Mad River Glen preserves the physical aspect and recreational spirit of the first generation of ski resorts that others lost through renovation and refurbishment. Roland Palmedo, an original investor in Stowe, founded Mad River Glen to provide a pure sportsmen's experience, and that vision has endured through the efforts of succeeding owner Betsy Pratt and, since 1995, by the shareholders' cooperative that purchased it from her to assure its continuity. Site planning was entrusted to a youthful Dan Kiley, who drew upon previous experience with the National Park Service and the Army Corps of Engineers. Responding to the organization and evolution of nature and the particular qualities of site, he designed the initial trails to follow the winding contours of the mountain. Narrow, steep, and marked by natural obstacles, they gave the area its lasting “ski it if you can” slogan. By 1951 he would return permanently to Vermont as his base of operations for a career that included collaboration with many of the greatest architects of the later twentieth century.
At the foot of the mountain is the Base Box by McIlvane, who later designed ski facilities at Vermont's Stratton Mountain; Mountain Creek, New Jersey; and Squaw Valley, California. Here, shed roofs, picture windows, and rustic siding set the themes for subsequent service buildings. The single chair lift that rises from a simple gabled shed was reputed to be the longest and fastest chair lift in the world in 1948, improving upon its 1936 ancestor at Sun Valley, Idaho. It remains the last operative diesel-powered single chair lift in America. At its head and marking the point where the lift meets the Long Trail following the ridge of the Green Mountains is the shed-roofed, rustic-sided Stark's Nest (1948). Lifts, trails, and structures from succeeding years have remained sufficiently consistent with the functional, ecological, and noncommercialized quality that characterized the glen from the start that it remains a cult ski area, prized for its powers to evoke skiing's early days.