Sugarbush History


We’re turning 60 this season and to celebrate we’re revisiting memories from the past 60 years throughout the upcoming season. Rejoice with us this season while making new memories.

Sugarbush Top 60

  1   Sugarbush opens on Christmas Day in 1958 with the greatest vertical rise in the east.

  4   John Egan, Sugarbush legend and member of the 2016 Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame class has appeared in 17 Warren Miller films.

  6   In 1993, Warren Miller Films at Sugarbush.

 12  First gondola in the United States.

 13  The Slide Brook Express Quad is the longest and fastest detachable quad in the world. Installed in 1995, this chairlift travels a total of 11,012 feet between Lincoln Peak and Mt. Ellen.

 24  The Wunderbar is the first bar to open at a ski resort.

 31  Sugarbush is sold in 2001 to Win Smith and Joe Riemer.

 36  In the 1960s, Stein Eriksen, Olympic Gold medalist served as director of the Sugarbush Ski School.

 41  In 1963 Walt Elliot opened Glen Ellen, now known as Mt. Ellen. Over the years some of the trails have changed names. Here are some favorites: Scotch Mist » Black Diamond Rush, Hoot Mon » Walt’s Trail, Royal Tartan » Hammerhead, Devil’s Elbow » Elbow and Aberdeen Alley » Northway.

 45  Building quads in 2017 – the Village Double and Sunshine Double are replaced with fixed-grip quad lifts.

 52  The 1995-96 and 2016-17 are tied for the most snowfall in one season. Those seasons we received 363”.

 53  The Vermont Band Phish played at Mt. Ellen July 16th, 1994 and July 2nd and 3rd, 1995.

 57  First Eastern resort with cat skiing.


Where We've Been

The Gadd Era (1958-1977)

On December 25, 1958 Damon and Sara Gadd and their partner, Jack Murphy, opened Sugarbush. Lixi Fortna, hired to help run the mountain, shared duties with Damon, Sara and Jack—from ticket selling to tending bar, the four worked long hours by candlelight. Lift tickets were just $5.50. Damon and Sara brought well-known figures to work for the resort, such as Peter Estin, Sigi Buchmayr, and Stein Eriksen. This group drew big-name guests such as the Kennedy clan, actress Kim Novak, fashion designer Oleg Cassini and his brother, Igor—a gossip columnist, heirs and heiresses, a countess or two, and lots of models. This Jet Set crowd became the standard for the Sugarbush scene and the resort became known as “Mascara Mountain.”

Press from the Gadd Era:

Newsweek, March 14, 1960
Skiing, Gondolas With Soul
Ski Mag, 1960 Legacy

The Cohen Era (1977-1983)

In 1977 the Gadds sold Sugarbush to Roy Cohen, who invested millions of dollars expanding the resort. In 1979 Cohen purchased neighboring Glen Ellen Ski Area and created Sugarbush North—the third highest mountain in Vermont.

The ARA Services Era (1983-1984)

In 1983 ARA Services, a Philadelphia food supplier purchased the Resort. In 1984 the Italian-made gondola, installed by the Gadds, was removed and was superceded by the Super Bravo and Heaven’s Gate triple chairs. This change increased uphill capacity from 450 skiers per hour to 1,800.

The Claneil Era (1984-1995)

ARA Services sold the Resort in 1984 to another Philadelphia company, Claneil Enterprises. In 1990, Claneil management installed three new lifts on Mt. Ellen, including the “world’s fastest quad,” the Green Mountain Express. A base to summit ride was cut from 21 minutes to 13 and lift lines virtually disappeared. Sugarbush was transformed into a four-season resort by Claneil’s purchase of the Sugarbush Inn and Country Townhouses, the golf course, tennis center, three restaurants, and a cross-country ski complex, plus securing the management of seven condominium complexes.

The Les Otten/ASC Era (1995-2001)

Les Otten purchased Sugarbush in May 1995 with the intention of revitalizing Sugarbush in the largest single-season lift and snowmaking expansion in North American ski industry history. Less than six months later, Sugarbush had seven new lifts, three-hundred percent more snowmaking, a 63 million gallon snowmaking pond, and its two base areas were connected with the Slide Brook Express—the longest and fastest high speed quad in the world. Mr. Otten and the American Skiing Company sold the resort to Summit Ventures in the autumn of 2001.

The Summit Ventures Era (2001-present)

Today Sugarbush is owned and operated by Summit Ventures NE, LLC, as partnership of a few individuals which is majority owned by Win Smith, Jr. All investors in Summit Ventures are skiers and riders and devoted to the long-term success of the Mad River Valley and Sugarbush. They have a vision for the Resort that is very much the way Damon & Sarah Gadd and Jack Murphy envisioned it nearly 49 years ago. They believe that life is truly better here in the Mad River Valley. They are committed to making Sugarbush a better place, and they believe that guests can become better too at the things they love doing here. Since acquiring the Resort in 2001, the Castlerock and Green Mountain Express chairlifts were replaced, the snowmaking system continues to be upgraded each year, new grooming equipment has been purchased, the famed Robert Trent Jones Golf course has been significantly upgraded, and the new Gate House Lodge was completed in December 2006. The refined slope side residences of Clay Brook also opened in December 2006. In 2013 construction was completed on the new Rice Brook Residences, private homes linking Lincoln Peak village to historic Sugarbush Village. Learn more at