Fayston, Vermont is a town located in the western part of Washington County, in north-central Vermont. Situated in the Mad River Valley, it is surrounded by mountains, and owes its modern success to the ski resorts at Mad River Glen and Mt. Ellen. The town covers 36.5 square miles, with no significant waterways within its borders.
The population of Fayston is around 1,350, and it is considered a rural community. With the popularity of downtown skiing, Fayston has become a tourist destination. The town has a wide range of businesses and restaurants, supporting both the residents and the tourist industry. Recreational opportunities include skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, snowmobiling, paddling, and hunting.
Fayston’s history has a long tradition of land speculation. The town was chartered in 1788, and was among many towns in Vermont sold to land speculators. It was then organized as a town in 1805 and named for the Fay family, who were influential in for formation of Vermont.
The land in Fayston was not conducive to large scale farming, with residents only able to grow enough to support their own families. With no waterways, there was no power to drive mills and other industries. The town remained in this economic state until after World War II. It was at this time that the popularity of downhill skiing took off, and the slopes of the mountains in Fayston were deemed ideal for winter recreation.
The opening of the Mad River Glen and Sugarbush ski areas revitalized the town. With these popular ski destinations, the town was brought full circle to its land speculation roots.
Before skiing became a popular winter sport, towns throughout Vermont and New Hampshire had little to offer. The land was not fertile enough to sustain farming, and the towns were too remote for a robust industrial economy. However, all that changed in the 20th century when the Nordic spot of skiing became a popular recreational activity for the elite and commonman alike. As the mountainsides opened to skiers, these towns turned into tourist destinations, changing the economic make-up of Fayston and other towns forever.
Though humans have been skiing for centuries, it first became a recreational spot in the U.S. in 1882 with the opening of the Norske Ski Club in Berlin, New Hampshire. It began to grow in popularity in the 1910s and 1920s with international ski races beginning to take place, and the first U.S. ski shop opening in 1926 in Boston. When the first rope tow in the U.S. was installed in Woodstock, Vermont in 1934, skiing quickly exploded in popularity, with Vermont leading the way.
Fayston, Vermont, is a town that would have faded into obscurity, if not for the economic boost that skiing brought to the town. With land perfectly suited to winter recreation, the town has become a tourist destination, with thriving businesses and restaurants springing up around the ski industry.