Berkshire East Mountain Resort has a long and storied history of great skiing. We also have a very bright future. In the past 7 years we have revitalized our mountain with a steady series of investments that have changed the mountain into one of the leading four season resorts in the east. Owned and operated by Roy and Jim Schaefer from Charlemont, MA, the boys are focused on creating a four season recreational resource that make smart use of the beautiful landscape, the historic setting, and the proximity to the population centers on the coasts.
Berkshire East Mountain Resorts features great skiing, amazing zip line canopy tours, exciting white water rafting, the east coasts #1 downhill mountain bike park, North America’s longest mountain coaster, great lodges, friendly staff and a commitment to being the best at whatever we do.
Read along to learn more about our story.
Skiing started on Mt. Institute (Berkshire East) in the mid-1950s when Arthur Parker opened a small rope tow operation that was 200′ vertical and featured two rope tows. The wheels from one rope tow are visible from the Mountain Coaster which closely follows the rope tow path to the left of Mohawk.
Art Parker discovered Charlemont and Mt. Institute because he had been taking the ski train to Chickley Alps just up the road in Hawley Massachusetts (the Chickley Alps main lodge is still by the side of route 8A). 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 Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.
New ownership took over in late 1965, changing the name to Berkshire East at the end of the decade.
The second 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 By 1975, Berkshire East was bankrupt and outdated with two partially installed chairlifts and two antiquated Mueller chairlifts.
In 1976, Roy Schaefer from Branch, MI moved east with his young family and took over and began a steady series of investments. Roy was assisted in revitalizing the mountain by Paul and Mowey Brown (Union Terminal Piers, 1980) from northern Michigan. Though Jim Schaefer purchased the Browns portion of the business in 2007, the Browns remain close family friends and are a constant presence at the mountain.
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 from Magic Mountain. 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 2015, 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 and in 2012, formed a construction and power purchase agreement with All Earth Renewables, to build and use the electricity from a 1800 panel, 500 KW solar tracking system. These additions, makes Berkshire East the first (and only) 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 runs 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 future rehabilitation and installation elsewhere on the mountain. In the spring of 2014, Berkshire East began work on what would become North America’s Longest Mountain Coaster, the Thunderbolt Mountain Coaster, near the area of the first rope tows from the 1950’s.
In August of 2014, the first work began on the Thunder Mountain Bike, with significant work completed on The Gronk, Sugar Line and several other core bike trails. The Mountain Coaster opened, after a long summer of construction that saw the construction crews hand carrying most of the heavy materials up the steep slope of the mountain by hand. In the late fall, Berkshire East completed the purchase of what would become in 2015, Berkshire Whitewater, from Moxie Whitewater in Maine.
2015, saw Berkshire East Mountain Resort purchase and renovate the Warfield House Inn, open Berkshire Whitewater, open Thunder Mountain Bike Park, and see the Mountain Coaster in its first full year of operation. The bike park opened to much success and fanfare. The bike park also bucked some industry trends as many ski resorts had been getting out of the bike park business. Berkshire East had contracted with Gravity Logic, a firm known globally as the best bike trail builders by many metrics.
Early in 2016, Thunder Mountain Bike Park was named the #1 Bike Park on the East Coast, by the voting fans of MTBParks.com. 2016, also saw the major renovation of the Berkshire East Snowmaking System, 500 LED lights installed that will halve the consumption of the old lights, miles of new snowmaking pipe added and many tower snow guns added to the mountain. The whitewater, biking and wedding operations matured and several successful summer events were added.
Summit Quad Chairlift – serves all abilities, including an array of expert trails, the intermediate Mohawk, and the beginner Outback complex. The new quad chair replacing the former Summit Triple opened during the 2014/2015 ski season.
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 Triple Chairlift can be accessed via this lift. This chair was previously the Diamond Express Double Chairlift which was upgraded in the 2009-2010 season.
West 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. Children under 5 can learn to ski and ride on the Bobcat Magic Carpet for free, check in with customer service for details.
Berkshire East Skiing Terrain features long winding beginner and intermediate trails that sweep the outer perimeter of the ski area, the middle of the mountain, is composed of intermediate and expert terrain. Some of the best skiers in New England have grown up skiing at Berkshire East and it is in large part due to the terrain, the strength of the racing and ski school programs, our dedicated staff and the high quality of skiing individual that chooses to return to ski at Berkshire East. We are proud of our skiing community and the tradition of great athletes and skiers at Berkshire East.
In the fall of 2016, Berkshire East commenced clearing of 4 new trails on the northern ridge of Mt. Institute.
Man Made Snow! Our snow making system has been completely renovated in the past 7 seasons. With new pumps, guns, water and electrical supply, Berkshire East has partnered with our local utility quietly create a highly effective modern system that pumps out the snow!
Berkshire East can make snow on all of its trails. The snowmaking system is composed almost exclusively of fan guns, though 28 stick guns with on board air compressors were added in late fall, 2015. The snowmaking fleet is dominated by both SMI Polecats and Areco fan guns.
Summer 2016 saw the addition of 4 Variable Frequency Drives, 6 new motors, 2 larger pumps, miles of new snowmaking pipe, and major electrical infrastructure work.
Rentals and Learn to Ride Programs
Berkshire East offers a brand new Rossignol Rental fleet of skis, boots and poles. The Rossignol system features modern ski and boot construction to make your learn to ski or ride experience as fun and enjoyable as can be.
Our Ski and Snowboard Schools are composed of dedicated teachers who have fun and take pride in teaching new and old skiers and riders alike.
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.
Berkshire East Canopy Tours
Zip Line Canopy Tours
In 2009, Berkshire East announced the construction of multiple zip lines, creating a canopy tour business called Berkshire East Canopy Tours. BECT features 3 distinct zip line canopy tours. Our guided zip line tours feature 2 guides, a maximum of 12 guests, two ski lift rides, and amazing views.
Berkshire East Canopy Tours is one of the largest zip lines companies in North America. It boasts nearly 4.5 miles 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′ above the ground.
Thunderbolt Mountain Coaster
In 2013, Berkshire East was given approval to build the longest Alpine Coaster in North America, the Thunderbolt, which would feature a mile of steel track. In the summer of 2014, the new Thunderbolt Mountain Coaster was constructed and opened on Columbus Day weekend, 2014.
Berkshire Whitewater! Thanks to scheduled water releases on the Deerfield River, we are able to enjoy whitewater rafting in Western Massachusetts from May through October. The Deerfield River runs through the foothills of the Berkshires Mountains along the historic Mohawk Trail. The river, known for it’s excellent trout fishing has become an outstanding venue for whitewater rafting. Rafting and funyaking trips vary from mild to wild. The scenery is breath taking and the Deerfield River is clean and clear. From first time families to whitewater enthusiasts, the Deerfield River offers an exciting whitewater rafting experience for everyone.
Thunder Mountain Bike Park
About the time the Thunderbolt opened, construction began on a new downhill mountain bike park, Thunder Mountain Bike Park. In the Fall of 2014, 85% of the United States longest downhill mountain bike trail, Sugar Line, and 40% of the Gronk jump trail, were constructed. In the spring of 2015, dry weather, contributed to an aggressive building schedule that allowed the Thunder Mountain Bike Park to open in early 2015. Construction on new trails continued throughout the summer and into 2016. With the black jump trail Hawleywood and several new feature trails expected to come online in the spring of 2016.