Free It If You Can: PowderJet Snowboards poach Vermont’s ski-only resort, Mad River Glen
There are three ski areas left in the United States that infamously keep snowboarders off their lifts: Utah’s Alta and Deer Valley, and Vermont’s Mad River Glen. Through legal battles and cultural differences, these holdouts have resiliently fought letting riders join skiers on the slopes, thus continuing the festering disdain between the two lifestyles, though most of their resort colleagues have long accepted snowboarding. That animosity has made Alta and Mad River Glen particularly easy targets for snowboarders to claim the honor of riding in ski-only resorts, to taste a fruit forbidden to those who prefer to stand sideways.
This past weekend, Vermont-based PowderJet Snowboards organized the first annual Mad River Glen Family Group Poach, aptly titled “Free It If You Can,” an ode to our lifestyle’s spirit of rebellion. Though this is unlikely to change the Glen’s dated attitude towards us, we hope it can crack a smile and a laugh for one of snowboarding’s oldest traditions. Ride on guys. — Jens Heig, Editor
Photography and captions by Shem Roose
I was standing beside a horde of skiers, all eagerly waiting in line for the single chair, as my fellow participants in the first annual PowderJet Family Poach steadily descended, laying defiant slashes into the sacred Mad River Glen snow. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a little girl tugging at her mother’s jacket, wildly pointing at the procession. When her mother looked down, the little girl exclaimed, “mom, it’s, it’s….SNOWBOARDERS.”
Mad River Glen was not always the bastion of snowboarding discrimination. The ski area, founded on Rockefeller money with a goal to keep commercialization off the slopes, was actually one of the first to welcome snowboarders in the 1980s. A series of events, culminating in an infamous confrontation between former owner Betsy Pratt and a group of local riders, brought about the snowboard ban in 1993. The resort was purchased by a group of skier shareholders in 1995 who have steadfastly voted to maintain the ban ever since.
Occasionally the ban gets attention from efforts like Burton’s [Power to the Poachers] contest or the Wasatch Equality lawsuit, but for the most part, it has been accepted as normal. This past Saturday, PowderJet hosted a group poach as a reminder that though it may feel normal, the ban is not right. Weary eyed snowboarders assembled in the Mad River parking lot at a rather early 6 am. They skinned, shuffled, and laughed their way up the 2,037 vertical feet to the top of the famed single chair. As the first skiers were heading up the mountain, a chaotic group of riders slashed their way down, relishing every moment in enemy territory.
Slowed by a traverse, I was at the back of the group with Simon Loomis, son of PowderJet owner Jesse Loomis. Simon, fed up with the flats, dropped into a powdery mogul field directly below the double chair. As he carved his way through the moguls, a chorus of cheers started to descend from the chairlift, growing louder the more aggressive he became. I smiled to myself, for if a Mad River Glen chairlift can cheer on a young rider, perhaps the ban is not inescapable, and perhaps someday that young skier will not be shocked by a snowboarder in her midst.
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