March 2017 | Preserve Our Paradise Campaign
Preserve our Paradise

Preserve Our Paradise Campaign Newsletter

In this issue:

Interview with Matt Lillard
Questions We've Heard
Volunteer Spotlight: Interview with John & Pamela Nesbett
Upcoming MRG events

Interview with Matt Lillard

Recently we interviewed Matt Lillard, the new General Manager of Mad River Glen. Matt is the former GM of Eaglecrest Ski Area in Juneau, Alaska, and previously was Assistant GM at Magic Mountain. As we were talking, snowflakes were just starting to fall for winter storm Stella, providing Matt an opportunity to see the mountain at its best.
What was your most interesting experience as General Manager of Eaglecrest ski area?

Matt: We had a monstrous storm and despite our best efforts with avalanche control we just couldn’t get the snowpack safely under control. We had folks waiting for an epic powder day, and I had to spend a lot of time in the liftline keeping them informed. Finally, by early afternoon I had to send everyone home and there were a lot of disappointed folks that day. Avalanche control was an interesting new experience, I didn’t think I’d ever have a job where I’d be throwing explosives! Another big shock was skiing in the trees for the first time and discovering the hard way that unlike New England, the tree limbs don’t really move.
What do you think will be the biggest difference between running Eaglecrest and Mad River Glen?

Matt: We had a captive market at Eaglecrest, so the biggest difference will be the addition of competition within the market. Mad River is one of many ski areas in New England, so how we position ourselves, gain new customers, and get them to love the experience is a different challenge.
What do you feel will be your greatest challenge at MRG?

Matt: Dealing with the changing weather patterns in New England and Vermont. I’m fully confident that we’ll get more snow, but the ups and downs will become more pronounced and we’ll need to be frugal and flexible. Although the long term outlook is one thing, in the short term I expect that we’re still going to have good skiing. The challenges have always been there as can be seen from the very start of Mad River Glen, when too much snow delayed lift construction for a full year, and then there was little snow for the first season.
How does your family feel about moving back to Vermont? When will they be moving?

Matt: We’re looking forward to Vermont, although we’ll miss Alaska which is a great place to be, you see bald eagles and whales on a regular basis. Our goal was always to end up back in New England, so we’re excited to move back to Vermont. My family will be visiting in a couple of weeks and then they’ll move for good in June once the school year is over. My four-year-old daughter is ecstatic, but my eight-year-old son is a bit nervous about leaving his friends, so we’re talking up the mountain biking, the skiing, the swimming holes, the farmer’s market, and living closer to family.
How did the Mad River Glen interview process compare with other jobs you’ve gotten?

Matt: The Eaglecrest process was very strenuous because it was a public entity. We had four finalists that went through the last weekend together, which added another level and felt a bit like a reality show. It prepared me well for the Mad River interview process, which was similar in scope. Everyone was nice to work with and very accommodating, the communication was good and I knew what to expect.
What is your favorite aspect of Mad River Glen?

Matt: I need to get back to skiing on the main mountain, but I remember that the Chute in the spring with corn snow is great fun. The great thing is the community, people spend time at the area even after the lifts are closed.
What are your thoughts about the Preserve the Paradise Campaign?

Matt: I believe that going forward, the campaign will be a very integral part of Mad River Glen. I’ll be looking at opportunities to eke out a bit more out of our operations, but the campaign is a great answer to our capital needs and I’m looking forward to working with everyone on the campaign.

I’m just excited to be here, meeting the community, and getting into the nitty gritty. I’m looking forward to making improvements wherever we can to preserve and protect Mad River Glen!
New GM Matt Lillard and family.
New GM Matt Lillard and his family. 

Questions We've Heard

Is the campaign taking longer than expected?

Some people have wondered why the campaign is still in the “quiet phase” and if it's taking a long time to build. First, capital campaigns are inherently long-term projects, usually lasting several years. Second, it has taken longer than expected for the campaign to build a volunteer network and educate prospective donors about the appropriateness of philanthropy for Mad River. Unlike universities or foundations, Mad River Glen doesn’t have a longstanding tradition of philanthropy and many people still think of Mad River only as a ski business rather than an opportunity through the Stark Mountain Foundation to preserve a natural environment and a historical slice of life that is rapidly disappearing. It usually takes several meetings over a period of months with a given individual before they are ready to make a pledge, and as a result we haven’t solicited as many families as we expected to by this point in time. But despite the time frame, there is considerable cause for optimism. Consistently, when approached, families have given far more than they gave to the Single Chair campaign; on average, thirteen times as much.

There’s more good news in that our volunteer network has expanded considerably in recent months, we now have over 60 volunteers and growing. We’ve recently held two training sessions that have been highly successful. So we remain extremely confident that the campaign will be very successful as we work towards a public launch no later than next ski season.

Can Planned Giving be used for Trailblazer Gift Opportunities?

Absolutely! There are a number of ways to contribute to the Preserve Our Paradise campaign, including gifts of cash, multiyear pledges, and donations of appreciated securities. Another way to contribute is with a planned gift, in which the donor makes a commitment to donate a certain amount to Stark Mountain Foundation in their will. Some people do not realize that these planned gifts can also be counted at a discounted value towards the various Trailblazer Gift Opportunities that have been created to honor gifts of various sizes. For more information about the Trailblazer Gifts, visit the campaign website at Please use the password “gogogo”.

Winter storm Stella
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: After great skiing in December and February, punctuated by shutdowns in January and early March, winter storm Stella delivered the goods. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Interview with John and Pamela Nesbett

 Pamela and John Nesbett are both members of the Campaign Cabinet. John is one of the Chairs of the Major Gifts Division, and Pam has helped with communications and building the Trailblazer Gift Opportunities.
Can you tell us about your family history at Mad River Glen?

John: It started with my father, who worked in advertising in New York City and skied at Stowe in the 1950s. He was also a passionate writer and wrote articles for SKI Magazine on the side – he’d get up early in the morning to write before going to work. After submitting one of the articles, he asked the publisher if instead of paying him the usual paltry amount, he could introduce him to the Amateur Ski Club of New York. We were soon members of the club and spending many holidays at the best mountain in the East. Over the years I’ve introduced a myriad of friends to Mad River.

Pam: When we first started dating in our early 20s I considered myself “a skier” because I had grown up skiing in southern Vermont. Wow, was I wrong. John brought me to Mad River to show me “his mountain.”  On our first run, John took me down a “pretty trail” called Lynx-Beaver. I hadn’t skied a mogul in my life, and I thought, “Oh my God, I’m going to die, and this relationship is over!” By the bottom I was just a puddle.

John: I was the classic, clueless boy in his twenties trying to impress this cool skier chick. Looking back, as bad as it was, that day turned out to be an important lock-point in our relationship.

Pam: By the end of the weekend, my competitive spirit took over and I decided to re-learn how to ski at MRG. It took 10 years to completely rebuild my skiing; it was an intellectual as well as an athletic pursuit. I fell in love with the beauty of Mad River and the people who are drawn to the mountain.  I swear there is a special sauce, it just attracts great people.  I remember getting stuck on the Gap at 2 am, and getting pulled up on a rope by Ernie Murphy’s son. I have so many stories like that. It’s a family atmosphere, I knew early on that I wanted to bring up my kids here, I knew they’d be safe and have many eyes watching them. And there’s nothing like that proud moment when you send your child up the Single for the first time!
How has Mad River been an important part of your family experience?

Pam: Both of our girls spent time at the Cricket Club, Callie is such a hero in my mind. They started lessons there, they were so cute! As they got older they mostly wanted to ski with us, they see your passion and want to share it. Much like a summer community, we all look forward to coming back every year and seeing our ski friends.  Now our girls bring up friends and boyfriends to share “their” place with special people in their lives.  It is great to see them as passionate about the mountain as we are.

What is your favorite memory of Mad River Glen? 

John: I have powerful memories of skiing on a quiet Christmas day with my dad as a kid, and skiing the Creamery for the first time. I fell off a mogul and told my dad, “Now I know why they call it the Creamery.”

Pam: Lynx is my church. The beauty of that trail always takes my breath away.  But really it is the special moments as a family, with no technology, laughing and having a ball, skiing till your legs are rubber.  Nothing better!

Can you talk about the importance of the Preserve Our Paradise Campaign to you and your family?

Pam: We’re very proud to be part of the campaign. Throughout the history of Mad River, from Roland Palmedo, to Betsy Pratt, to the shareholders who made the Co-op successful, the skiers have stepped up and it’s our time now. 

John: When we think about our giving we try to take a long-term, high-level view of the various causes that we might consider. The campaign is meaningful to us as it touches on things that are important to our family as well as historical and environmental preservation. I’ve been to a lot of great ski mountains and Mad River is so different in terms of what it offers. The trails are carved against the fall line in such a natural way. It’s almost a spiritual temple, it offers such a sense of renewal, and we just have to preserve that!

The Nesbett Family
The Nesbett family.

Upcoming MRG events

March 25-26
Naturalist Snowshoe Program, 10:30 am

April 1
Coop Shareholder Annual Meeting, 5 pm

April 1-2
Naturalist Snowshoe Program, 10:30 am

May 20 
Co-op Board of Trustees Meeting, 8 am

June 17 
Co-op Board of Trustees Meeting, 8 am

More info at Mad River Glen's Event Calendar
Campaign Cabinet

Chair: Annika Holtan    Members at Large: Lars Bruns, Bob Dillon, Jim Elkind, Meg Hourihan, Betsy Jondro, Karen Lloyd, John Nesbett, Pamela Nesbett, Eric Palola, Penny Parson, Greg Scott, Debra Steines, John Tobin, Brooks Ware
Look for our next newsletter in May!

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