Doug Brown boils sap at Slopeside Syrup in Richmond.
The Cochran family is famous for its tiny ski hill and 70s-era Olympic champions. While the next generation of Cochrans is continuing the ski racing tradition, four family members are pouring their energy into producing Vermont maple syrup.
Just below the Race Trail at Cochran’s Ski Area is Slopeside Syrup, a maple sugarhouse in Richmond operated by brothers Roger and Doug Brown and their cousins Tim Kelley and Jim Cochran. With 22,000 taps, the Cochran family maple syrup business annually produces about 8,800 gallons of certified organic maple syrup.
The Cochran family owns about 600 acres, including the 70-acre ski area first purchased by the cousin’s grandparents, Mickey and Ginny Cochran, who moved to Richmond in 1961 and carved out a few trails behind their home. The couple’s children all made the United States ski team and raced in the Olympics (Marilyn, Barbara Ann, Bob, and Lindy are known as “The Skiing Cochrans”). At the 1972 Winter Games in Japan, Barbara Ann won a gold medal in slalom.
Starting the Cochran Family Maple Syrup Business
These days, just beyond the ski area’s main entrance on Cochran Road is the Slopeside Syrup sugarhouse, built with timber from the family’s property.
The idea to start a maple sugarhouse was sparked less than a decade ago as a way for Roger and Doug be closer to home. Roger was living in Washington, D.C., and Doug was teaching at a private school in Massachusetts when they figured out a way to return to Vermont.
A state forester working with the state’s Current Use Program had recommended that the Cochrans think about sugaring as it would be a way to take advantage of tax incentives. Vermont’s Current Use program provides tax breaks to landowners who keep land as open space as long as they manage the forest. From that point, the Cochrans forged ahead and never looked back.
“I think we all had different reasons for wanting to start making maple syrup,” Doug says. “But we figured we should start this, especially since we had all those maple trees on the hill.”
The family’s syrup is sold at the Richmond sugarhouse and online. It’s also available at retailers in Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Colorado, California, Wyoming, and Utah. The cousins have also launched a product with pro cyclist Ted King called Untapped, which is packaged pure maple syrup in 100-calorie packets to be consumed like an energy gel.
“There are so many different aspects to running this business, from product development to sales calls to manual labor,” says Roger, a former member of the U.S. Ski Team who, in true Cochran fashion, uses skis rather than snowshoes when he’s working in the woods. “I think what we’re best at is keeping the wheels turning day after day.”
And producing some of the tastiest maple syrup around.
For more information, visit www.slopesidesyrup.com.