Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Ski Butternut

Ski Butternut is a small, family friendly ski area located in the Berkshire Mountain town of Great Barrington, MA.  The mountain is affordable and relatively close to Coastal Connecticut, and we’ve spent a lot of time there as a result since last season’s triumphant return to the slopes.
My theory about skiing is that you become a better skier by giving yourself a chance to spend more time out on the snow.  For my family, that’s meant taking relatively frequent day-trips rather than the kind of grandiose multi-day vacations that saw me up at the big resorts in Vermont back when I was single.  Since even the closest of those Vermont resorts are still some three hours’ drive from our house, those kinds of trips are exponentially more challenging logistically now that we have a full family to consider.  Many of them are also more expensive per lift ticket as well.  All told, it’s tough to get up there on more than a once-a-year basis.
Family selfie out on the trails
Selfie from just outside the Main Lodge.
Ski Butternut is great because it’s kind of a happy medium.  The mountain has 110 skiable acres with a full 1000 feet of vertical drop, all of which is accessible via three quad lifts, a triple, a double, and a handful of magic carpets.  The resort is not huge, but it’s been a great experience for us, especially as our kids are still learning the sport.  Moreover, we can get to Butternut with just a ninety-minute drive, and lift tickets can be relatively affordable if you take advantage of some of the resort’s discounts.  These can be had through sites like WorkingAdvantage or Liftopia or--as we did--by buying their early season three-packs.  The Adult (14+) Three-Pack ran $150 through December 20th; Juniors (7-13) were $115.
Butternut is a decidedly family-friendly mountain.  They have a handful of black trails, but the vast majority of the mountain’s acreage is given over to easily navigable blues and greens.  I’ve seen some ice on the upper slopes on the mountain’s left side (Upper Applejack), but most of trails are well-groomed and well-served by artificial snowmaking.  Of the blacks, the only legitimately challenging section is at top of Lucifer’s Leap.  My daughter Emma and I tackled all the rest at speed, though our favorite by far was the black trail Whip, which empties into the green Nuthatch.
Ski Butternut's trail map
Butternut breaks down into four basic sections—a main section served by the Top Flight quad and the Highline quad, a more challenging eastern peak served by the Overbrook triple, a learner’s area served by the Paddy’s lift and various magic carpets, and a western beginner’s area served by the Cruiser lift.  I’ve never seen Butternut very crowded, but we’ve had to wait a few times at the Top Flight quad on days where there was good skiing weather.  By comparison, the Overbrook triple and the eastern side of the mountain are never crowded.  That side of the mountain also boasts an Upper Lodge that is actually at the base of the Overbrook Triple--and easily visible from the main part of the mountain.  
Emma at the base of the Overbrook Triple.
Hannah comes in for a landing.
Sally skiing into the Overbrook Triple.
Ski yoga.
The Upper Lodge has better food, but the Lower Lodge is more convenient for changing clothes and staging, and they have a bunch of outdoor picnic tables and sunward-facing Adirondack chairs.  The Lower Lodge can get crowded on peak weekends, but we had a very pleasant lunch on the tables outside the last time we went, and that was one of the true high points of the day.
Ski Butternut is easily accessible via CT Route 7 or Route 8, depending on where you live.  It’s a little further away than some of the Connecticut ski areas, but it’s much bigger and nicer than, say, Mount Southington, and to me, that makes the extra drive-time worthwhile.

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