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Between the Lines

Why a new adventure race in Charlemont matters.

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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The connections that exist between the communities of the Valley are vital to the region’s future—vital to its prosperity, to its quality of life, to its sustainability.

If school kids in Springfield stopped participating in annual sports jamborees in places like Amherst and Hatfield, if people in Bernardston didn’t go to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield or people in Belchertown didn’t hike out to MassMoCA in North Adams, the Valley that we know would be utterly unrecognizable.

The region is also blessed with a continual influx of students and tourists, not an insignificant number of whom stay or find their ways back here at some future point. The attraction of the region to so many isn’t just one or even a few obvious things, but surely the near equal proximity we enjoy to both nature and culture and the mix of urban, suburban and rural experiences that are available to us makes the four western counties of Massachusetts very special.

Later in the month, at a ski resort that not only survives but is now thriving in Charlemont, an influx of visitors will come in the form of Navy SEALs, with legions of athletically-inclined and adventurous souls from near and far in their slipstream. The weekend of Sept. 13-14, Berkshire East Ski Resort hosts the first-ever Bone Frog Challenge, a nine-plus-mile muddy obstacle race with 36 SEAL-inspired obstacles—about one every quarter mile. According to organizers, the Bone Frog Challenge is “owned, operated and designed by U.S. Navy SEALS,” supporting charities that assist Navy SEALs and their families, including the Navy SEAL Foundation, 31 Heroes and One Team One Fight.

The event is only the most recent addition to Berkshire East’s calendar as the resort continues to reinvest in its future as a four-season destination. While many ski areas in southern New England have struggled and often failed in a region where snow isn’t always plentiful, the Schaefers, the family that owns Berkshire East, are finding ways to grow and diversify by investing not only in new attractions such as tubing parks and zipline canopy tours, but in energy independence in the forms of a windmill and a solar energy farm. The Bone Frog Challenge (bonefrogchallenge.com), which is as much a big party as it is an athletic event, shows the Schaefers’ drive to build partnerships with a new generation of event organizers and to compete with big, often corporately-owned resorts in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Events like Bone Frog keep people moving and the local economy growing, boosting employment in communities like Charlemont in ways that also preserve open spaces and rural character, while adding to the wonderful diversity of Western Mass.•

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