The Berkshires Blog

Where to Zip in The Berkshires

Fresh Air & Freedom

Ziplining #intheBerkshires offers an adventurous respite to the summer heat and pandemic blues.

By Elizabeth Nelson, 1Berkshire

Ziplining at Zoar Outdoor

The last time I went ziplining, I was in Costa Rica on my honeymoon. Our guide drove us to the top of a mountain where one by one, each member of the group began the descent back to the forest floor, now obscured by swirls of cloud.

“You go first,” said my husband.

One zip in and we were both hooked. Soaring over the bright green canopy with nothing but clear sky overhead was a rush, each line more thrilling than the last.

Ziplining during a pandemic is a slightly different experience, but no less electrifying, and the Berkshires offers a number of options for outdoor thrills. We chose Zoar Outdoor, an adventure resort just outside of the Berkshires offering whitewater rafting, zipline canopy tours, and kayaking. On a bright, hot July morning, my husband David, our friends Diana and Angela, and I, drove from Pittsfield to Charlemont for a day of wind and speed.

Our day began in the green zipline building where we met our tour guides, “Kelso!” and “Solly.” (“Like ‘Solomon’ from the Bible,” explained Solly. “Not ‘Sulley’ from Monsters, Inc.”) Their names were written on blue tape stretched across their helmets. As we made our introductions, they swiftly fitted us with harnesses, gloves, helmets, and brake pads, and taped our names across our foreheads, too.

During our practice zip, we were hot and a little nervous, sweating beneath our helmets and masks, but as we each practiced proper riding position, breaking, and how to self-rescue, we began to relax. Kelso explained etiquette and safety, which included wearing our masks at all times, even while zipping.

“It’s a small price to pay for having this amazing experience,” she said, and we nodded in agreement though it was impossible to not miss more carefree days.

The heat lifted as soon as we were in the canopy. A 5-minute 4×4 ride bumped us up 500 vertical feet to the kickoff of our adventure, which featured 11 zip lines, two sky bridges, and three rappels.

Solly & Kelso at Zoar Outdoor

One of our favorite parts of the day was getting to know Solly and Kelso. David, Angela, and I met while making theatre in New York City, which made for a delightful reveal when we learned that Solly is entering a theatre program in the fall. As we cheerfully chatted about the craft, Diana and Kelso discussed triathlons and competitive cycling.

“Give me some words of wisdom,” said Solly as he hooked me into a line.

“Whoa! Pressure!” joked Diana, and everyone laughed, then waited for something profound. From the other end of the line, Kelso called “Zip on!” – the cue to send me on my way.

“Let me think about it,” I said, leaping into the air. 

At the next platform I pondered as everyone zipped over, and when Solly landed, I said, “I’ve got it.”

“Awesome!” he exclaimed. “I’m ready for it.”

“Never lose your joy. Wherever you go, however you define success, don’t let competition or the grind make you forget why you’re creating. And always remember that you can create anywhere. That’s why I left NYC and moved to the Berkshires.”

“I love that!” he said, and others chimed in with their thoughts and reflections. By the last few zips our group felt completely integrated.

Elizabeth & David at Zoar Outdoor

The lines continued to increase in pitch, length, and speed, culminating with number ten. It’s long and steep, appearing to dissolve into a cluster of treetops, the landing platform completely invisible. You’re encouraged to scream, or “let your flag fly,” as Kelso put it. The campus is not far below, and other riders who are gearing up and training can hear you on your way down.

“We like to freak out the visitors at base,” teased Solly.

So we each joined in on the fun. A Tarzan yodel. A rollercoaster squeal. An enthusiastic yahoo! followed by peels of carefree laughter. For a brief moment, you are alone in the wind and sun. The forest blurs beneath your feet as a bright wash of sky stretches overhead, revealing a panoramic horizon so characteristic of the Berkshires. For that moment, you forget that you’re wearing a mask. You embrace the joy of the day spent with friends. For that moment, it’s just you, fresh air, and freedom.

Where to Zip in the Berkshires

Tips:

  • Book early in the day to beat the heat.
  • Check each company’s website for details about COVID-19 procedures and requirements. (Read our Know Before You Go.)
  • Make sure to wear a mask that is secure.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that covers your thighs and tie back long hair.
  • Plan to leave your phone in the car or wear a runner’s belt to keep belongings safe.
  • Bring bottled water or cash to purchase refreshments.
  • Chat with your guides! They are there to help you have the best experience possible, from feeling safe and confident, to chatting about shared interests and a love of the Berkshires.

PHOTOS
TOP: Elizabeth zipping at Zoar Outdoor. Photo by 1Berkshire.
MIDDLE: Solly & Kelso!, our Zoar Outdoor tour guides. Photo by 1Berkshire.
BOTTOM: Elizabeth & David selfie during mid-tour water break. Photo by 1Berkshire.