After a slow start to the winter in December, Mother Nature has blanketed the Berkshire Mountains with more than three feet of snow in the past two weeks, making for a powder-skier’s heaven. However, when you stick to the well-maintained slopes of the ski resorts, much of that sweet, sweet powder gets tracked up and packed down in the days after the storm. So what’s a skier or snowboarder to do when you really want those fluffy, soft turns and the resorts are skied-out? Head to the backcountry!
“The backcountry?” you ask. “Isn’t that only out west and further north?”. While other areas of the country are well-known hubs for backcountry skiing and snowboarding, the Berkshires hide their own off-piste treasures, and all it takes to reach their powdery riches is a will and ability to hike to the top.
While hiking in boots (post-holing) with your skis or board on your back is the cheapest form up backcountry access, the investment in snowshoes, telemark ski gear, alpine touring equipment, or a split-board, are worthwhile investments which will make hiking up through deep snow infinitely easier. If you’re not sure what you need, stop by one of our local outdoor sports outfitters in the Berkshires like Arcadian Shop, for everything you need for a backcountry skiing adventure.
Where to go?
While the backcountry demand isn’t as high here in the Berkshires, the obvious backcountry stashes are few and far between. So if it’s untouched powder you’re looking for, you may need to get creative in your thinking and planning.
If it’s your first time out, look for a wide open space, like a farm hill. Sheep Hill in Williamstown is a great place for first time backcountry skiers to practice with their gear without venturing too far from the safety of their car, should equipment malfunction. It also provides nearly endless lines across 250 vertical feet of moderate-steepness. This isn’t Colorado bowl skiing, but you’ll be skiing bottomless powder nonetheless — just 20-30 turns at a time instead of 2000 foot descents.
Once you feel comfortable on your backcountry gear, head to one of the more popular backcountry descents in the Berkshires, like the Thunderbolt Trail in Adams, or Petersburg Pass on Rte 2 in Williamstown. Both areas are holding a ton of snow right now and while the trails may be tracked up soon after a storm, you’ll find plenty of fresh powder along the edges and in the nearby glades.
If you’re looking for more adventure, study the mountains on summer hikes to find areas that look like they’d be great skiing and riding. Topo maps and Google Earth can also help.