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Berkshire East Ski Resort facts for kids

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Berkshire East Ski Resort
Lodge and Summit triple chairlift in 2007
Lodge and Summit triple chairlift in 2007
Berkshire East Ski Resort is located in Massachusetts
Berkshire East Ski Resort
Berkshire East Ski Resort
Location in Massachusetts
Berkshire East Ski Resort is located in the United States
Berkshire East Ski Resort
Berkshire East Ski Resort
Location in the United States
Location Charlemont / Hawley, Massachusetts, U.S.
Nearest city Greenfield
Coordinates 42°37′15″N 72°52′37″W / 42.62083°N 72.87694°W / 42.62083; -72.87694
Vertical    1,180 ft (360 m)
Top elevation 1,700 ft (520 m) AMSL
Base elevation    520 ft (158 m)
Runs 45
Longest run 2.5 miles (4 km)
Lift system 4 chairs:
(2 quads, 1 triple, 1 double)
2 surface lifts
Snowmaking 100%

Berkshire East Ski Resort is a medium-sized alpine ski area in the northeastern United States, located in the Berkshires on Mount Institute in Charlemont and Hawley, Massachusetts.


Thunder Mountain Ski Area

Organized skiing started on Mt. Institute in the mid-1950s when Arthur Parker opened a small rope tow operation. Due to weather and other difficulties, it closed after one short season.

Parker spent the balance of the decade gathering investors for a much larger operation on the same mountain. The first double chairlift, a Mueller, was installed for the grand re-opening 1961-62 season. A second double chairlift, another Mueller, was installed in 1962.

Notable skiers during this time included former Massachusetts Governor Endicott Peabody and U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.

New ownership took over in late 1965, changing the name to Berkshire East at the end of the decade.

Berkshire East Ski Resort

The ownership group struggled, trying a variety of ill-fated expansion plans. By 1975, Berkshire East was bankrupt and outdated with two partially installed chairlifts and two antiquated Mueller chairlifts. Current management soon took over and began a steady series of investments.

A Hall double chairlift was installed in 1978. A fourth chairlift, an SLI, was also installed in the late 1970s.

In 1995, the first Mueller double chairlift was replaced with a Poma triple chairlift. A Hall double chairlift was added in 2001. In 2003, the second Mueller double chairlift was replaced with a Borvig-Leitner quad chairlift.

In 2008, Berkshire East replaced a novice handle tow with a magic carpet lift.

As of 2008, the ski area has 45 trails and five lifts, in addition to the tubing slope and lift. Berkshire East is currently the only alpine ski area in Franklin County open to the public.

In 2010, the Diamond Express Hall double chairlift (1978) was replaced with a Poma triple chairlift.

In 2011, the ski area added a PowerWind 56 900 kWh wind turbine. This addition, makes Berkshire East the first ski area in the world to be 100% powered by onsite renewable energy.

In 2014, the Summit Triple lift (1995) was replaced by a brand new SkyTrac quad chairlift with a moving carpet loading area. The new lift will run at a faster speed than typical fixed grip lifts with a moving carpet that moves skiers into the loading area and assists with loading onto the faster moving chairs. The old Poma Summit Triple lift is being saved for a future install elsewhere on the mountain. (Now at Catamount Mountain Resort in Egremont, Massachusetts).

Terrain and Lifts

Berkshire East offers about 1000 feet of true (non-inflated) vertical drop, with about 200 acres (0.8 km2) of skiable terrain. It has mixed terrain from beginner to expert level ability: 30% beginner runs, 35% intermediate, 30% advanced, and 5% expert runs. Berkshire East has been known to have challenging black diamond terrain.

  • Summit Quad Chairlift - serves all abilities, including an array of expert trails, the intermediate Mohawk, and the beginner Outback complex. The quad chair replaced the former summit triple and opened the 2014/2015 ski season. This lift also includes a loading carpet which increases the overall speed of the lift.
  • Mountain Top Triple Chairlift - serves all abilities as well reaching to the top of the mountain slightly beyond the Summit Triple lift. The same trails serviced by the Summit Quad Chairlift can be accessed via this lift. This lift typically operates in early/late season and as an overflow lift. This chair was previously the Diamond Express Double Chairlift which was upgraded in the 2009-2010 season.
  • Wilderness Peak Quad Chairlift - services beginner and intermediate terrain on the west side of the mountain, including the intermediate Wilderness Peak complex and the beginner Exhibition and Roundabout trails.
  • Top Notch Double Chairlift - services the novice Top Notch slope.
  • Bobcat Magic Carpet - services the Bobcat novice slope.


Berkshire East can make snow on all of its trails. The snowmaking system is composed almost exclusively of fan guns. The snowmaking fleet is dominated by SMI Polecats and Wizzards, as well as Areco fan guns.


Berkshire East and Thunder Mountain have both been known for strong racing programs. Numerous successful racers, ranging from Massachusetts high school state champions to United States Ski Team members have trained and raced at Berkshire East. Berkshire East frequently hosts USSA and MIAA slalom and giant slalom championship races. Additionally, it is a frequent venue for ski mountaineering races.

Other activities

In 2007, Berkshire East expanded operations beyond skiing and snowboarding by opening a snow tubing slope, serviced by a magic carpet surface lift.

In 2009, Berkshire East announced the construction of multiple zip lines, creating a canopy tour business called Berkshire East Canopy Tours.

Berkshire East Canopy Tours is one of the largest zip lines companies in North America. It boasts nearly 4.5 miles (7.2 km) of zip lines, and features two of the longest zip lines in the United States with X1, and X2. These zips are about a half mile in length and are nearly 200 feet (60 m) above the ground.

In 2013, Berkshire East was given approval to build the longest Alpine Coaster in North America, and featured a mile (1.6 km) of steel track.

In the summer of 2014, the new mountain coaster was constructed, and that fall, construction began on a new downhill mountain bike park.

– Berkshire East Ski Area
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