Mad River Glen snowboarding PowderJet Snowboards

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


Free-it-if-you-can-powderJet-Snowboards-Shem-Roose-3620 This group photo was taken by a friendly Mad River Glen employee just moments after riding down to hoots and hollers from skiers on the chairlift. From left to right: Ryan Macrillo , Brennan Guerriere, Mike Steen, Seth Beck, Chris Bolen, Simon Loomis, Jesse Loomis, Elijah Pedriani, Dan Pia-Needleman, and 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.


Read also: The Powderjet Speed of Sawdust Tour shapes up in NYC

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Mad River Glen snowboarding PowderJet Snowboards One of the mountain ops guys asked us to go up the mountain in a straight line, but it was early and we couldn’t stop staring at the moon and blue sky.

Mad River Glen snowboarding PowderJet Snowboards Elijah Pedriani and Seth Beck lead the charge as Dan Pia-Needleman and Jesse Loomis plot their next poach.

Mad River Glen snowboarding PowderJet Snowboards If you’re in the mountains and you spot some wildlife like a mountain cougar, a moose or a snow cat; do not chase after it!

Mad River Glen snowboarding PowderJet Snowboards Mad River Glen has great trail names like Bunny, Beaver, Porcupine, Lynx and this alpine classic, Fall Line.

Free-it-if-you-can-powderJet-Snowboards-Shem-Roose-3585 A ski patroller asked us not to pee on the deck of this warming hut because he would have had to shovel it. I know we look like savages, but c’mon guy!

Mad River Glen snowboarding PowderJet Snowboards By 9:00am, the temperature was reaching 40 degrees and we had an impromptu parking lot peanut gallery. Mike Steen hiked up this little zone and found a few pockets of untracked hot pow while cars of skiers drove around looking for empty parking spaces.

Mad River Glen snowboarding PowderJet Snowboards Mike Steen, Chris Bolen and Jesse Loomis had a good chin wag with the sheriff about the lack of parking at Mad River Glen.

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