Waitsfield, Vermont is a town in central VT covering 26.7 square miles. It’s located in the Mad River Valley, between the Green Mountains and Northfield Mountains. Chartered in 1782, it is now a bustling tourist town in the heart of ski country.
Though in an area known for Native American occupation, there is little evidence of that in this town, with only a lone arrowhead having been recovered. However, there is much evidence of the geological history of the area with glacial features and channel scars visible in the landscape. Throughout history, flooding of the Mad River has altered the landscape, washed out bridges, and erased signs of human activity.
In 1789, the town was settled by General Benjamin Wait and his family and friends from Windsor, VT. Having been a civic leader in Windsor, including participating in Vermont’s constitutional convention, Wait continued that tradition here. Building the first log house, and then a frame house, his legacy is still remembered in the town that bears his name.
Like many other Vermont towns, we began as a farming community, with wheat, barley, rye, oats, hay, corn, and potatoes being key crops. Mills cropped up along the streams, and maple sugar was made and used as currency.
Sheep raising became a dominant part of the local economy, with the town tax incentives to farmers based on how many sheep were sheared in a year. It remained a primary industry until the middle of the 19th century. As the sheep industry began to fade, farmers turned to dairy with Vermont supplying the majority of butter and cheese products for all of New England.
Today, Waitsfield is a popular tourist destination and is the commercial center of the Mad River Valley. Sugarbush Resort and Mad River Glen are the two primary ski destinations in the area, attracting tourists from around the world all throughout the winter season. In the summer, swimming holes appear all along the Mad River, providing hours of relaxation for locals and tourists alike. There are a number of upscale and casual dining restaurants, providing food for every palate.
The nearby ski resorts of Mad River Glen and Sugarbush provide a major source of tourism for Waitsfield and the surrounding areas. These ski resorts are considered some of the best on the East Coast. With over 150 inches of average annual snowfall, the ski slopes here rely on natural bounty of Mother Nature, rather than man-made snow.
Mad River Glen was founded in 1947, with trails cut to follow the natural features of the mountain. Skiers can ride up on the Single Chair lift, and there are no snowboarders allowed. While providing expert level trails with over 2,000 feet of vertical drop and ranked most challenging on the east coast, there are also slopes ideal for beginners, making this an excellent family destination. Mad River Glen is a co-operatively owned resort, owned and operated by skiers.
Sugarbush is a larger ski resort founded in 1958, and quickly attracted celebrities including the Kennedy family, Oleg Cassini, actors, and models. It was coined “Mascara Mountain” due to these high profile guests. Today, Sugarbush has expanded to become a large tourist attraction in the area.
Waitsfield has a long standing history and continues to offer rural charm combined with an active tourist and commercial scene. With nearby ski slopes, excellent restaurants, and a variety of businesses, it’s an ideal location for tourists and the residents who call this town home.