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Massachusetts Ski Area Guide -- Very Complete
- Berkshire East, Charlemont • 400 skiable acres on 1,180' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 1840'; Base elevation: 660'. 5 Lifts: 1 quad, 1 Triple, 2 doubles, 1 j-bar, 1 rope tow. Uphill Capacity: 6200/hr. Terrain Mix: 30-35-35. Longest Run: 13,200'. Season: usually December through late March/early April. Night Skiing: W-Th-F-Sa. Annual Snowfall: 110". Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Here's a nice alternative for a lot of skiers bound for Mt. Snow, Stratton, etc. Berkshire East is one of the better mid-sized mountains on the east coast. It's a lot like Mount Snow, except smaller, less pricey, less crowded. Lots of trails, but the wanderer will get antsy. The hotshot will be ok here.
Signature Trail: Outback.
- Blandford, Blandford • 158 skiable acres on 525' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 1685'; Base elevation: 1220'. 4 Lifts: 3 doubles, 1 rope tow. Uphill Capacity: 5120/hr. Terrain Mix: 40-50-10. Longest Run: 2000'. Season: usually December through late March. Night Skiing: M-W-F-Sa. Annual Snowfall: 50". Snowmaking: 80%.
The SKInny: Blandford is operated by the Springfield Ski Club, and is about 20 miles west of Springfield. One of the advantages to club-owned properties is that the skiing is more important than squeezing out every last dollar. It's a small area, with a LOT of trails running here and there to make the most out of the mountain. As Blandford emphasizes learning and intermediate skiing, the hotshot will feel out of place, but the wanderer will do as well here as at any 500' vertical; lots of ground to cover with two "summit" areas and plenty of trail options. Blandford has one of the coolest bunny slopes around; a couple of trails with a quasi-glade. King of the hill of small ski ares.
- Blue Hills, Canton • 60 skiable acres on 309' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 635'; Base elevation: 326'. 5 Lifts: 1 double, 3 surface lifts, 1 magic carpet. Uphill Capacity: 3000/hr. Terrain Mix: 25-50-25. Longest Run: 3000'. Season: usually December through late March. Night Skiing. Annual Snowfall: 50" (!?). Snowmaking: 80%.
The SKInny: This is a local, park-owned/contractor-operated ski area that is -- believe it or not -- located within the 128 Boston Beltway. The enticement of a bazillion skiers located within a half hour has kept this place going, or should I say, keeps potential operators interested. In the past they've slugged along for a couple of years, filed bankruptcy, a new suitor steps in, until the cycle repeats itself. The problem is lack of water supply; the town of Canton water utility is always the biggest creditor, and winds up shutting down its best recreational outlet. (Favorite oxymoron: Good Government) The current operator is Ragged Mountain, a successful New Hampshire ski area. Ragged seems to be emphasizing snowboarding and tubing at Blue Hills, which sounds like a good way to save this area. Considering all these factors, it's pretty decent skiing considering its proximity to the city.
Signature Trail: The Chute.
- Bousquet, Pittsfield • 200 skiable acres (!?) on 750' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 1875'; Base elevation: 1125'. 4 Lifts: 3 doubles, 1 surface lift. Uphill Capacity: 4000/hr. Terrain Mix: 34-33-33. Longest Run: 5280'. Season: usually Thanksgiving weekend through late March. Night Skiing: Monday - Saturday. Annual Snowfall: 83". Snowmaking: 98%.
The SKInny: Bousquet is seldom crowded, priced right, with a good variety of terrain. So why is it so empty? Jiminy Peak is right nearby, and although it's a lot more expensive, it has a lot more terrain and amenities. Beyond that, Mount Snow is easy to reach as well. So Bousquet is a bit neglected by New Englanders and unknown to New Yorkers, but it shouldn't be. When you're tired of the hotshots, the lines, and the $6/slice pizza, Bousquet is the place to go. Liftlines are virtually nonexistent, slopes are uncrowded. Although mountain ops is meticulous about grooming, they leave the sides of some trails alone for anyone who wants to bump up a bit. Plus you can find plenty of tree skiing on the east side if that's what you're interested in. The trails are generally gentle, but there are a few short but very steep drops that will give even the best skiers a thrill. There is one trail called "Icicles" with a few rock drops and whatnot that briefly rivals Mad River Glen. The atmosphere at Bousquet is typical of a traditional old-timey New England ski area...mainly because it is an old-timey New England ski area. The 200 acres is a bit suspect, but I can tell you it does "ski bigger" than most mountains with a 750' vertical. Heck, it skis bigger than a lot of mountains with 1,000' vert. Bousquet is one of the best mountains I've seen for families, not only in New England, but nationwide. Yet it isn't just a lame hill for families; it's got a terrific race program, and quite a few trails winding here and there to stimulate most skiers. Write it down on your short list...this is one terrific place that is worth the trip and should be considered a "must" for any old-school skier. Parking is right there, the lodge is comfortable with lots of history, and the only thing more enjoyable than the lounge is the skiing.
Signature Trail: Grand slalom.
- Ski Bradford, Haverhill • 48 skiable acres on 248' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 1548'; Base elevation: 1300'. 8 Lifts: 2 triples, 2 t-bars, 4 rope tows. Uphill Capacity: 9600/hr. Terrain Mix: 10-80-10. Longest Run: 450'. Season: usually December through mid March. Night Skiing: Mon-Sat. Annual Snowfall: 50". Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Great small mountain suburban operation, ideal easy trails for learning. The world needs more of these.
Signature Trail: The Hornet.
- Butternut, Great Barrington • 110 skiable acres on 1000' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 1800'; Base elevation: 800'. 8 Lifts: 1 quad, 1 triple, 4 doubles, 1 poma, 1 rope tow. Uphill Capacity: 10,075/hr. Terrain Mix: 36-36-28. Longest Run: 7890'. Season: usually December through late March/early April. Annual Snowfall: 70". Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: This is your typical good Berkshire ski area; a mid-sized mountain offering plenty for the average skier. Hotshots will want to head elsewhere, wanderers will last half a day, and everybody else will have a thoroughly great time with usually some outstanding conditions. Quad chair is best for avoiding the snowboard set.
- Catamount, South Egremont • 110 skiable acres on 1000' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 2000'; Base elevation: 1000'. 7 Lifts: 4 doubles, 1 j-bar, 2 handle tows. Uphill Capacity: 5200/hr. Terrain Mix: 30-40-30. Longest Run: 10,560'. Season: usually mid November through late March/early April. Night skiing. Annual Snowfall: 75". Snowmaking: 95%.
The SKInny: If you'd like to trying state-of-the-art skiing circa 1977, you can do it at Catamount. It's a throwback, with throwback equipment. The only feature that doesn't ring true to the late 70s is the plethora of snowboarders. Catamount caters to these people, much to our chagrin. Skiing is interesting; you can ski into Massachusetts, then back into New York then back...you get the picture. Conditions not as good as Jiminy or other true Berkshires resorts, but it is a decent mid-sized ski area, with generally more challenging terrain. When conditions are "on" you don't need to be anywhere else, period. As one of the old-line ski areas, it's a "must ski."
- Mt. Greylock Ski Club, Williamstown • Approx. 50 skiable acres on 300' vertical
Appears to be more than one "official" website; if the link above does not work, click here.
Specs: Summit elevation: 1600'; Base elevation: 1300'. 2 surface lifts. Terrain Mix: 33-50-17. Longest Run: 3000'. Season: Weather permitting; weekends and holidays only. Annual Snowfall: 85". Snowmaking: none.
The SKInny: Alright. Adult annual membership here is less than a day of skiing at a big resort...get the picture? If you ski, and you live anywhere near Williamstown, you ought to join and support this operation. And you ought to do it every year you are fortunate enough to be visiting this planet, otherwise these operations have a bad habit of becoming condos, shopping malls, golf courses, etc. And the fact is that this is a real ski area, with real trails, and some challenging terrain. Good old fashioned New England skiing: A combination of narrow trails, chutes, glades, and a few wide open meadows. Then you take the tow back up the hill.
- Jiminy Peak, Hancock • 156 skiable acres on 1150' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 2380'; Base elevation: 1250'. 8 Lifts: 1 sixpack, 2 quads, 3 triples, 1 double, 1 surface lift. Uphill Capacity: 11,000/hr. Terrain Mix: 25-50-25. Longest Run: 10,560'. Season: usually mid November through late March/early April. Night skiing. Annual Snowfall: 98". Snowmaking: 93%.
The SKInny: It's all about the condos. (Shh...don't repeat that) Actually, it's a decent mid-sized ski area; lots of variety, and the new lifts keep people moving up the mountain. It just seems that the lift was only installed after complaints mounted, and condos were selling better at Windham...makes you wonder. (If you're wondering why we're wondering, click over to the Brodie Mt. website, which was "saved" by the same people who run Jiminy.) For now, anyway, the skiing is great at Jiminy; a great alternative to Hunter for the weekending New Yorker. Good spot for the hotshot, semi-decent for the wanderer. Arguably the best in Massachusetts; certainly the best all-seasons resort with skiing.
- Nashoba Valley, Westford • 59 skiable acres on 240' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 440'; Base elevation: 200'. 9 Lifts: 3 triples, 1 double, 5 surface lifts. Uphill Capacity: 11,600/hr. Terrain Mix: 20-47-33. Longest Run: 3,000'. Season: usually late November through mid March. Night skiing: until 10:00 pm nightly. Annual Snowfall: 55". Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Your basic small suburban ski area. Not a lot of vertical but plenty of fun. Great laid back skiing atmosphere, can get crowded.
Signature Trail: War Dance.
- Osceola Park, Pittsfield • Approx. 5 skiable acres on 100' vertical
Specs: One rope tow at this municipally-operated slope. Unclear whether the rope tow is still operational; may be a walk-up. The slope is certainly still skiable. Unfortunately these "town tows" are a vanishing breed.
- Otis Ridge, Otis • 60 skiable acres on 400' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 1700'; Base elevation: 1300'. 5 Lifts: 1 double, 1 t-bar, 3 rope tows. Uphill Capacity: 3,500/hr. Terrain Mix: 30-40-30. Longest Run: 5,280'. Season: usually December through mid March. Night skiing: until 10:00 pm Tues-Sat. Annual Snowfall: 70". Snowmaking: 90%.
The SKInny: Skiing is taken seriously at this little area, with one of the finest learning programs in the nation. Well-established; excellent reputation as small hills go.
Signature Trail: Slalom.
- Sunrise Hill, North Attleboro • 15 skiable acres on 140' vertical Operations currently suspended
Specs: Classic j-bar tow at this municipally-operated slope. Open sporadically, some years not at all. Great skiing when it's open; beautiful trails cut through the woods.
- Wachusett, Princeton • 105 skiable acres on 1000' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 2006'; Base elevation: 990'. 5 Lifts: 2 quads, 1 triple, 2 rope tows, 1 magic carpet. Uphill Capacity: 6,000/hr. Terrain Mix: 30-40-30. Longest Run: 7050'. Season: usually November through late March/early April. Night Skiing. Annual Snowfall: 100". Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Although an intermediate skier's area, Wachusett is easily the best skiing in Eastern Mass. Nothing too tough, but a good stop for Bostonians without enough time to hit the Berkshires. Strong "blues" skiers can cover the whole mountain. Hotshots will enjoy showing off to the crowd, but that's about it. Wanderers will be better off here than a lot of places, but won't be thrilled. Overall a good mid-sized mountain; outstanding considering its proximity to major population centers.
- Ski Ward, Shrewsbury • 10 skiable acres on 210' vertical
Specs: Summit elevation: 410'; Base elevation: 200'. 4 Lifts: 1 triple, 1 t-bar, 2 handle tows. Uphill Capacity: 1500/hr. Terrain Mix: 30-60-10. Longest Run: 2000'. Season: usually December through mid March. Night Skiing: Mon-Sat. Annual Snowfall: 65". Snowmaking: 100%.
The SKInny: Fun, little local ski area. Best for newbies and novices, and families looking for a low-cost, low-stress day of skiing.
Additional Massachusetts Ski Information
• Current Massachusetts Snow Totals Map of snowfall during the past 24 hours, as well as a map of actual current natural snow cover.
Wicked Awesome Key
Hotshots are skiers who can ski anywhere, anytime, in any conditions, and generally enjoy showing off those skills. Wanderers are skiers who like to go exploring, to essentially get "lost" and move from face to face, seldom skiing the same trail twice. Newbies are the girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband who has never skied before, but gamely insists on going along. Obviously, Blues represents intermediate skiers, while Blacks refers to experts.
A Signature Trail Is mostly subjective. Whether it's history, reputation, the view, or degree of difficulty...it's the run you have to do, even if it isn't necessarily the best the resort has to offer.
Finally, a note about ski area statistics: Although it's hard to believe, some ski areas are (gasp!) less than truthful with their numbers. Like the guy who lies about his, uh, shoe size, some ski areas believe that inflated numbers make their resort sound more appealling. When these numbers are obviously questionable, we put a note: (?!) and will attempt to verify the legitimacy of the claim.
Trail to Improvement
Probably the most helpful book I've seen to help you make the jump from strong blue to expert or hotshot level, is All-Mountain
Skier: The Way to Expert Skiing, by R. Mark Elling. If you've tried to follow the recommendations in magazines and books, and had trouble mimicking the photos, this book somehow makes it all work, makes it understandable and easier to apply on the slopes. This link goes to amazon.com, where you can generally snag a used copy for about six bucks, or buy a nice squeaky clean one for about 20% less than retail.
-- Rick Bolger
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