In the Mad River Valley, Holstein cows graze green pastures, big red barns stand beside white farmhouses, and covered bridges span the burbling Mad. Sister valley villages Warren and Waitsfield are places for sedate retro pleasures like lounging on a village green, ogling 19th-century architecture, or playing 18 at Sugarbush's Robert Trent Jones Sr. course. The area may have two major ski areas, but it also has "the underlying flavor of a place that has not been discovered," says Drew Simmons, a Waitsfield resident who reps for outdoor-gear companies. "And a lot of people want it to stay exactly the way it is."
Given its deep farming roots, the valley's keen sense of its past is best exemplified by its intense locavore obsession. Restaurant menus cite the local source of lamb, farm-raised venison, and organic produce; American Flatbread, a weekends-only restaurant on a Waitsfield farm, does organic-everything pizzas that have locals queuing for hours; and the BigPicture Theater and Café in Waitsfield features house-made maple-glazed donuts to go with its program of folk music and art-house movies. Even the local taco joint, the Mad Taco, sources from area farms, smokes its own meats, and serves regional craft cervezas.
To work up an appetite, jump on your road bike. The smooth, sleepy lanes that roll past rivers and creeks full of fly casters are among the best in the country. Route 100 is pleasant enough, but for a challenge, go for a gap ride like the 50-mile Tour de Hump, which links Waitsfield, Appalachian Gap, and Duxbury Gap.
Getting There: Fly to Burlington; drive one hour southeast.