As I have said before, I have been skiing New England for over 30 years. In that time I have seen a lot change. Mountains have become expensive and many have chosen to offer a “product” rather than an outdoor, athletic experience. Berkshire East is a true treasure. It is a mountain tucked away in the sad little town of Charlemont, which lacks the antique stores, restaurants, outlets, art venues, and the obnoxious tourists of the Great Barrington area. What it has is Thunder Mountain, a “steep & cheap,” large ski area which maintains the old New England charm that many of the region’s current resorts now lack. The owner, Roy, is almost always on site. The staff are professional, helpful, local, and dedicated. The instructors do a wonderful job. If you want to teach your kids how to ski – how to REALLY ski, they can do it at B-East via school programs or with any of a number of lesson packages.
What Berkshire East lacks is the grooming machines of the bigger resorts (odd that the trip-advisor pic shows such a meticulously-groomed trail—that is NOT the standard here). Do they groom? Sure. Do they do it better than the place did 15 years ago (when the local nickname was “Berkshire Ice”), Yes! But this mountain relies on nature more than most. In that way, it is similar to Mad River and Burke. It uses the natural structures and terrain of the mountain to make the place great. When there is natural snow, this mountain comes alive in a way that even some of the big mountains in New England do not.
At Berkshire East there are always people to ski with. This place has a higher percentage of expert skiers skiing it on any given day than just about any mountain in New England. If you really want to find out what makes this place special, go there and ski with a local. They will happily show you the ins and outs of the mountain. B-East is an “all mountain” experience. There is A LOT of off piste skiing here. There are also a lot of trails that the casual visitor may not notice or find easily without a local guide. The mountain boasts 400 ski-able acres (it has a lot more) and 1200 vertical feet (it may have a little less—I think they add a couple of feet measuring to the parking lot). It is the only ski resort in Massachusetts with tree skiing. Also, Berkshire East’s tree skiing is GREAT! Way better than Stratton, Okemo and most of the other southern New England resorts.
Another wonderful things about Berkshire East is that pass-holders get what pass-holders used to get a generation or two ago—a good deal and not cheated. A Berkshire East season pass is just that—a season’s pass! No black-out days, no mid-week only, no exceptions for school holidays and high-volume days. When you get a B-East pass it is good for EVERY DAY of the season, regardless. Also, if you buy it late in the season, you can ski the end of that season on next year’s pass. That’s an amazing bargain!
Berkshire East is really an expert’s mountain. If a trail is ski-able, it is open . They will leave a trail open with scrapes and ice, rocks, or natural hazards. They have windy, narrow, really steep terrain and some very humbling tree-ski areas (e.g., “the beast” and “tomahawk”). They also do not mark blues as blacks and greens as blues as many of the region’s resorts do these days. As a matter of fact, they were forced 2 years ago to change a “blue” tree trail to black for insurance reasons. Not too many places will ever label a tree-run as blue.
Lastly, B-East doesn’t try to gauge its patrons. The food is good, simple and priced reasonably. They have $1 Schlitz at the bar, too! The lodges are absolutely charming and the guests are not forced to check their belongings. There are plenty of hooks and storage areas to keep you backpacks and sacks without any fear of having anything lost or stolen.
Berkshire East is a true gem. It is well-known to some of the best skiers in the region and is place where you can do anything from taking a gentle, long, sloping slalom run to testing you mettle on steeply-pithced, densly-treed, rocky backwoods trail. Maybe it is a mistake to even post this review-- because one of the most amazing things about Berkshire East is that it truly is one of New England’s best-kept secrets.
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