Less than three hours’ drive from New York City and even less from Boston, New Haven and Hartford, the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts are an appealing weekend destination for families. Two kid-friendly ski mountains make the region perfect for a low-key spring ski trip.
Butternut may not be New England’s biggest mountain, but its 1,000 feet of vertical provides 100 skiable acres, webbed across a ridge that stretches for more than a half mile along Warner Mountain, in the East Mountain State Forest. An easy cross-mountain trail makes easy access from one side of the mountain to the other, and its 22 trails are covered 100 percent with snow making to keep conditions good through spring ski season.
One fifth of the terrain is for beginners, one fifth for experts and the remaining 60 percent is rated intermediate. A special area for learners has a carpet lift and sits beside the main base area, separated from the trails so other skiers don’t pass through it. Lift tickets are budget priced at $60 for adults, $50 for juniors (under 13) and $25 for children. College students are $45. Weekday tickets are the biggest bargain, at less than half the weekend rate: Adults ski for $25, juniors for $20 and children for $15!
A particularly attractive feature is the four-hour ticket, which can be used at any time of day. Families that need to return home on Sunday afternoon can ski for the morning without paying for a full-day ticket.
A separate tubing hill is at one side of the mountain, with eight lanes and a Magic Carpet Lift. The tubing hill is also equipped with 100 percent snow making. If you arrive on Friday evening, three hours of tubing thrills cost only $10.
The best deal for families is Butternut’s Ski & Stay package that includes discounts on lift tickets, already much less expensive than at the larger mountains to the north. Lodgings in the program are within a few miles of the slopes, and tickets are usually discounted by about $8 with the lodging package. You can choose from family-sized rooms at modest chain hotels, opt for more luxury at family-friendly country inns or even join with family friends for an entire farmhouse that sleeps 12.
Catamount is another ski area, located right on the New York/Massachusetts border, with terrain in both states. Lift tickets, although higher than Butternut’s, are still less than bigger areas to the north. Adults pay $69, youth $58 and children under 6 $30; learners using the carpet lift are only $20. A learn to ski package includes the option of a Return to Learn package for two more days of your choice in the current season for $47.50 per day for the lift, lesson and equipment rental.
If your family would like to try cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, Hilltop Nordic Center on Route 295 in Richmond has several kilometers of groomed and tracked trails that wind through apple orchards along a ridge. You can rent skis or snowshoes there and warm up in front of a big stone fireplace afterwards. Or enjoy a tasting of the orchard’s own ciders and wines from Furnace Brook Winery.