By Todd Fiorentino
It seems fitting to start a piece about how the natural landscape of the Berkshires has affected the psyche of locals with a discussion of the Thunderbolt Trail. The Greylock mountain range is a constant backdrop to everything we do here in Western MA. From its conception to current day, the Thunderbolt is the stuff of myth and legend.
This trail, carved by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934 under FDR’s program to put the unemployed to work has led to adventure, race, and revelry to say the least. In fact, March 2nd marks the next upcoming annual race, which you can read about here and don’t miss Thunderfest, a great downtown festival in Adams. From the top, at 3,491 feet, it forms a sort of question mark as it winds around to an exhilarating descent. Of course, the ascent can be quite fun too with folks often snowshoeing up and skiing down! The Thunderbolt Foot Trail passes Hoxie Brook to the Hadley Lookout with views of the Ragged Mountain and Raven’s Rocks. It gets quite vertical adding to the thrill.
With support from the City of Adams, the exhibit at Thunderbolt Trail Ski Museum (inside the Adams Visitors Center) is really neat and informative. Who would’ve thought that skiers from Thunderbolt would join the 10th Mountain Division during WWII and fight Nazis in the mountains? Viewing their gear, which included pick axes, wooden skis with leather bindings, white pup tents to blend in and rifles, it’s hard to imagine their lives overseas in Italy. NPR outlines their struggle to take Mount Belvedere and the sneaky assault on Riva Ridge.
Another exhibit includes a sign posted at Grand Central Terminal advertising rail service for $3 round trip from NYC to Thunderbolt. Those were the days! There is also a great picture of a group on an old style toboggan where you steer it with your feet. And don’t forget the many local legends and skiers who flew in from Austria and elsewhere to ski the famed slope; former Olympiads and other alpine champs.
Styles do truly change, but the wonder of Thunderbolt has not, and still it draws a crowd—some skiers and others spectators who just come for the party. It’s a time to celebrate the Town of Adams and its rich heritage. Big Bend, Tuckerman’s Ravine… it’s a schuss to remember. Thunderbolt Ski Runners is a non-profit devoted to sharing and continuing the tradition.
Berkshire Visitor’s Bureau also highly recommends the following venues, which boast fabulous collections of artwork right here in our backyard: Williams College Museum of Art, Bennington Museum, The Clark or see the full list here. Happy Trails!
Todd Fiorentino is a freelance writer for the Berkshire Visitor’s Bureau and a grant writing consultant. He holds a degree in professional writing from UMASS, Boston and has written extensively on health and wellness topics. Todd also runs Energy Rising Massage Therapy on North Street in Pittsfield.