There are countless benefits to skiing with your children.
Except, that is, when you are denied the ability to explore new terrain.
Such was the case on Thursday when my three kids and I made our first-ever visit to Berkshire East. It was our first time using our Indy Passes this season, utilizing the first of two days at a place I had always admired from afar. It’s probably fair to say that Berkshire East has the most challenging terrain of any other ski area in Massachusetts, boasting nine black diamonds and four double blacks (compare that to Jiminy Peak, which has six and three, respectively, or Wachusett, which has five black diamond runs). I’d always wanted to inspect the top-notch glades and race down the steep pitches that are part of the ski area’s lore.
But, when you’re skiing with an eight-year-old girl, during what was her first day of the season, the Tomahawk and Beast glades, not to mention the upper portion of Minnie Dole, aren’t really on the agenda.
Berkshire East skis a lot bigger than one might expect. From the level of its challenging terrain to the length of the groomers, it’s certainly not a molehill of a mountain. It’s definitely a place I can’t wait to revisit this season.
It is somewhat strange though, skiing Massachusetts during a school vacation week that my family traditionally spends in New Hampshire. But travel restrictions still being what they are, quarantine isn’t really an option for anybody in my family right now. So, Massachusetts ski areas will be the focus for the foreseeable future. We’ll get a couple days at Catamount on our Indy Passes, one more day at Berkshire East (a spot that was surprisingly low-key, even during the hastiness of school vacation week), then probably another few days at Wachusett.
Meanwhile, my Epic Pass collects dust in my ski jacket pocket, aching for some protocols to be lifted in time for the golden season of March. Yes, I’m insanely jealous of those who are ignoring the protocols and spending weekends in Stowe, Ludlow, and West Dover. Yes, I wish this ethical rodeo were no longer something skiers and riders had to argue about.
COVID restrictions have changed the game, leaving skiers and riders in Massachusetts (at least those paying attention to the requirements) looking for alternatives to the usual weekend up north.
“For Massachusetts residents who are trying to respect the travel restrictions, what we offer is a completely different experience from what is offered at some of the major brand resorts,” Berkshire East general manager Jon Schaefer told me recently. “It’s much more of a throwback experience of being a family-centric, easily accessible skiing experience. I would say that’s across the board for all the Massachusetts resorts. There’s just something different about a regional mountain against essentially a major global branded mountain that presents itself.”
In a perfect world, my wife would have been laying out at the base lodge, reading a book, relaxing, and waiting to feed snacks to hungry mouths who needed a break from Dad on the hill. It would be in those moments when my two older sons and I would explore the more-daring terrain the ski area has to offer. But we have to ski differently this year, despite the vocal protests from my 10-year-old who got tired of waiting for the Wilbur caboose.
Still, after riding the chairlift alone with my daughter, watching her improve her turning, and laughing with her about her seeming inability to hold onto both poles while loading onto the lift, I figure Minnie Dole can wait.
The benefits of skiing with them all fully outweighed the ability to explore.
Which only means planning a next time in order to take care of other business.
Check out New England Ski Journal’s February issue
The February digital edition of New England Ski Journal is live, with visits to Burke Mountain and Gunstock Mountain Resort, a look at how to get children into backcountry skiing, and a chat with Cannon Mountain GM John DeVivo.
In other features:
— Matt Boxler gives tips on what essentials you’ll need for your DIY ski tune toolbox.
— Kathy Benharris gives a lowdown on this year’s ski fashion, with Sunday River Resort as the backdrop.
— Josh Laskin takes a look at the popularity of night skiing throughout New England.
Check it out here.
TGR and Indy Pass team up for new project
Teton Gravity Research and Indy Pass announced Thursday that they are teaming up a new project to explore the spirit of independent ski and snowboard areas around North America.
There will also, apparently, be a new East Coast ski area added to the popular season pass in the coming days.
“In Pursuit of Soul,” will produce digital and social storytelling at 12 different independent resorts throughout the winter season, with a short film to be digitally released in the fall. The TGR crew will be heading to six locations on the East Coast, including Berkshire East, Bolton Valley, Cannon Mountain, Jay Peak, and Magic Mountain. The sixth resort will be announced soon, when the mystery guests gets added to the Indy Pass program.
“We are really excited about the opportunity to highlight some of the independent resorts that have rich histories, amazing characters and interesting stories that deserve to be told” said TGR co-founder Steve Jones. “While our annual films typically focus on big mountains and more exotic destinations, the exciting part of working on a project like In Pursuit of Soul is that it lets us showcase a different side of the industry that will still resonate with our core audience.”
In its second season, the Indy Pass offers 61 mountains across the U.S. and Canada, each providing two days of skiing or riding.
“TGR is an action-sports powerhouse with the passion and experience to uncover the unique energy and culture of these independent resorts,” said Doug Fish, Indy Pass founder. “For so long, ski films have zoomed in on the biggest mountains and most outlandish tricks, and so it’s exciting to work with a company like TGR to showcase these places where we all learned to ski and that still mean so much to us today. The story of our partners – mom-and-pop ski areas with colorful histories, passionate staff, and deeply invested communities – is the collective story of skiing that we all share, and, like the Indy Pass itself, it’s time to bring that relatable and realistic story to a broader audience.”
The addition of another resort to the Indy Pass presents some intriguing options, including Smugglers’ Notch, Gunstock Mountain, and Mad River Glen. Word on the street is that an official announcement will come Monday morning at 9.
Catch an all-new episode of New England Ski Journal TV, Friday on NESN
Get a taste for what’s on tap at the Woodstock Inn Brewery with this month’s Brew Minute. Host Steven Rouse presents an annual favorite, Frosty Goggles Red Pale Ale.
You can catch the Brew Minute on an all-new episode of New England Ski Journal TV, Friday night at 9:30 on NESN. Join host Meredith Gorman, who will bring you the latest news and happenings from the slopes of the region.