The last decade has witnessed a resurgence of interest in cooperative management and local, community based economies, particularly in the agricultural sector. In Vermont, however, this trend has even spread to one ski area long known for its emphasis on community, preservation and sport. Mad River Glen, near Waitsfield, became the only cooperative, skier-owned mountain in the country in 1995, when Betsy Prat, owner of Mad River from 1972-1995 saw a unique opportunity to continue the original mission of Roland Palmedo, the founder of the ski area. This mission was and remains, to forever protect the classic skiing experience by preserving low skier density, natural terrain and forests, varied trail character, and friendly community atmosphere. Building from Betsys stewardship, the cooperative system has enabled Mad River to remain largely unchanged from its initial opening in 1948 because most, if not all, shareholders are deeply committed to the founding principles of the ski area, and no one individual can push their agenda over the wishes of the collective, said Mary Kerr, who is writing a history, what she calls a love story, of Mad River Glen. Betsy wanted to sell the mountain to someone that she could trust not to screw it up. She knew that she could trust the skiers because they had the most appreciation for how special this place is and what it means in peoples lives, said Eric Friedman, Mad Rivers marketing director. As co-op shareholders are not entitled to any substantial profit sharing, most people who buy a share at Mad River, valued at $2,000 a piece, do so because they want to be a part of the unique skier community, said Friedman. After youve skied here for so long, there is a real community. Everybody talks about what lines theyre going to take, and theres always a lot of encouragement, said Andy Weiss, the free ride coach at Mad River Glen and avid skier at the mountain since age 5. The greatest challenge that Mad River will face in the future is the succession of board members and management, as new people are elected to fill these roles, said Friedman. The cooperative system, however, is set up to ensure that wholesale change in the skiing experience is very difficult to achieve. A full two-third majority of shareholders is needed to make any character changes in the mountain. These characteristics include the prohibition of snowboarders, the relative lack of grooming and snowmaking and the non-existence of a ski village with hotels and condos. The most recent important decision that the co-op shareholders had to make was what to do with the mountains unique single chair lift, as it became increasingly clear that a serious renovation would be necessary to keep it running. After many deep and heated discussions concerning the merits of a double lift, a four person quad and the single chair, 81 percent of shareholders voted to do a historic renovation of the single chair lift. Since that time, Mad River has raised $1.5 million in small donations from skiers and shareholders of a needed $1.64 million to completely pay for the renovation. With an epic season of snow in full swing, skiers have flocked to the new single chair lift, which opened on Dec. 15. I was taking tickets last week at the single chair on a day when there was a 40-minute line for the lift, and a shareholder who had been part of that 19% that voted against the single chair got to the front of the line, Friedman recalled. Just for the record, I voted for the double, he said. But its all good natured.