Travel Guide: The Mad River Valley

Published: January, 2014

  Dave Sellers inventor of the Mad River Rocket super-sled; Sellers' Madsonian Museum of Industrial Design houses an eclectic collection.

Dave Sellers inventor of the Mad River Rocket super-sled; Sellers' Madsonian Museum of Industrial Design houses an eclectic collection.

Standing at the intersection of Mad River Valley creativity and the local passion for winter sports is Dave Sellers, inventor of the Mad River Rocket. Dave, an architect, has designed homes and public buildings all over the world, and has taught at Yale—but his local notoriety derives from what has been described as his "sled on steroids."

"I tried to design an alternative to skiing," Dave told me as we sat in his happily cluttered office at the edge of Warren village. "Skiing is expensive, and energy intensive. With the Mad River Rocket, you get a lifetime pass for $100—the cost of the sled—and you have 50,000 acres of sledding  terrain in Vermont alone."

The sturdy plastic Rocket differs from traditional sleds in two important ways. First, you ride it while kneeling, with a knee strap securing you to the sled. And second, it has what Dave calls a "negative keel": Instead of digging down, the square-shaped channel of the inverted "keel" creates its own monorail out of snow as it makes its descent.

"Its the only wilderness sled in the world," Dave says. "You can take it to the top of any mountain in Vermont and ride down. There'll never be an instructor, because it's so easy to learn. We'll take any conditions that nature provides, except ice, and we want to challenge skiing."