In a season of discovering new ways to embrace our love of skiing and riding, we here in Massachusetts may be particularly blessed.
Because while many of us oft point our cars north and head to the White or Green Mountains, our own state is dotted with ski areas rich in history and experience. They may not sit on massive peaks that demand avalanche detectors, but Massachusetts ski areas are entertaining, interesting and truly special. In other words: Small is big fun.
With borders – for now—a challenge to most any other state, consider this the year of discovery for you and your ski bubble gang.
Here at Ski Wednesday, we’ll be visiting these resorts and reporting back all season long. We know we’ll find unique characters, cool stories, some lovely views and yes, great runs. We’ve talked about Wachusett Mountain and Jiminy Peak in past weeks, our state’s “bigger” areas.
Here’s a sampling of where else we’ll be skiing across the state this winter. For quick day trips or overnights combining a few spots, we’ve got plenty of choices this pandemic season.
Know that your best bet is to plan ahead and purchase your tickets online. For more COVID set-up details, visit each ski area’s website before heading there.
Berkshire East Mountain Resort, Charlemont: Berkshire East (https://berkshireeast.com) is a true local’s ski hill, but in the most welcoming way possible.
Their three chairs (one is a quad) and magic carpet serve a nice variety of terrain. Beginners can loop out on either side and take a long, lovely run (all levels will enjoy it) and experts can find some challenging enough terrain tucked in the middle.
The resort vibe is laid back and local, and has that feel you can only get when the same family is in its fifth generation of running the place.
Cool factor: The entire resort is run on on-site created renewable energy. Old school meets the future.
Bosquet Ski Area, Pittsfield: With a 750-foot drop and 200 acres of skiing accessed by two chairs and two surface lifts, you might think Bosquet (https://bousquetmountain.com) isn’t a mountain mover and shaker. But get this: It was a go-to day trip spot for JFK and Gerald Ford (easily the two most dedicated skier Presidents), and thanks to early partnerships with nearby General Electric, Bosquet is one of the first hills in the nation to have snowmaking and is said to be the birthplace of night skiing.
You’ll find that history and charm on display: When you’ve been operating as a ski area since 1932, that’s how it feels. But you’ll find modern too. A new management team has been tweaking trails, upgrading the infrastructure but always with the soul of that original hill in mind.
Cool factor: Three-time Olympian Heidi Voelker (the only living American on a license plate currently; she’s the skier on the Utah plate) honed her skills here.
Ski Bradford, Haverhill: You can crank out a whole lot of vertical on Bradford’s (https://skibradford.com/hours/) 15 trails: their uphill lift capacity is 9,600 skiers an hour. The compact ski hill offers plenty of open space for wide turns, some great glades and a terrain park for those who love sick tricks.
For the most part mellow, it’s a great learning hill, as well as a good spot for working on improving.
Their snowmaking cranks out a great surface and their prices are remarkably low. Hours and days of operation are somewhat limited this year as compared to others, but by checking on line and purchasing ahead of time, you’ll get your turns in plenty this winter.
Cool factor: You can ride a rope tow there, certainly a memory for parents and a taste of our history for kids.
Blue Hills Ski Area, Canton: She is tiny but mighty, as it may be impossible to count the many skiers whose lifelong love for the sport born at Blue Hills (www.bluehillsboston.com).
Located just a few-minute jaunt out of Boston Proper, Blue Hills is a learning mecca. With day and night lessons and a top-notch teaching team, it’s a great place to start your ski or ride journey.
And for a quick hit of fun runs day or night for anyone, it’s worth a visit.
Cool factor: The peak of Blue Hills is the highest land point on the Atlantic coast from Boston to Key West.
Otis Ridge, Otis: Simple, old school and lovely. That’s the big feeling you get on the 59 acres and 11 trails that make up Otis Ridge.
A true family area, Otis Ridge is all about affordability, but don’t mistake that for cheap. Their ski school has been teaching locals for more than a half a century, and their regulars rave about the home-town hill vibe.
Cool factor: Originally developed by the Judson brothers; two members of the famed 10th Mountain Division of WWII.
Butternut Ski Area, Great Barrington: With 22 trails, two terrain parks and 100 percent snowmaking on their 110 skiable acres, it’s no wonder folks from nearby New York and Connecticut flock to Butternut (https://skibutternut.com) for day trips.
It’s accessible and affordable — how does just over $100 for gear rental for the entire season sound? Or weekday tickets starting at … wait for it … $15?
Butternut embraces nature with thick woods around trails but enough open runs to give everyone a place to call their own each run. Close to Great Barrington, it has a good amount of lodging nearby.
Cool factor: Declared an “environmental showcase” by SKI Magazine.
Ski Ward, Shrewsbury: She is small but mighty, and has been pleasing local skiers since the late 1930s, offering up night skiing since the early 1940s.
Ski Ward (www.skiward.com) is a great family spot. With top-of-the-line rentals and great instructors, Ski Ward’s 220-foot vertical drop a great spot to learn, brush up or push to the next level. Just enough oomph to get you going, never so much you cannot focus on your skills.
Cool factor: They employ more than 100 instructors each season, many former competitors.
Nashoba Valley Ski Area, Westford: A quick jaunt from Boston (just down Route 2), Nashoba (https://skinashoba.com) has been family-run since forever, and that’s a good thing.
It’s welcoming, with smiling staff and easy-to-access lifts. It’s not big, but you can have lots of fun in the trees of many runs. And since the lifts run day and night, there’s always time to get in some great runs.
It skis bigger than it looks. With 17 trails (the longest a half-mile long), you can link different trails and find all kinds of fun runs. And with 100 percent snowmaking and night lighting, those trails are pristine.
Cool factor: Nashoba was one of the first ski areas in America to allow snowboarding.
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