Have you ever dreamed about going to Disney World when you were the only guests, and you could go on your favorite rides over and over without lines?
We had this experience at Berkshire East, a family owned ski resort in Western Massachusetts. On a recent Friday morning, there were only a few dozen cars in the parking lot, and the triple chair lifts were going around with just a few random skiers.
To add to the magical experience, it was in the mid thirties, and a light snow was falling. Ideal ski conditions, in an uncrowded spot.
Family friendly Berkshire East has enough varied terrain, though, to satisfy both experienced and newbie skiers.
Weekends are more popular, but there are other activities to relieve crowds: a huge mountain coaster and a tubing hill.
Another secret: snowshoeing
Since my husband doesn’t ski, we brought snowshoes, figuring we would find a place nearby to hike around. it turns out, we were welcome to use a backwoods area, where a recent event for ‘skinning,’ using skins to hike up the trials, then ski down, left a series of markers through an utterly empty and serene wooded area. We spent 2 and 1/2 hours snowshoeing, passing absolutely nobody and having a blast.
There are six lift (including two quads) serving 52 trials, almost evenly divided among easy, intermediate and expert. Snowboarding is allowed on all the trials, and there is limited night skiing, Wednesdays – Saturdays.
Winter activity for the eco-conscious
Since Berkshire East is part of the green southern New England area, where Tevas and organic (gluten-free) granola in hemp milk are de rigueur, I was particularly pleased that the ski resort uses 100% renewable energy. A wind turbine and solar facility help you feel good about lowering your carbon footprint, even if you didn’t drive an electric car to the resort. You can also take a tour of the wind turbine for $10 (kids have to be at least eight years old to participate).
Full day lift tickets are just $60 on weekends and holidays, ($50 for ages six and up through college) $40 Monday – Friday.
Ski instruction starts at age four, and there is daycare for kids ages two and up. Full day ski programs start at age seven.
What you will miss
Cell service is spotty, WiFi isn’t available and there are no costumed ski characters, outdoor fire pits, fireplaces to warm up by or cozy chairs. There is a cafeteria, with limited vegetarian options – we had a choice of clam chowder, grilled cheese or tuna. But our friends, who are regulars, said they always pack up sandwiches from home and no one raises a fuss.
The magic ends
Unfortunately, for us, (and our daughter’s friend, Leslie) skiing is a potentially dangerous sport and Leslie sprained her knee. But though we had to spend the rest of the day in the emergency room, our experience with the ski patrol, a side of a ski resort you rarely see, was overwhelmingly positive.
When Leslie fell, a member of the ski patrol spotted her immediately and offered assistance. A two man crew was sent up the mountain with a stretcher, and she was transported safely down the mountain. The guys who helped were warm and friendly and kept her in good spirits. One even went back up on a reconnaissance mission, looking for her dropped cell phone (a casualty, alas). If you have to get hurt, this is what you want: compassionate, skilled help.
Note: we were guests of Berkshire East; opinions expressed are my own.