Median Household Income: $46,413
Median Home Price: $287,500
Unemployment Rate: 5.7 percent
People come to the Mad River Valley as much for what it lacks—traffic, noise, pretention—as for what it offers: the Green Mountains out the back door, the Class II–III Mad River, and the great local food that comes with living in a historic farm town.
“Virtually every restaurant and school uses locally grown and organic ingredients,” says Susan Klein, 52, director of the Chamber of Commerce.
Another boon: the mellow, small-town vibe. “You know the people from out of town because they blow their horns,” says Gary Kessler, a 53-year-old race director. “Visitors specifically mention how friendly people are here.” And though it’s rural, the valley has low unemployment, thanks to strong year-round tourism. Even better: Cabot Creamery is moving its international headquarters there in 2014.
Access: “The big news this year is they’re finally putting in a sidewalk, so that gives you some idea of how undeveloped it is,” says Peter Oliver, a writer. You’re never more than a few miles from the 273-mile Long Trail, a ski area, a village green, or the Mad River.
Skiing: Two of the East Coast’s best ski resorts are within six miles of Waitsfield: sprawling Sugarbush and local favorite Mad River Glen, known for black diamonds and a no-frills attitude. “Fine woods, steeps, and drops to keep the hardiest of skiers and riders in tune,” says Evan Oppenheimer, a mental-health counselor.
Biking: Locals have ridden the old maple-sugaring roads on hardtails for decades, but that hasn’t stopped them from creating flowing new singletrack, too. Take the 1.2-mile Revolution Trail. “It’s old-school riding—lots of turns and roots and rocks and hills,” says Kessler. “It connects to 20,000 acres in Camel’s Hump State Park, where you can get lost for hours.”