Almost There: The Mad River Valley


And I didn’t realize what it meant to not have a stoplight until i was in the city. I was stopped at a stoplight for quite some time. Then I realized, you lose a lot of your life sitting at stoplights. And that doesn’t happen here, because we don’t have one. So you just live. Sometimes it really hits me more than others…and I’m like: people dream of this, this is people’s vacation. And we live in it every day. I always wanted to live in a place that people save for 50 weeks to spend 2 weeks… and we live in that spot. You also don’t come to Vermont to get rich, unless wealth is measured in powder days and sunsets I will never leave Vermont. I will never leave this hill. They will be carrying me out of my house. I never look at anywhere else and think – “Wow, the grass could be greener over there.” A lot of people say “you’ve got a piece of heaven right here.” [director:”And you do?”] And I do. It’s not a fabricated community. We don’t have any 5-star resorts. We don’t have any sprawling hotels. People come here – just like the tagline says – they ‘come for the mountains.’ They get off the mountain and they go out to dinner. If they’re staying in a condo, they go out to the grocery store. Or they come down to Bridge Street and they walk around and check out the shops, and get a cup of coffee. Then all of a sudden they realize they’re immersed in the community. What people have here is a very authentic Vermont experience. You have to be hardy to be here. You have to show up…to be here! It’s hard, and they have to do what it takes. A lot of people make a lot of sacrifices,
in terms of their professional lives, TO live here. People live here because of the qualities of life, and the qualities that they want to have in their life. We make a decision – a lot of us Vermonters –
to stay here. Despite all of this, it’s still worth it. I gotta believe it’s worth it, or I wouldn’t be putting everything I have into it. [chickens clucking] In part, the land itself welcomes people to do things that they want to do with their lives. It’s better to say “We’re the Mad River Valley that happens to have…some fantastic ski areas,” rather than saying “we’re a ski valley, that happens to have these other people.” The wonderful thing about the Mad River Valley – not about the ski areas – but those vistas and those views people that have kept that terrain alive and well they are the foundation and the glue that’s there 100% of the time They give it its character. They give it its uniqueness. They give it the charm that everybody wants And that’s bigger than any ski area. I’ve been in business, on this farm here, for 60 years. Well, according to my dad, my family was the first settlers in Warren. There are some people still alive to this day that can remember my grandmother doing service calls in her house dress. That’s the history and culture that can’t be lost. I find it a good mix of the old Vermont tradition, but, then there’s a nice mix of people that have moved here, or come here in the summer or winter to vacation, bring a lot to the Valley. So, there’s a very conscious effort to keep this place as it is. So, the mix of tourism and locals is just a huge part. The town iteself has regulations for building and doing things and keeping open space and buying farms and having people farm the farms A lot of the reason for that is the people that were here making policy, making things happen, 50, 60, 70 years ago. Once you’ve got people that are here that appreciate the physical aspects, suddenly you’re going to discover all of these people have a social commonality. There’s a great diversity here, but i think there’s an underlying core of values. The people that live here, and the people, especially, that maybe have moved here, have a real appreciation for what it is that makes this community special. It’s like an ideal, fertile ground for this kind of thing, because people are creative and they are open to alternative things. We have the Valley to thank for some of the most creative thinkers, skiers, builders, architects, artists, musicians, hikers, gardeners. There is opportunity, you just have to be creative and inventive. People in this Valley have just tremendous creativity, and I think a lot of that is they had to figure out how to make it here. It’s nothing but creative vision and making it happen. Businesses that were just an idea in someone’s head and they were able to bring them to reality right here in the Valley. It’s also an expression of the Valley the idea of kind of ‘think locally, act globally.’ That kind of mindset seems to run a thread through the Valley. It’s people who want to live a better way. People like that are able to make a go of it because we support them, because people in the local community buy their products. Because so many creative, really talented people have moved in here, you’ve really got a terrific school system. The schools here are amazing, and one of the most valuable things is that for a community that is based on the tourism industry, there’s still a really strong sense of community among the locals. It all wouldn’t be here if the ski area hadn’t brought money and brain power to the Mad River Valley. The reason I came up here and started doing some ski racing… I came to ski bum… The flow of those mountains are something very special and very unique. When the skiing is good here, it’s as good as it is anywhere. There is such cool terrain. It’s some of the best skiing in all of New England, all of Vermont. It’s just a great place to learn. The Valley has the Green Mountain Valley School which has produced many world class ski racers. I can’t think of another ski area that is joined at the hip to what some would call its competitor. We’re two very different but two very complimentary resorts. But they’re working together. That’s the unique thing. Sugarbush does a lot for our community but so does Mad River Glen. And Mad River Glen might be there for the local, hardcore skier, But Sugarbush brings a lot of people in that helps probably keep all of us afloat. When Mad River [Glen Co-operative] came in, everybody embraced the idea that something was coming to town. It’s been just more successful than I could have dreamed. She says “you know you’re only allowed to bring 2 things up [to the ISS].” And I’m like “and you brought that?” She’s like “Well, of course!” I think Mad River Glen completely embodies like what the Mad River Valley is: It is old school, it is throw-back. It is a Co-op, community. It is, it’s perfect for this valley, it fits here. And don’t mind if we poach it at 6 in the morning. [laughing] The first time sitting up on the top of Mad River Glen, I realized this is where I…I belonged. Win Smith [owner of Sugarbush Resort] has been a real blessing for the Valley. Not only a good business man, but the epitome of generosity. Here in the summer, Sugarbush is open 7 days a week. To have the option, within one valley, Route 17 as it climbs up this improbable slot through the mountains over Appalachian Gap is really something that is rare to find anywhere in the country. And we have it right here. Mad River Valley, I mean hands down, it is a playground. [music] When I first came to Vermont I was pretty focused on the winter. Then I came to find out that each season I was looking forward to – it has a four-season life. You’ve got the ski resorts, you’ve got all the mountain bike trails The rivers, canoeing, kayaking, lakes. As far as fitness and as far as general athleticism and things like that – people live and breathe this stuff. We got married on the day of the triathlon last year. I think we’re going to try to do this every year for the rest of our lives. [music] The cool part about people that come to visit is, especially from the [Mad] Marathon, I get feedback all the time that is the friendliest run they’ve ever raced. What ever way we can bring people here to show them this beautiful place – it’s well worth supporting. People bring whatever there
particular passion is with them, and if it’s not here, they often will create it here. The Mad River Valley, I think,
is one of the lovliest spots in the universe. I was amazed how much fun it was to watch 9 artists in the same space honing in on totally different things. A lot of what’s special is things that you have to know are there to go find them. There’s nothing like the Warren 4th of July Parade. Politics and creativity and daring to be different and music all tied up into one. It’s all about the community and the family and having a simple good time with simple things with simple people. It’s just fine as it is, but couldn’t it be better and faster and bigger and smarter.
And then what people say about you is “No.” Gosh, there’s so much pressure to expand [Lawson’s Finest Liquids]. But for us we’re sort of aiming at what is the best quality of life. And we feel blessed to be here. For me, it is the darkness at night and the lack of neon and the lack of fast food. I think most people shed the skin of the city and when they come, they want to be part of the community. Really people come from all over the world to come to this little village. Getting out of the city, and you’re clenching that wheel. And you get in and you almost feel your worries being left behind you as you driving up when you’re traveling. We can almost see their blood pressure dropping. We’ve been coming up here for 12 years, in the summer. We started coming here to do the Green Mountain Stage Race. We fell in love with Warren and Waitsfield and just the whole area. Everything just slows way down for me, which I really need after the pace of New York City. My kids are a little bit older and getting them away from their screens – it gives us time that we don’t normally have. [music] You can’t ask for a more idyllic natural background for a marriage or romantic getaway. It’s better than Disneyworld. It’s the most romantic, special, beautiful location in Vermont. It’s very personal and sentimental to me and I wouldn’t have had [my wedding] anywhere else She had…she had shared with us that she… The doctors…she wasn’t doing well for her medical procedure… the doctor said you need to think of a happy place. After she got everything done, she said “I thought of the Valley and I got through it no problem.” So, and that really makes you feel good. Here people are generally interested in helping visitors get the very best of the Valley because people here love the Valley. So when a family stops by and they want to have a lunch, we know where to recommend a lunch for them. The last 4 years has been the beginning of this movement of people really wanting to know where their food comes from. Growing food and eating local food is one of the most important political acts of our time. Every one of the restaurants here is locally owned and operated. We don’t ever have to deal with McDonald’s, Burger Kings or Pizza Huts. So, when you go in the door, you’re either going to be speaking to the owner,
or the owner is in the kitchen cooking the food for you. Food doesn’t come just out of a cardboard box,
they come from people down the road. These are just folks who you encounter, you know, the farmers
who provide food to the schools. So the kids get to know there is a whole farm to plate movement. Oh, it’s great. It tastes like it just came right out of the garden. It’s gonna go well with our Neill Farm burgers today. Here’s a better way…why not do it? I think there’s really nothing missing. You can do…I’ve been to the theater here, I’ve been to yoga classes here. I’ve done and African dance class here. I’ve gone to a nice dinner, I’ve gone for burgers. You can do it…really… everything here. [music builds] [music fades] [lyrics] “‘If you want to go to heaven better pray,’ said the reverend, ‘praise him every day.’” [lyrics] “High, high, way up high, high is where you’ll say.” [lyrics] “High, high, way up high, high is where you’ll say.” [music: Almost There by Suzie Brown] kaboss, kaboss, boss, boss come on there [mooing!] [more mooing!]

21 thoughts on “Almost There: The Mad River Valley

  1. Hat's off to Mt. Mansfield Media for producing this excellent video. It seems to truly capture what it's like to live in the Mad River Valley of Vermont.

    Come for the mountains, stay for the valley… indeed

  2. It's not quite Heaven, but it's Almost There.  I am incredibly pleased with how this documentary portrays the MRV. It's unscripted and genuine. Well done.

  3. Lovely place and lovely people, very glad I spent two vacations there with my wife and kids.

  4. Born and raised in Vermont, it's true, beautiful place, nice people, it may get cold but I love my home and proud to be a Vermonter

  5. not to be a downer, but it seems more like an ad, targeting people from new york city and boston to come and move in? i grew up in the mad river valley, and it needs to stay a "well-kept" secret. maybe a "as well-kept as possible secret"?

  6. if this place is truly the gem described in the video…then i dont think i would be sharing it with the whole world.  i feel places like this are bettered discovered through self discovery and people you meet along the way, not social media

  7. Oh my gosh!!!!! Did anyone see the girl in the panda hat at like minute 5??? That's me!!! I <3 MRV!!!!

  8. Love this area of Vermont, but almost no diversity. The only downfall. Otherwise, pretty idyllic  

  9. This documentary never gets old!! It seriously makes me tear up every time!!! I LOVE THE MAD RIVER VALLEY!!

  10. Everything? I'd like to say… the valley doesn't have an OCEAN and …ah.. and… ahh … and it doesn't have an ocean either ..does it ? .. and … oh yea no ocean. 🙂

    Mount Mansfield Media did a fantastic portrayal of my favorite place in the whole world. Made me cryed for home.

    Just one critique. The IndianaJones hillbilly calling the cows … he can't be for real.. is he? He so over the top he's got to be hired actor. Right ?

  11. We want to be there that is for sure! Thanks Eric Friedman for sharing this video. We have probably seen it 20 times in our NYC home and shared it with our friends.

  12. Wondered why Frendly Gathering moved here! Now I know! It truly is a magnificent place & I have been in Vermont since 1974!!

  13. I paint plein-air around this area quite often. Such a beautiful and inspiring place.

  14. I live in southern New England and will say I see license plates from various states but seldom if ever a green plate of Vermont here. Must be Vermonters won't leave the state.

  15. I can only imagine what my ggg-father must have felt when he left this place for Gettysburg. Thank you Mad River folks. Without you, I wouldn't bee here.

  16. What a very-nicely done piece of documentation on the- Mad River Valley!!! ❤ ❤❤

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