Interview with Brandi and Kerry Myers
How did you both come to work for Mad River Glen? How has your involvement with the mountain evolved over the years?
Brandi: Kerry and I first visited Mad River Glen during the winter of 2008. There had been a great deal of snow prior to our visit but it started to rain before we arrived. When we got to Mad River, the mountain ambassador told us that only the practice slope was open, but it would only cost $20 to ski. Because we had driven seven hours from Pennsylvania, we decided that we’d drive over to Sugarbush to see if more terrain was available. From the parking lot we could see enormous puddles on the trails and lift tickets were the regular weekend rate. We decided to just head back to Mad River and make the best of it. We took a few runs and headed to General Stark’s Pub. That day was the start of our love affair with the people and atmosphere of Mad River. We could not wait to come back for more skiing! The next fall, I bought Kerry a share in the Cooperative as a gift. By the third winter, we both began thinking about making a major life change and moving to Vermont. We made what we called our “Five Year Plan.” In May 2012 we purchased a home in Bristol and made the permanent move in July 2013.
Sometime during that first year Kerry mentioned to Michael Witzel, food and beverage manager at Mad River, that we were moving to Vermont. He chuckled a bit and asked, “Where are you going to work?” Kerry responded, “Here! I am going to be a bartender!” (He had been a teacher for 20 years and had never bartended!) Michael and I both laughed, but Kerry was serious and during his next summer break he took a professional bartending class. He took early retirement from teaching in June 2013 and began working behind the bar at Mad River during the winter of 2013-14. He started working with the mow crew the following summer, and Brandi joined him for the 2016 and 2017 summers.
Can you tell us a little about what you do as part of the mow crew. What are the challenges and what do you like about being on the mountain in the summer months? I imagine using hand scythes is hard work!
Brandi: The mow crew is responsible for hand mowing with scythes anything that the power mowers cannot reach. It may seem a bit primitive to still be using scythes in 2017, but it is the safest method of cutting, and provides the least amount of impact to the natural trails. There’s a great deal of steep terrain and it wouldn't be safe to operate power tools while climbing up Paradise, for example.
It is really grueling work, and we work when it is very hot, when it is raining (unless there is lightning and thunder), and in the cold. Your feet get extremely sore from climbing, standing and balancing on such steep terrain, all while swinging a scythe. It is the most exhausting work that either of us has ever done, but it is very rewarding!
Mowing provides an opportunity to get to know the mountain in a very intimate way. You are up close and personal with all the trees, rocks, holes, and streams. It has helped us both become better, more confident Mad River skiers because we know what lies beneath the snow. We have a greater sense of whether the snow cover is truly sufficient, or if there are hazards just below. We also learn where the snow will lay beautifully, allowing for amazing turns. It is incredibly beautiful during the summer at Mad River. When we take a break from mowing we are sweaty and tired, sometimes questioning ourselves for doing this work, but the view from “the office” at break time cannot be matched. We sit down and look at the Valley below, share some laughs, a snack, and get ready for the next push toward the top! Camaraderie within the crew is incredible and we all work together and keep each other going.
How has the new mower changed what can be done this summer? What changes are you making in terms of how the trails and slopes are being maintained and improved this summer, and how important is this for the mountain going forward?
Brandi: The new Aebi mower has made an incredible difference! It can get to steeper terrain and mow a greater area in less time than the previous power mowers. Last year there were many trails that didn't get the attention that they deserved. The power mowers were always breaking down and the rented tractor just couldn't manage the mountain terrain. Because the new mower could get so much done, we were able to spend time really buffing out the mountain. We cut the little spruce shrubs that catch your skis and send you tumbling when the cover is thin. We were able to cut some of the overhanging branches to widen the trails. Also, Stark Mountain Foundation funded additional workers who spent several weeks this summer cutting trees and widening many trails that have grown narrower over the years. There is still much work to be done, but I am confident that skiers will love what has been done so far. Continued funding through donations will be necessary to bring all the trails back to the width that they were decades ago, allowing for more terrain for skiers.
Kerry, I know that you also work in the General Stark Pub. Can you share what you like about the job and what led you to want to be behind the bar on a regular basis? What is the crowd like, and has the Fish Fry added business in the summer?
Kerry: I like the everyday, particularly in the winter when there is the “regular crowd,” but also new faces that come in. It feels like home because the regulars have become friends, but then there are new faces to keep it fresh. It’s fun to hear what was skiing really well today, but also fun to hear the excitement of folks who may be new to Mad River Glen, or have just skied something for the first time. I love to learn about people, where they come from, what brought them here, what they like best, and what they are looking for in the Mad River experience. Because there are sometimes days when the skiing isn't particularly great due to Mother Nature, I am of course always ready to make recommendations on great beer, good food, and entertainment that may be coming to the Pub.
The Fish Fry has become quite popular and added a source of revenue for the mountain. General Stark’s Pub has become the Friday evening “hot spot” in the Mad River Valley. It is great to see the space used in the summer and early fall as a gathering place for both locals and vacationers.
Brandi, you are on the Board of the Stark Mountain Foundation. Can you tell me what you do on the Board and how SMF partners with Mad River Glen?
Brandi: I am relatively new to the Board, joining in December 2016. SMF’s mission is very closely aligned with the mission of MRG. We are focused on preservation of the ecosystem of General Stark Mountain in order to continue to provide a natural experience for recreation (skiing, hiking, bird watching etc.) now and for generations to come. SMF raises funds and works with Mad River and other organizations, such as the Green Mountain Club, that share our values. Grants from SMF help fund necessary work on the mountain, as well as educational programming.
Finally, can you tell us a little more about what you like to do in your free time?
Brandi: We have two dogs and we love snowshoeing, hiking, mountain and road biking, gardening, and really anything to be outside!