July 4th in the Mad River Valley

Have you heard? Frendly Gathering is coming to Fayston – Mt. Ellen at Sugarbush to be exact, from June 29-July 1st. You know what that means right? There’s an opening act for Warren’s Fourth of July celebration! Buy your tickets early – they have weekend car camping passes, day passes for the music, weekend long passes for music only! It’s great to have summer music back at Mt Ellen, and it’s sure to be a great time. After the Frendly Gathering you then have two days to rest and recharge for the 4th of July celebration in Warren. This years theme is “Stars & Stripes”. I’m thinking there will be more than one float with an orange face on it. AND then, the Circus is coming to town (Waitsfield) July 5th & 6th. So, really you need to make a full week for this years visit for the celebration of independence day. Here is a YUGE list of other haps in and around the Mad River Valley here in Central Vermont. Here’s a short list to get you started: Rock of Ages at the Valley Players – runs Thursday thru Saturday from June 29th to July 15th General Stark’s Pub – Dinners Thursday to Saturday Waitsfield Farmers Market – Saturday July 1st Warren 4th of July Parade Circus Smirkus at Kenyons Field – July 5th & 6th Round up on the River – Happening down by the ‘S turn’ on the Mad River (Bridge Stree) every Wednesday from 5 til dark until September...

Almost There: The Mad River Valley (video)

“An unscripted film about the community we call Vermont’s Mad River Valley. We like to say ‘they come for the mountains, but they stay for the valley.’ In this video you will see local farmers, business people, tourists, barns, markets, craft beer, music festivals, skiing, kayaking, running, biking, swimming, golfing and more. Basically everything that steers our community toward the relaxing and enjoyable place it is. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy living, working and playing here in the Mad River Valley.” Mad River Valley Chamber of...

Roll Back the Clock at Mad River Glen

    January 26, 2016 – Roll back the clock to 1948 Ski for $3.50 (You can’t even buy a cup of Joe for that anymore – well, you probably can at Mad River Glen) Plus, they have a ridiculous amount of things happening that day: Test G3 Telemark skis with Clearwater Sports PHAT (Protect your Head at All Times) event RAMP Sports demo Vermont Specialty Food Day and Starline Rhythm Boys in the General Stark’s...

What are you trying to sell me here? (It’s not a house)

This is my real estate blog. But really, it’s more of a Mad River Valley blog. A lifestyle blog. When people ask me why so little of what I write is actually about real estate, the answer is pretty simple. I live in the Mad River Valley because it’s one of the most idyllic places I have ever been, and I live a lifestyle that I love to share; the Mad River Valley is a place where the intangibles are ju st as good as the attractions. We play at world class ski area’s as an afterthought, grabbing a few runs after work before flying home (a little late) to make dinner. Our kids get out of school at 11:00 am one day a week to go skiing, as part of their curriculum, and ride the bus home from the ski area. They participate in after-school nordic skiing, and play outdoors at recess, no matter the weather. During the heat of the summer I frequently abandon my office and work from a beach chair along the river, while my children and their friends swim nearby. I don’t see a stoplight for months on end, and I get excited when the ski socks go on sale in November. Maple syrup flows like water in every restaurant and kitchen I know. In the summer it is so green here that it feels like we live in a painting. And when I drive home in the winter I still marvel at the sight of Mt Ellen towering over me as I go. How much better can it be? I stopped here on...

Columbus Day Weekend in the Mad River Valley

Looking for things to do? We’ve got it all – mountain biking, hiking, you are a bit too early for skiing and a huge list of events happening in and around our iconic Valley. So while this list is by no means extensive, it’s a start to get you going; Baked Beads Sale, Waitsfield VT: Friday to Sunday Oct 9-11 Sugarbush Community weekend, Warren VT: Saturday & Sunday Oct 10-11 Stephen Huneck’s Dog Mountain Fall Party, St. Johnsbury VT: Saturday Oct 10 Stratton Mountain Harvest & Craftbrew Fest, Stratton VT: Saturday Oct 10 Harvest Weekend at Billings Farm & Museum, Shelburne VT: Saturday & Sunday Oct 10-11 Everyday Cooking Class, Waitsfield VT: Friday & Saturday Oct 9-10 Great Vermont Corn Maze, Danville VT: every day from 10am Ibex Warehouse Sale, Berlin VT: Friday to Sunday Oct 9-11 The Vermont Moth, Burlington VT: Friday October 9 Stowe Foliage Arts Festival, Stowe VT: Friday to Sunday Oct...

The Mad River Valley – not just a ski town.

When I first came to the Mad River Valley I was not much of a skier. I arrived on the back of an old pair of Rossignol Quantums; museum pieces, strait as an arrow and utterly lacking any semblance of side cut. Although they might look fun on someone’s ski-house wall today, in 1994 they were just beat up old planks that drew amused laughter from my ski-patrolling sidekicks during that first season ski-bumming it at Sugarbush. By contrast, I owned a pretty nice mountain bike, which I had purchased for the ghastly sum of $550.00, cashing in my first several post-graduate paychecks in 1993. Since I had the bike, and not the skis, I considered myself a mountain biker first and foremost. And ride I did during that summer. Day in, day out, I peddled from the the apartment I was crashing in on Bridge Street in Waitsfield Village, through the covered bridge and up the East Warren Road; across the town line to Plunkton and down Fuller Hill to the Village where I was helping my friends renovate an 1830’s farmhouse. And every day at lunch time I would make the 12-mile trip in reverse, gaining as much elevation as I possibly could in order to rationalize the months of poverty to which that purchase had subjected me. The heart-pounding uphill was rewarded by miles of East Warren views. And the thrilling descent into Warren Village was the ultimate recompense, but I knew nothing of what lay beyond the open road, and what I was doing was hardly mountain biking. In those days mountain bikers blazed their own...

Labor Day in the Mad River Valley

While the Vermont Festival of the Arts is winding down (and there are still plenty of events they are hosting this long weekend), things to be done in the Mad River Valley is not coming to a close, not by a long shot. This coming weekend the Valley will be inundated with riders – of the two wheel man powered kind. The Green Mountain Stage Race is coming to town. Friday, Saturday and Sunday you will find varying types of races being held in and around the Mad River Valley; and on Monday the race takes to the streets of downtown Burlington for the Criterium stage of the race (and one of our favorite parts of the race to watch). On Saturday and Sunday get yourself over to the Mad River Valley Craft Fair in Kenyon’s field. It is so worth the visit because the vendors are all spectacularly talented. On Sunday try out our new farmer collaborative food adventure – Domingo – at the Kingsbury Farm, it’s a Mesoamerican venture between the Aaron of Kingsbury Farm and Vermont Bean Crafters. As Seven Days wrote: “But even non-cooks will be attracted by the prepared cuisine. Each week, the menu will consist of foods that combine beans, chiles and tortillas with other local products. Queso fresco from Ploughgate Creamery figures into quesadillas, while the bones of Maple Wind Farm‘s chickens form the base of the posole. Each dish, including tacos, will come in a vegetarian and omnivore version. Scout’s Honor will sell ice cream in flavors including sweet-corn-lime sandwiched between bean-based cookies. Beer from Lawson’s Finest Liquids will flow to...

Mad River Valley dog days of summer

I returned to the Mad River Valley over the weekend from a splendid two week vacation, and was immediately greeted by the hottest weather we have seen all summer. Temperatures have hovered in the upper-80’s which makes it a challenge to stay comfortable. Meanwhile, as the dog-days of summer waine, I do everything I can to remain outdoors and soak up the last of that warm summer sun. While it’s not so much a conundrum – I choose the outdoors when possible, even if it’s sweltering – it certainly presents a challenge, as much of what I enjoy about life in the Mad River Valley lies out the front door and not behind it. For me the goal is not so much being cool (my wife and kids will attest that this is an impossibility), but remaining comfortable in the blistering heat. So, here are a few ideas if your brain has over-heated and you’re struggling with the last heat-wave of the summer. Mountain Biking at Blueberry Lake – this may seem like an oxymoron on a hot day, but if the goal is to stay comfortable, the Blueberry lake trails are comfortable defined. The gently rolling trails have just enough uphill to gain the elevation required to get you rolling into a couple hours of well shaded outdoor entertainment – and just enough downhill to keep the breeze blowing across your perspiring body, making comfort on a hot day a reality not just an outdoor dream. When you are finished, jump in the lake to cool off. Reward yourself for getting outside on a hot, sticky day with...

Why Buy When I Can Rent (hint: so you can retire)

I think that there are, in general, people who are buyers and people who are renters. If you are predisposed to settle down, wish to establish roots in a community and inclined to invest and build equity towards a future, you already have an answer to this question. If you have not already bought, then you are probably just waiting until the right property comes along. If you like to go with the flow and land where the winds blows you, then maybe renting better suits your lifestyle. For me, I knew when I first moved to the Mad River Valley that I was going to stay here for a long time. The holdups were simple things – I was young, had plenty of time to get serious, and wasn’t sure whether I wanted a house, a condo, or a piece of land to park my Airstream on (I don’t own an Airstream, but I really want one). But it was also about money. While real estate in the Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston was relatively affordable, interest rates were outrageous – 9.5% at the time. It was, in fact, FAR cheaper to rent, even if I held no equity in that property. I could rent an apartment for $600/month whose equal would cost me $1200/month to buy. The numbers didn’t work. It was a temporary solution, but lower interest rates stagnant real estate growth and soaring rental rates over the past 5 years have changed that dramatically. Build a Nest Egg If you think of a home as an investment, rather than a place to live, you start to...

Vermont Music Fest

I hope no one thought that in writing about the Vermont Festival of the Arts last week that I had made a huge omission in not mentioning the Vermont Music Fest. Ok. Good. I’m glad, because I hadn’t forgotten – I just wanted to give it’s own spot light. This is the 6th year running of this awesome event; having started in 2010 as a wedding celebration of Jeff & Kelly Mack. It was a great party – from the music right down to the “cheese off” – a friendly, informal competition of Vermont and Wisconsin (where the two lovebirds met) dairy treats. And then they did it again, and again, and again. It’s grown. A lot. And until just this year it was a free event – I know right – who does anything for free anymore? In growing the spectacular event, the Macks turned it into a massive event that depends entirely on volunteers- so it went through some growing pains, and there was a time there where it looked like the festival would have to be shut down. But no, it continues! So, now there is an entry fee – but really $16 ($8 for 13-17 year olds) is a ridiculous good price for 11 bands (at least that’s what I counted as of today). Beyond the music there are other things to enjoy while at this Festival. The food is always outstanding, the Wiffle Ball Scramble, great things for the kids to create, always a game pick up soccer going on in the field and the framed self-portraits (this one of me and my daughter...

Vermont Festival of the Arts

August is a spectacular time to be anywhere in Vermont. But in particular the Mad River Valley shines with arts culture in all forms during the month of August, and that is thanks to the Vermont Festival of the Arts. If you live here, there are an endless number of opportunities to attend art related events, and even activities for everyone to tap into their artistic side all month long. Their website (see link above) has enough to explore to suck you in for hours – and it’s well organized too – so go there to find what you can take part in on a daily basis. But here is a SHORT run-down of what you can experience; July 31st (and Aug 1 & 2) – Tweed River Music Festival August 1st – Stained Glass Demo August 2nd – Fairie House Building August 9th – Taste of the Valley August 15th – Pie eating contest August 22nd – Cooking Classes at The Store August 28th – Valley 9 and Dine September 6th – Mad River Valley Craft Fair   If you’re a visitor you just can’t go wrong coming to the Mad River Valley for a day or a week during August – check out the Vermont Festival of the Arts website to find what appeals to you. Come wake up the right side of your brain and head on over to one of these spectacular...

Celebrating the 4th in the Mad River Valley

It’s almost time to get your Red, White and Blue on, and the 4th of July in the Mad River Valley is worth the price of admission. The parade in Warren is not your typical parade – there may be some emergency vehicles and fast cars in there, but you won’t find any Marching Bands or Shriners driving itty-bitty cars (what’s that all about anyway?). You will find political statements coming out the wahzoo, you might find some African dancing, you will definitely see an intricate float display from one of our iconic communities, yes, there will be candy, and probably a giant soaking gun and maybe, just maybe there will be Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders. In the past, he’s been a staple of the Warren Parade, and there’s a bit of chatter going on around this year: will he be there or won’t he? My prediction is: Yes, he will be there. Oh and there will be what is my wife’s favorite part of the Parade: a fly by from our Vermont Air National Guard. Once the parade has passed – make your way up to the Brooks Field at the Warren Elementary School for food, music and kid friendly festivities. Since the 4th is on a Saturday, don’t forget to visit the Waitsfield Farmer’s Market. If you’re here Friday night getting ready to wave your flag on the 4th, I highly recommend having dinner at Mad River Glen’s General Stark’s Pub (or any summer weekend evening for that matter)  – that deck is just as awesome in the summer as it is in the winter And as...

Lending a hand in the Mad River Valley

Sure, I can help you with that. As American Flatbread prepares to celebrate their 30th anniversary by throwing a huge party for those who volunteer in our community, I thought it might be a good moment to think about those who volunteer, and what they mean to communities like ours. I moved to the Mad River Valley because I felt an immediate connection to the place on my first visit while I was in College. Some friends had moved here, I visited a few times, and the next thing I knew, I was living here. Initially I didn’t give an awful lot of thought to what it was about this place that I loved so much. On the surface it was clear – I loved skiing, and there was a lot of great skiing here. I grew up canoeing, and there was terrific paddling everywhere you looked. I was learning to mountain bike, and sure enough, a growing community of mountain bikers existed here. Check. check. check. But this was the most unique place I had ever lived, yet there is skiing and mountain biking everywhere. What made this place so great? I suppose at the time it may have been that it was the first place I had ever lived where people were different than where I grew up. They were people who chose the outdoors over the indoors, put recreation and lifestyle before career, accepted that one may need to work a few jobs in order to commit to that healthy outdoor lifestyle over all else. Where I came from people thought I was a nut for...

Spring into Summer in Vermont’s Mad River Valley

So here we are, the epic winter of 2015 behind us, and now it’s time to revel in all that Vermont has to offer in the warmer months. It’s one of the many things that I love about Vermont – the distinct seasons. Taking me from the highs of our mountain tops deep with snow, to the lows of our valley floors flowing with clear water. Having youngish kids, we spend as much time around the rivers as we can – this time of year, it’s mostly skipping rocks, but I bet the water will be warm enough for swimming on a hot day not too long from now. There are miles of easy walking trails around the valley – many of them right along the Mad River. If you’re not familiar with the many trailheads that provide access to those walks, you can find them here: on the Mad River Path website. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike – we’ve got plenty of those as well. Where to even begin with those options. Only have an hour or so? Then the hike to Sunset Rock in Warren, Vermont is the way to go. Looking for a hike that takes a half a day or so – then Burnt Rock in Fayston Vermont is a nice hike that rewards with some spectacular views at the top. I’ll stop there, but the list goes on – you want an all day hike? Then head to Camels Hump, or do a gap to gap hike: Lincoln Gap to the Appalachian Gap taking you across the peaks of our Mad River...

Vermont Hilaria

While I was thinking about writing today, I got to wondering what the history was behind April Fool’s Day. I found that it actually goes back to ancient Greek and Roman times. Now you’re thinking “Alright Cliff Claven, what more useless information do you have?”. But seriously, how much more appropriate this year is the description of the ancient version of April Fool’s day – then known as Hilaria – than this: “its celebration was the first after the vernal equinox, or the first day of the year which was longer than the night. The winter with its gloom had died, and the first day of a better season was spent in rejoicings.” Say goodbye to winter cold, bring on the warm laughs. In previous years, local businesses have gotten involved in some great pranks: there was this one about traffic lights being installed in our non-light town. Or this one about Mad River Glen purchasing Mt Ellen. My personal favorite was a sign in the field of the iconic barn at the corner of German Flats and Route 17 owned by long time Fayston legend Arthur Williams declaring the site as a “Future home of McDonalds”. Now what better year than this cold one we’ve had in the Mad River Valley to celebrate Hilaria. I’m not wishing the snow away, oh no. But I am wishing for some corn snow to soften the turns, sunny skies to bring on the goggle tan and warm temps so we can shed the layers. And more specifically I’m ready to enjoy a cold beer on one of our iconic ski area...

Luck o’ the Vermont Irish

$17 dollar ticket to ski Mount Ellen. Mad River Glen is offering the same shamrock deal, but they’re making you work for it a wee bit – you have to flaunt the color; the “wearing of the green”. I have no doubt there will be beer flowing of the green variety and music to boot so get out your stomping shoes. That’s what I call lucky in the Mad River Valley....

Town Meeting Day – Elections the Vermont Way

Last year in the town that I am proud to call home, fewer than 60 people turned out to vote on the School Budget. Thats not a typo. 60. Out of approximately 1000 registered voters. To discuss and vote on a $1.7m school expenditure budget. Do you really think that your vote doesn’t matter? It does, as well it should. We live in one of the last great places on this planet where your individual vote both makes a huge difference, and may be performed at the lone cost of taking a few hours off from work. In a world where citizens in fledgling Democracies risk their lives to vote, we cannot turn out 10%. Sadly, the concept of “pure democracy” has morphed and become diluted over time to represent something less than the Framers of our Constitution likely envisioned. The idea that the community came together as a whole to vote on the issues of the day in a fair and open forum quickly became a gathering of the most informed, educated or mobile in a community. Meanwhile the less informed, un-educated, or otherwise immobile stayed home, milked the cows (so to speak) and pondered how the decisions made by others would affect their lives during the foreseeable future. While the concept of Democracy is still wrought with complications – low voter turn out due to poor public opinion of politicians, a general morose over the value of an individuals single vote in a pool of millions, or simply an inability to take time off from work – in Vermont we have an opportunity each year to participate in a form of Democracy...

Taking a Tumble at Mount Ellen

For some reason people always ask me what my favorite ski trail is. I dont really know why. After all, it is a very subjective question, and we all find pleasure in nature in very different ways. But I ran into a client at the ski area the other day and I found myself asking, “what was your favorite run (of the day)”. I couldn’t stop myself. It just popped out. And I wasn’t just making conversation. I have NO TROUBLE there. But then I had this epiphany. I realized I was asking because I wanted to know more about them. I knew who they were, I’d gotten to know them quite well during the process of researching real estate, and later constructing an offer and purchasing a home for them in the Mad River Valley. But there is a difference between developing a professional relationship and skiing with someone.  And what I learned is that there is a whole lot more to learn about people when you take a few turns with them on the mountain. You learn something about their personality, what gives them joy, how they handle adversity; you learn how they manage the challenge of staring down that which intimidates or scares them. Their skiers acumen, if there is such a thing. We skiers ALL have a favorite trail and I had never really thought about why my favorite trail was my favorite trail. Until that moment. When Sugarbush Resort’s Mount Ellen opened in 1963 as Glen Ellen, the trails were named to honor the Scottish heritage the resorts moniker suggested – Highlander, Royal Tartan, Brambles and...

It’s going to be a Sweetheart of a week in the Mad River Valley

  So the start of a holiday week is nearly upon us. Here’s hoping you have been lucky enough to get lots of skiing in already, and you’ve got rock solid skier legs so can happily take run after run, after run, after run and never tire out. In case you need a moment to let your legs recover, let’s look at what else the Mad River Valley has to offer; or even, if your legs aren’t whipped – you still have to get out and see all that there is do in Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston and surrounding towns! Start your weekend off by watching (or participating if you are reading this and you are 15 years old or younger) the Jr. Mogul Challenge, how about you take part in the Women’s only Telemark Clinic, support the MRG Freeski Team at the their Lasagna Dinner by eating and watching a screening of the latest Meathead Film all at Mad River Glen (check the full line up events at MRG here). Weekend events at Sugarbush: Torch Light Parade and Fireworks, live music all over the mountain, Local Artisan Market at Lincoln Peak in Warren (2/14-2/16). During the week – take your kids to see some awesome birds of prey, or talk yummy Cider with the brewers at Citizen Cider. And don’t forget – we have two great Nordic centers. Ole’s Cross Country Center is offering up some sweet Valentines love; bring your sweetie in for a ski on their gorgeous trails, give him or her a smooch in the shop and there will be some extra treats in store for you...
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