Ski Resort Life

Souping Up Mad River's Single Chair


Mad River Glen, VT, Nov. 30–Back in 1948, diesel fuel powered up Mad River Glen’s single person chairlift for the first time. Fifty years later, the weathered single chair remains the only diesel single chair in the U.S.–an icon for the area–and in need of restoration.

While upgrades and improvements have been in full whir at resorts around the country, Mad River’s management has staunchly resisted change. The shareholders cite their mission as “to preserve and protect the forest and mountain ecosystem” and “to maintain the unique character of the area for present and future generations.” Still, some things need repairing over time.

The shareholders recently voted to replace the single chair’s diesel motor at a cost of $150,000. Over the next three-to-five years, shareholders expect to spend an additional $300,000 – $750,000 as they assess and repair all of the single chair’s working parts.

Any actual seats from the chairlift that are retired will likely go to lucky shareholders and or to a museum.

The sole transport to the mountaintop and serving mostly expert terrain, the single chair climbs 2,000 vertical feet, farther than any other electric single chair in the country.

“The chair is the center piece of the mountain’s base and character,” said Eric Freedman, Mad River Glen marketing director.

This local centerpiece may be soon added to the National Register of Historic Places. After all, Vermont’s Magic Hat Brewing Company has already named a beer “Single Chair Ale” in honor of the ride.