Local ski area
South River Rd.
It's mid-January, 2008. Temperatures hover just below freezing. It's snowing hard enough to bedevil morning traffic as it crawls up the Mohawk Trail into Charlemont, hard enough to quickly cover fresh tracks through the six inches of champagne fluff that fell on Berkshire East Ski Resort overnight. Bob Weiss, who's skied all over the world and who writes about skiing for the Valley Advocate, skis silently down a wooded trail and comes to a stop at the top on a steep pitch above the main lift. He waits for his companion to catch up.
"Right now," Weiss says, motioning back up the mountain toward a peak that has all but disappeared in driving snow, "we could be skiing anywhere in the world." Yes, we could have been in the Alps. Or in Colorado. Or Alaska. But we're not in any of those places. We're at Berkshire East, just 40 minutes up the road from Northampton, 90 minutes tops from the Springfield area.
With 1,100-feet of vertical, 45 trails and five lifts, The Beast may not provide a lot of cover shots for the big-time ski magazines, but for regulars who call Berkshire East their home mountain, Weiss' comment says it all: It doesn't get any better than this. True, not all years are nearly as spectacular (read: snowy) as the 2007-2008 winter season was. And that's exactly why Roy Schaefer, owner of Berkshire East, has lured so many great skiers and riders to his slopes: nobody does a better job making and grooming snow. Even with all the snow we had this year, Berkshire East still had better conditions than many of its bigger competitors to the north. With relatively low ticket prices, plenty of family-friendly amenities and lots of picturesque and varied terrain, Berkshire East's greatness isn't just a matter of its close proximity to southern New England's major population centers. But in a day and age of high gas prices, it's no small blessing to find world-class skiing so close to home.