowl, one of the few runs that's wider than a two-by-four. Then, from the top of the double, ski past the sign on your right that says This Is Not a Ski Trail into some of Mad River's steepest and least-plundered glades, Slalom Hill Woods.
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With a high powder-fiend-to-acre ratio, it's slim pickings. Still, you can scour the edges of wider trails like Catamount, Slalom Hill, and Grand Canyon for untracked.
They don't call it the Sunnyside double for nothing. With a perfect southern exposure, the terrain here is the first to corn up. Slalom Hill is the spot for bashing big, mushy moguls.
Despite the Snowboarders Only sign posted by the Sugarbush patrol on a Mad River lift tower (for April Fools'), snowboarders are as welcome here as anthrax at the post office.
Marquee route: Whoever named Paradise must've been a masochist. This infamous glade boasts a dizzying array of corkscrew turns (often coated by a sheet of frozen blue), rock outcroppings, and precipitous drop-offs-including a waterfall.Off-Broadway: Hit Lynx, a birch-studded rodeo ride over undulating terrain and unforgiving bumps, best skied fast and loose.
Keep an eye peeled for the flash of Gore-Tex slipping into the woods. Follow to the 20th Hole, an out-of-bounds stash that's neither condoned nor condemned.
DRINKING & DANCING
Join the booty-shakin' throng beneath the stuffed moose head at Mad Mountain Tavern (802-496-2562), just down the road from the ski area. Live tunes rattle the old windows on weekends; pints are two bucks on Monday and Thursday nights.
Grab a chocolate croissant and a cup of java at Bridge Street Bakery (802-496-0077). For On-mountain grub, get the base lodge's homemade chili. For dinner, protein-load with a T-bone at Arvad's (802-496-9800), then kick back on the fireside sofa-and partake of the nearly 100 beers from 25 countries.
For a bare-bones stay, try the Golden Lion ($55-$125; 802-496-3084); bring your suit (hot tub) and your pooch (pets okay). The Waitsfield Inn ($105-$150; 800-758-3801) offers 1800s country charm, hot breakfast, and a resident ghost named Lovilla.
When it's not dumping, skip the Single. The Sunnyside double is your ticket to vert.
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