Lucky to ski local
Let’s be honest: Our gentle Berkshires is short on vertical drop and big mountain views. And our definition of the word “powder” would send a seasoned Colorado skier into paroxysms of giggles.
But here’s where we excel in the snow-country sweepstakes: Almost every resident of Berkshire County lives within a half-hour’s drive of one of our six ski areas. With four offering night skiing between three and seven times a week, many of us can squeeze in a few runs after school or work.
While all share certain similarities—they’re all proud of being family friendly, and each tries to turn snow-making into an art—each area is quite different. And it’s well worth leaving your home mountain once in a while to discover the different features, challenges, and amenities of each.
After last year’s warm and nearly snowless winter, snow lovers are hoping that the tables turn this year. Assuming Mother Nature cooperates, here’s your guide to the Berkshire’s skiing spots.
Berkshire East / Charlemont
The Lowdown: Five miles over the Berkshire-Franklin county line, Berkshire East is a favorite for north-county skiers. The same size as Jiminy Peak in Hancock, it has more of a local vibe, with lower prices and fewer people.
Stats and Facts: 1,180’ vertical; 44 trails; 6 lifts: 2 quads, 1 triple, 1 double, 2 surface lifts.
The Wow Factor: Berkshire East just edges out Jiminy for the biggest vertical drop of our six local areas. With a 500-KwH solar facility and a 900-KwH wind turbine, it is the only ski area in the world to generate 100 percent of its electricity from onsite renewable energy.
Bragging Rights: Plenty of steeps and moguls keep a black-diamond skier happy, and the glades here have more tree skiing than anywhere else in the area.
Family Fun: This is the region’s four-season adventure hub, so check out information about rafting, the adventure park, bike trails, the mountain coaster, and more.
Bousquet / Pittsfield
The Lowdown: The only ski area in the country within city limits, Bousquet is also one of America’s oldest ski areas. Beginning in 1935 with a rope tow in a farm field, it soon grew to be what the Hartford Courant called (with maybe just a hint of local favoritism?) “one of America’s finest ski developments.”
Stats and Facts: 750’ vertical; 24 trails; 5 lifts: 3 double chairs, 2 magic carpets.
The Wow Factor: Little slope, big heart—the ski school and racing program have produced five U.S. Olympians.
Bragging Rights: Roberto’s Chute, with high moguls and icy troughs, is a short screamer but delivers a seriously thrilling ride.
Family Fun: Daily night skiing (except Sunday), plus the in-town location, means Mom and Dad can drop kids off for after-school skiing—giving junior racers plenty of practice. There’s also tubing.
Butternut / Great Barrington
The Lowdown: This local family favorite takes pride in extensive snowmaking and meticulous grooming. Even in a low-snow year, Ski Butternut manages to put out perfect corduroy day after day.
Stats and Facts: 1,000’ vertical; 22 trails; 10 lifts: 3 quads, 1 triple, 1 double, 4 carpets and a Poma surface lift.
The Wow Factor: Two lodges and a spread-out base area give Butternut plenty of room for warming up, hanging out, and grabbing some hot soup. Families flock here because of the comfy feel and tons of variety for beginners and intermediates.
Bragging Rights: You need a special pass (apply with an online test) to use the terrain park. Then fly over the jumps and ride the rails as your ability and nerves allow.
Family Fun: The terrain-based learning area is sculpted with bumps and banks that gently nudge beginners to speed up, slow down, turn, and stop. There’s also a moving-carpet-served tubing run.
Catamount / South Egremont (MA) and Hillsdale (NY)
The Lowdown: It’s the closest Berkshire ski hill to the New York metropolitan area, but lift lines are rarely more than five minutes long. Locals say Catamount has the biggest variety of trails and challenges in south county.
Stats and Facts: 1000’ vertical; 36 trails; 7 lifts: 1 quad, 1 triple, 2 doubles, and 3 magic carpets.
The Wow Factor: Ski two states in a single day—the area sits smack on the New York-Massachusetts border. For the longest run in the Berkshires (two miles of mixed blue and green), connect Ridge Run at the summit with Upper and Lower Promenade.
Bragging Rights: Catamount’s signature Catapult run is billed as the steepest slope in the Berkshires, and one of the steepest slopes in the East. You’ve been warned!
Family Fun: The entire east side of the mountain is dedicated to blue and green slopes, including a junior-level terrain park and a newly opened patch of intermediate glade skiing. Evening and night skiing (Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays) are popular with teens and tweens.
Jiminy Peak / Hancock
The Lowdown: The biggest Berkshire ski area, Jiminy Peak has a full-service, big-resort feel, with slope-side vacation-home rentals, a country inn at the base, and the Hendrick’s Summit Lodge at the peak— the only one in the county.
Stats and Facts: 1,150’ vertical; 45 trails; 9 lifts: 1 high-speed six-seater, 2 quads, 3 triples, 1 double, and 2 surface lifts.
The Wow Factor: Jiminy tries to open first and close last, so you can squeeze in a few more runs here when every other place is closed. The first ski resort in North America to generate power from its own 1.5-megawatt wind turbine, Jiminy has just added solar panels to its renewable-energy program. And it’s one of only two local areas (Catamount is the other) to participate in STRIDE, an adaptive program for skiers with physical or cognitive challenges.
Bragging Rights: Polish your skills on the steeps of 2,500-foot-long, double-black-diamond Jericho. Try to throw a few turns in while you’re at it.
Family Fun: In addition to a full-service ski school, snowshoe trails and a mountain coaster keep non-skiers entertained. There’s also daycare for little ones.
Otis Ridge / Otis
The Lowdown: This sweet, non-intimidating area is the perfect place to introduce a family to skiing—and it has some of the lowest prices around.
Stats and Facts: 400’ vertical; 10 trails; 4 lifts: 1 double, 1 T-bar, 2 rope tows.
The Wow Factor: Some of the trails follow old carriage roads twisting and turning through the woods. There’s also a surprising little headwall that can wake you up if you aren’t paying attention.
Bragging Rights: When’s the last time you rode a T-bar or a rope tow? Do you even know how? You can brush up your retro skills here.
Family Fun: There aren’t any confusing junctions, and all the trails funnel back to the main lodge, so even young children can ski unsupervised—and gain the confidence to move on to bigger hills.
Lift tickets are most expensive on weekends and holidays when everyone wants to be skiing. Each Berkshire ski area offers a variety of deals: special discount days, season passes, multiple-pass discounts; senior, military, child, and student discounts; weekday or online specials; lesson-pass-rental packages; and season-pass discounts at area restaurants and other ski areas. (Always ask if your pass earns a discount at another ski area.) Check websites before you go. Also check out liftopia.com, which runs daily deals and discounts for ski areas nationwide.
Our six traditional Berkshire ski areas are only the tip of the iceberg. The Northeast offers different experiences for skiers of all levels—and many are just a short drive, a daytrip or weekender away. Here’s a sampling:
Blandford Ski Area, MA: Just west of Otis, Blandford is between the size of Otis and Bousquet, so it offers another family-friendly option close to home. Owned and operated by the Springfield Ski Club, it’s one of the oldest in the country. skiblandford.org
Hermitage Club, VT: We have yacht clubs and golf clubs; why not ski clubs? At this exclusive slope in Vermont’s Deerfield Valley, skiers pay hefty membership fees but enjoy non-existent lift lines and empty slopes, even on the busiest holidays. hermitageclub.com
Killington, VT: “The Beast of the East” encompasses Killington and Pico Peak next door, spreads over six mountains, and has more skiable acres (1,977), more lifts (29), and enough terrain parks to keep even the most die-hard riders surprised and challenged.
Lake Placid, NY: A three-hour drive from Pittsfield, this Olympic site has the biggest vertical in the East— and the 15th biggest in all of North America. Learn what it feels like to ski 3,216 feet of vertical in a single run down Whiteface Mountain. whiteface.com
Mount Snow, VT: 1,700 feet of vertical bumps this resort into the “big mountain” category and the closest one to the Berkshires—less than two hours away. One of the largest fleets of lifts in the East, including the Bluebird Express, a high-speed six-pack with a “bubble” to protect riders from the elements. mountsnow.com
Thunderbolt Trail, MA: Are you a hotshot, a double-black-diamond, ice-be-damned, who-needs-grooming daredevil? Then head to the historic, backcountry Thunderbolt Trail. You’ll have to climb to the summit of Mount Greylock with all your gear—then find your way down on a wing and a prayer. Or enjoy it the sane way and just watch the annual race, held in March when snow permits. thunderboltskirun.com