Skiing In the Berkshires
Skiing requires snow and not much else. Typically, Berkshire doesn't get as heavy snowstorms as the New England coast, but the snow stays longer. The first flakes fall before Thanksgiving; snow gets more serious in mid-December; by January it is building up as the temperature drops down. A thaw at the end of January cleans the palate for the February line storms that mark weather fronts. March shows deceptive signs of spring, but the white stuff lingers into April.
Four months, give or take a few weekends. But that's the natural stuff. The snowmakers start spraying air and moisture before Thanksgiving-hoping to build up sufficient depth, together with the snow from the clouds, to last without interruption through the public schools' April vacation week! The opportunities created by snow are worth a visit to the Berkshires, where downhill ski areas range from first-class resorts with expert trails to a family/cooperative ski club, and culture, comforts and amenities abound.
When did alpine skiing in these parts begin? In February 1935 the first ski train from New York chuffed into Pittsfield. To the delight of the locals, 447 skiers disembarked. Each had paid $3 round trip for the privilege of climbing the open slopes of the Clarence Bousquet farm at the outskirts of the city. By 1942, it is estimated, the snow trains had brought 40,000 skiers to the Berkshires, most of them skiing at Bousquet and a few at Brodie Mountain. The development of snowmaking machinery ensured an annual ski season in the Berkshires. Because of the size of most Berkshire ski areas enables near-100% coverage, they can seize an advantage over the larger areas to the north in periods of adverse weather. Most Berkshire downhill ski areas are meticulously tended every night and some of the better cross country ski touring centers also groom their trails. So step into your skis and let's go! Just remember to pause and enjoy the serenity of a Berkshire vista!
Trails: 26 (30 Novice, 40 Intermediate, 30 Expert). Summit elevation: 2,000 feet. Vertical drop: 1,000 feet. Lifts: 4 double chairs, 1 rope tow, 1 J-bar. Snowmaking: 96%. Ski school. Cafeteria. Child care in separate building. Night skiing on 13 trails. Snowboards allowed. Rte. 23, South Egremont, on New York State border. 528-1262.
Butternut Basin (downhill and cross country):
Downhill: Trails: 22 (8 Novice, 7 Intermediate, 7 Expert). Summit elevation: 1,800 feet. Vertical drop: 1,000 feet. Lifts: 1 quadruple chair, 1 triple chair, 4 double chairs, 1 Poma, 1 rope tow. Snowmaking: 100%. Ski school with Ski Wee program for ages 4-12. Rentals. Cafeteria. Nursery. No night skiing. Snowboards allowed. Route 23, Great Barrington, 1.5 mi. East of town, toward Monterey. 528-2000.
Cross country: 8 kilometers of groomed trails. No snowmaking. Rentals. Ski school. 528-0610, 528-2000.
Canterbury Farm (cross country)
19 kilometers tracked trails: 5 Novice, 2 Intermediate, 3 Expert. Elevation: average 1,700 feet. Rentals and lessons. Fee. You'll find Canterbury Farm in Becket-go north on Route 8 (look for Canterbury Farm signage); before you get to Becket Village, turn left onto Fred Snow Road. Canterbury Farm is 2/10 mi. on the left. 623-0100.
Trails: 21 (6 Novice, 7 Intermediate, 8 Expert). Summit elevation: 1,875 feet. Vertical drop: 750 feet. Lifts: 2 double chairs, 3 rope tows. Snowmaking 98%. Ski & snowboard school, Ski shop, Rentals, Cafeteria, Child care. Night skiing on 13 trails. Snowboarding allowed. 200 Dan Fox Drive (off the Pittsfield-Lenox Road -- Route 7) in Pittsfield. 442-8316.
Jiminy Peak (downhill)
Trails: 40 (35% Novice, 30% Intermediate, 35% Expert). Summit elevation: 2,380 feet. Vertical drop: 1,140. Lifts: 2 quadruple chair, 3 triple chair, 2 double chairs, 2 handle tows. Snowmaking: 95%. Ski school, Ski shop, Rentals, 3 cafeterias, 2 restaurants, Nursery. Night skiing allowed on 13 trails. Snowboards allowed. 738-5500, snow phone (888) 4-JIMINY .
Brodie Mountain (downhill and cross country)
Trails: 40 (30% Novice, 45% Intermediate, 25% Expert), 18 miles. Summit elevation: 2,700 feet. Vertical drop: 1250 feet. Lifts: 4 double chairs, 2 rope tows. Snowmaking 95%. Ski school, Ski shop, Rentals, Cafeteria, Bar/Restaurant, Entertainment, Nursery, Night skiing. Snowboards allowed, halfpipe. Located just off Route 7, halfway between Pittsfield and Williamstown in the town of New Ashford. 25 kilometers of groomed cross country trails (fee) are located just down the road at an elevation ranging from 1,400 to 1,700 feet. 443-4752.
Note: There are many places to ski cross country throughout Berkshire County. Some places charge a fee. To find out more information, consult The Berkshire Book by Lauren Stevens published by Berkshire House Publishers.