Sugarbush History

Over the years, we’ve continued to make lots of new memories while celebrating the old ones. We've seen historic events make triumphant comebacks, while welcoming new ones. To add to our event lineup, each year, the Sugarbush Wall of Fame will recognize those who have contributed to the Sugarbush experience from 1958 to the present. 

From events to snow storms, tasty eats to bluebird days, we look forward to the many memories to come here at Sugarbush.

Sugarbush Fun Facts

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

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

       In 1993, Warren Miller Films at Sugarbush.

       First gondola in the United States.

       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.

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

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

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

       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.

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

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

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

       First Eastern resort with cat skiing.

  gondolas

Featured Articles on Sugarbush History

Grab a copy of the diamond jubilee issue of the Sugarbush Magazine or check out some of the featured articles online.

Bride looking out at Lincoln Peak
Sugarbush Magazine Blog
Sugarbush’s Sweet Beginnings

The history of a mountain, and the glamorous crowd that flocked there

Written by Candice White
Thursday, December 20, 2018
READ MORE
Bride looking out at Lincoln Peak
Sugarbush Magazine Blog
Family Ties

The following accounts serve as testimonials of the strong community at Sugarbush and in the Mad River Valley. I set out to interview families who had historical connections with the mountain, hoping to learn about their habits and rituals...

Written by Sam Loesch
Friday, January 4, 2019
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Bride looking out at Lincoln Peak
Sugarbush Magazine Blog
The Valley of the Architects

Over the past half century, a large number of unusually talented architects have settled down to work in the Mad River Valley

Written by Peter Oliver
Thursday, January 10, 2019
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Bride looking out at Lincoln Peak
Sugarbush Magazine Blog
Eating and Sleeping - Then & Now

A hog barn becomes a pizza place, a clapboard mill becomes a cozy inn—the stories behind some iconic Valley favorites

Written by Cory Ayotte
Monday, January 7, 2019
READ MORE
Bride looking out at Lincoln Peak
Sugarbush Magazine Blog
Snow Deep in History

Fun facts about snowfall from the '60s to the present. Follow our snow history here!

Written by John Bleh
Thursday, February 7, 2019
READ MORE
Bride looking out at Lincoln Peak
Sugarbush Magazine Blog
Sugarbush Timeline

Take a tour through Sugarbush history with this visual timeline

Written by The Sugarbush Magazine
Thursday, February 7, 2019
READ MORE


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
Sports Illustrated, November 18, 1963

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 SugarbushLiving.com.