Nov 292011

Winter 2011 – 2012
Vermont Life Magazine
Profile: Q & A


Every Vermonter Has a Story

Adam Howard: Active, Enterprising, Self-sufficient, Involved


Though he lives off the grid in Cambridge, Adam Howard could hardly be more connected to life in Vermont. As the editorial and creative director of Height of Land Publications, a company he co-founded, this former builder and ski patroller works in Jeffersonville producing such adventure sports magazines as Backcountry, Alpinist and Tele-mark Skier. Howard also helped found the Cambridge Historical Society and the Brewster River Mountain Bike Club; he sits on the Cambridge Development Review Board and, at 37, is one of the youngest members of the state’s House of Representatives. Howard is something of an anomaly in the capitol — a libertarian Republican in a Statehouse controlled by Democrats — but he says his life is more Vermont than it is either right or left. The father of two lives with his wife and family in a house he built himself, on land his ancestors settled nearly two centuries ago.

VL: What do you know about your family’s origins in Vermont?

AH: As best I can tell, I had ancestors who fought in the Battle of Bennington; and in the town of Sterling (no longer in existence), there were a lot of Revolutionary War [land] Grants, which is why, I believe, they came to the area. The town of Sterling was essentially Smugglers Notch, itself: Spruce Peak, Sterling Peak, Madonna, the Adam’s Apple on Mount Mansfield, et cetera. Not very inhabitable land, but certainly the valleys below were pretty nice.

VL: When did you first take up skiing?

AH: I started skiing when I was probably in the first grade. My parents had skied, but really, it wasn’t a lifestyle for them, it was a pastime. So I didn’t start super young, like I started my girls skiing when they were 18 months and 2 years old, because that is what we do. We are a skiing family.

VL: Have you skied every mountain in Vermont?

AH: No. I think in Vermont we are very territorial. We tend to know where it is going to be good and when it is going to be good, and we’re pretty protective of our local haunts. So Mount Mansfield is my playground, and when it is good, that is where I am going to be.

VL: Is there anything about skiing that has directly informed your political views and interests?

AH: Absolutely. With skiing you get absolute freedom and absolute control, and you are the master of your destiny, from turn to turn and from mountain to mountain, and it is hard for me to not want to take that freedom and apply it elsewhere in my life. I live off the grid. I am a libertarian. I want less government control over my life and the lives around me, so I think there is a very strong parallel that can be drawn there.

VL: How long were you a builder?

AH: I was a builder from 1995 to 2002. I wanted to build my own home and wanted to learn the skills to do it, and that is what I did. For so many of us here in Vermont, it has been a great way to make a living.

VL: What motivated you to build your house off the grid?

AH: We did a cost analysis of what it would cost to bring power to our site and applied that cost to the installation of our system, and the numbers worked. If we could tie into the grid tomorrow, I don’t think we would choose to.

VL: Would you consider yourself an environmentalist?

AH: No, I wouldn’t, but I think anyone who knows me might have a different take. To me, it is just being a Vermonter. I think most country people tend to be environmentally minded just because that is how they have to exist to survive. When you live on the land, right, you’ve got to take care of it.

VL: Do you get all your power from wind and solar?

AH: For about 10 months of the year, we get all our power from wind and solar, and then in December and January, we have to run a generator about once a week.

VL: What moves you to be so involved in your community?

AH: To me, if you grow up in small-town Vermont, where out of necessity your family is involved in the functions of the town you live in, you can call that politics, but it is really more community service.