Winter is in full swing and when the cooler temperatures and mounds of snow take over the region, instead of heading indoors to seek shelter, families near and far head to the Berkshires. Why? To ski — of course.
Whatever your family’s preference, cross-country or downhill, we have it all when it comes to this favorite winter pastime. Katie Fogel, Jiminy Peak’s director of marketing, understands the sports’ family appeal.
“Everyone can do it together regardless of their age or skill level,” she said. “I always think, because winter can get long in the Berkshires, it sure makes it better when you have something fun to do.”
Local ski resorts like Jiminy Peak in Hancock, Bousquet in Pittsfield, Catamount in South Egremont, and Berkshire East in Charlemont offer a variety of family-friendly ski lesson programs to entice families to the mountains. While many resort staff works hard to make families feel like a part of their own.
“As a parent, you always worry about your children off on the slopes without your supervision, but everyone at Catamount has been great,” said Susan Bilodeau, a Berkshire mom of two young children who take part in Catamount’s after-school ski program. “In fact, on the first day of lessons my daughter mistakenly left her skis back at school and Colleen Edwards, one of the owners, drove back to the school to make sure my daughter had her skis in time for her lesson!”
“We really like the family atmosphere there and I feel confident that the instructors and other staff at Catamount will make sure my children have a fun and safe time skiing.”
Fun and safety also await families at Canterbury Farms, a year-round outdoor lover’s dream, in Becket. Linda Bacon, who owns the venue with her husband, recommends giving the venue’s cross-country ski lessons a try.
“Cross-country skiing is a great activity for families because you are traveling through the woods getting exercise, exploring and discovering nature and enjoying the outdoors and fresh air together,” she said.
The “farm” also offers visitors the opportunity to skate, hike, and snowshoe on the property. We recommend you follow your activity with a cup of piping hot chocolate to warm you from head-to-toe. Like Canterbury Farms, Hilltop Orchards in Richmond offers some body-warming beverages such as wines and hard ciders for the adults, hot cocoa for the kiddos to help visitors unthaw after taking part in the venue’s ski lessons, snowshoe hikes, moonlight hikes and bonfires, and more.
“Hilltop Orchards is the perfect destination for raising the families spirit this season or any season,” said Holly Brokeur, an avid skier and outdoor enthusiast who teaches cross-country private and group lessons at Hilltop. “It’s the friendliest place to cross-country ski and snowshoe. Under a full moon or in daylight, families can enjoy the views on the professionally designed trail system, or sit by the fire, sipping on delicious wine or hard ciders, reading a book or watching a game…Hilltop Orchards has fun for all!”
When Notchview, a Berkshire County Trustees of Reservations property, boasts fun for all on its trails and during its weekly (Saturday and Sunday) cross-country ski lessons for all ages, it means EVERYONE.
“We have families with parents in their 70’s and 80’s skiing with their children; cross-country skiing becomes a lifelong healthy family sport,” said the property’s superintendent Jim Caffrey.
Notchview also plays host to the Bill Koch Youth Ski League each year, where parents can learn to (or brush up on) cross-country skiing skills alongside their children.
“Unlike other sports, where parents are excluded, the Bill Koch parents actively ski with their children throughout the entire afternoon. Both my kids went through the Bill Koch program and I learned a lot of skills by partaking in the lessons and activities with them,” Caffrey said.
“At Notchview we work to create a family and community atmosphere,” he added. “We have volunteer ambassadors who are always available to help newcomers with questions and skiing hints.”
So pack up the family and head to the Berkshires to enjoy the great outdoors this winter, you will not regret it.