Though the calendar says spring, and the ski season is drawing to a close, we’re not quite done yet! As of today, Wednesday, March 27, 2013, we’re still skiing and riding on all 22 of Ski Butternut’s trails, most with excellent edge-to-edge snow coverage, and we still have 32 features in our Twisted Terrain Park. It’s springtime, though, so come prepared with the sunblock, a laid-back attitude, and an appreciation for the heavier spring snow, especially on warmer afternoons.
And we’re gonna make sure that we roar through this spectacular March like lions, right ’til the end, not timidly melt away like lambs.
On that note, we’ve got 2 FUN EVENTS planned for this weekend:
On SATURDAY MARCH 30, we’ll celebrate the joys of spring skiing by getting downright tropical for our annual PARROT HEAD FESTIVAL. Come dressed in your best Hawaiian shirt, and be prepared to kick back on the deck of our main clubhouse lodge. From 12 noon to 2PM, we’ll be blasting some Jimmy Buffett tunes, serving up Cheeseburgers in Paradise and other beach-themed treats, and, if you’re lucky (and 21 or over), we might just roll out the blender and offer some more ‘adult’ beverages. As a family-friendly mountain, of course there will be stuff for the kids, too: A limbo contest, deck bowling, and an on-mountain scavenger hunt for colorful parrots (if you find a parrot, please turn it in to the main office to claim a prize. Please, only one prize per family per day.)
Then, on EASTER SUNDAY MARCH 31, a rare treat: an Easter that falls during ski season. To celebrate the day, we’ll have an on-mountain EASTER EGG HUNT, with colorful plastic eggs hidden around the mountain. Find an egg, turn it into the office, and claim a prize! (Please, only one prize per family per day.)
And lest I forget to mention: Tickets are only $25 for adults, $20 for juniors, and $15 for kids every day for the rest of the season, including this upcoming weekend. Or, if you buy next year’s season pass now, you can start using it immediately.
Come get some turns in while you still can!
Reflections on a Powder Day:
Yesterday, when the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut declared states of emergency, our hearts sank a little. While they might see a major snowstorm as a problem, we welcome it with open arms.
So at 4PM yesterday, as our lifts stopped turning for the day and the storm clouds descended, local businesses shut down and all the roads that lead here closed, we were just starting to prepare for the excitement to come.
And no statewide shutdown or funny Disneyfied storm name could dampen our spirits!
So our groomers worked through the night, taming the deep swells on beginner and intermediate terrain, but leaving them untouched for the experts on the steeper stuff (not to mention in countless powder stashes that I am obliged to keep secret). And employees across the mountain, who were determined to show up for their early morning shifts, found nearby couches to crash on, sacrificing a little bit of comfort for the promise of a powder day tomorrow.
And, boy, did that powder day arrive! Ski Butternut was blessed with more than a foot of freshies, 30+ centimeters of pow, 12-16 inches of the sweetest of sweet gnar.
While we didn’t get the nearly yard-deep drifts that paralyzed some of New England’s coastal cities (and from which they’ll be digging out for days), we got more than enough to have an EPIC POWDER DAY, quite possibly the most natural snow that we’ve received from one storm in the past 2 SKI SEASONS!
Our base is deep, and conditions are the best they’ve been all year. Downspout is an endless sea of powder. The terrain park has big hits, natural Organix features, gladed powder stashes, and some nice, soft landings. And Pied Piper, Main Street, and Lower Applejack, amongst many other runs, have miles of silky smooth packed powder corduroy — with even more of that in store when we groom tonight.
Tomorrow, the early and the clever may still find a bit of pristine untracked snow here and there, and everyone will enjoy the buttery goodness of Ski Butternut’s signature grooming.
See you on the slopes! rj.
My New Year’s Resolution
My New Year’s Resolution
is not to eat better
or look svelte in a sweater
it’s not to be nice
or to give up a vice
I won’t learn a new tongue
nor go places far-flung
nor improve as a cook
I won’t read a good book
Won’t take classes in etiquette
nor move to Connecticut
(even though I hear that Connecticut is a great state in which to live)
I won’t set goals that are bolder
’cause as I’ve grown older
I’ve learnt that I’m likely to
just let them molder
But I promised myself just one thing, yes indeed,
where success is 100% guaranteed
Because great resolutions are ones I can keep
without moving a muscle, without digging deep
I’m sure you must wonder what I have resolved
that I can achieve with no effort involved
Without further ado
I’ll divulge the details:
I’VE RESOLVED TO ANNOUNCE
“SKI BUTTERNUT’S OPENED ALL 22 TRAILS!”
(and tubing, terrain parks; fun on and off rails!)
Skiers, Riders, and Tubers: Thrilled
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
from RJ, and all of us at Ski Butternut
Something’s not right in Great Barrington. (But you can do something about it: Scroll down for contest info!)
UPDATE: Things are looking up…and Ski Butternut is OPENING ON SAT DEC 15, 2012!
A few days ago, I checked my calendar, and it said “December.” But I checked my thermometer, and it was more like December in Bermuda.
A fluke, a freak accident of nature perhaps?
But then, for several days, more of the same.
On Wednesday and Thursday night, winter teased us with its brief presence, and we fired up the snow guns and hoped for the best. But today, another warm spell has been cast.
I’ve got my skis waxed and sharpened, Keith over in food services has ordered several tons of hot cocoa mix, and our snowmaking crews have got all the equipment in place to get started.
But we’ve got nothing to do. And things are getting quite boring here. Our head of operations, Jeff, is visualizing mini golf holes (complete with a windmill and other fun mechanical contraptions) on the bunny hill. Keith has allegedly built himself a hot chocolate hot tub, rather than waste all that precious beverage. And I’m this close to taking up crochet.
This madness must stop!
But what should we do?
Could we summon the power of collective prayer, pleading with God to put on a sweater, turn down the thermostat a bit, and, for good measure, throw in a blizzard or two?
How about organizing a snow dance, like the one that saved the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics?
Then I thought to myself, “What Would Einar Do?”
Einar, of course, is Einar Aas, Butternut’s beloved ski school director for almost 40 years, until his passing a few years ago. Einar was, amongst other things, a phenomenal skier, a special character with his own unique habits and sayings, and, unmistakably, a Norwegian.
He was, and remains, an important part of Butternut. A stone with a carved Norwegian flag sits in our base area as a monument to his legacy.
And so it occurred to me…
You know who else comes from Scandinavia?
ULLR! A Norse god, considered the patron saint of skiers.
And I realized we’ve been remiss. We have failed to make the appropriate sacrifices to Ullr, and he has punished us for this transgression.
So I need you all to help us out. And do it quickly, please, for the calendar tells me we’ve got not a moment to waste.
You need to prepare your best sacrifices to Ullr. Stat.
I hear he is partial to steaming cups of hot cocoa, with precisely 42 miniature marshmallows in each one, and at least 6″ of whipped cream on top (each inch of whipped cream translates into an inch of fresh, powdery snowfall, so I’m told). He also quite likes mittens, hats, and sweaters of the hand-knitted variety, and especially if they are bedazzled and contain beautiful winter motifs. And he has a real soft spot for adorable pets in full ski attire.
I’ll post the best/most creative/most snow-inspiring ones that I receive on this blog and/or facebook, and if any of you are successful in appeasing Ullr and bringing on winter, I will award one voucher good for a FREE LIFT TICKET to the person who makes the most awesome sacrifice, and two vouchers good for a FREE TUBING SESSION to the person who makes the second best offering.
But do it fast. Or I might just knit you a really embarrassing Christmas sweater (if I can figure out how these needle-things work). (Please submit photos by THU DEC 13, 11:59PM EST). -rj
Fine print: By submitting a photo entry to this contest, you grant Ski Butternut non-exclusive use of this photo for contest and other promotional purposes. Winners names will be announced on our blog and/or facebook page(s) on or after FRI DEC 14, and winners will be contacted by their original form of entry (i.e. facebook or email), unless other contact info is provided. The contest is open to everyone, but kids 13 and under must seek parental permission and have their photos submitted by a parent or guardian.
GREAT BARRINGTON, MA – Continuing a massive, multi-year, multi-million dollar capital investment in snowmaking upgrades, Ski Butternut made several additional improvements during Summer 2012, all in pursuit of bringing you MORE SNOW FASTER.
In 2007, our mountain operations team oversaw the construction of a new, state-of-the-art pump house, designed to accommodate water pumps capable of sending up to 5,200 gallons of water per minute throughout the miles of snowmaking pipe that serve 100% of the trails, terrain parks, and tubing lanes at Ski Butternut. This summer, we added 2 more new pumps to that pump house, a high-pressure 600 GPM pump ideal for reaching upper-mountain trails, and a lower-pressure 900 GPM pump optimal for making snow on lower trails. This brings Ski Butternut’s total water pumping capacity to the pumping facility’s maximum, an impressive 5,200 GPM.
To put that number in perspective, this marks a 41% increase in water pumping capacity since just last season, and, as part of ongoing upgrades, more than TRIPLING of our pumping capabilities since 2006 (5,200 GPM vs. 1,600 GPM).
The improvements don’t stop there. All this extra water needs someplace to go, which is why nearly every old 6″ pipe on the mountain has been replaced in recent years with newer, wider 8″ and 12″ pipe. This summer, over a mile of old snowmaking pipe on Cruiser and Hob Nob was replaced with the new 8″ and 12″ pipes.
Once the snow is laid down by our snowmaking team, the groomers get to work, finessing it into the fine corduroy and packed powder that skiers and riders expect at Ski Butternut. We added another Bombardier groomer to our modern fleet this year to help make that task easier.
All of this adds up to MORE SNOW FASTER. Ski Butternut doesn’t rely on Mother Nature’s fickle New England winters to cover the slopes. As long as it’s cold enough to make snow, the snowmaking team can now work harder and faster than ever to open up trails. Increased pumping capacity gives us the ability to make snow on more trails simultaneously, reducing the number of cold hours required to cover all 110 skiable acres, and, weather-permitting, speeding up the rate at which we can open more trails, even when there’s little or no natural snow.
Ski Butternut is extremely grateful to its guests, who have rewarded us for our snowmaking efforts not only with their visits, but also by ranking Ski Butternut #1 in Massachusetts and #7 in the entire northeastern US for snowmaking in SnowEast Magazine’s 2012 Reader Survey.
Reuel Sheldon, a Ski Butternut fixture for 30-or-so years, 25 of which he served as our Operations Manager, has retired. We’re tremendously grateful for his years of dedicated service, and the significant on-mountain improvements that have been undertaken under his watch, including expanding the clubhouse, relocating and renovating the rental shop, increasing snowmaking capacity, and replacing many older, smaller lifts with quads.
Though his absence leaves big ski boots to fill (see what I did there?), we’re happy to announce promotions of well-qualified current employees: Jeff Harvey, our current Lifts Manager, will take over Operations, and Sean Welton will lose the “Assistant” prefix to move up to Lifts Manager.
For more about Reuel and his long, impressive career at Butternut Basin / Ski Butternut, you can check out our press release here.
The Incredible Annual ICE COAST OPEN
We’re bringing winter back.
SUNDAY FEB 12, 2012
The ICE COAST OPEN is an annual slopestyle competition, open to skiers and snowboarders of all ages, that takes place in our TWISTED terrain park.
There are 7 categories to compete in:
- 12&under SKI
- 12&under SNOWBOARD
- Women SKI AND SNOWBOARD (one category)
- Intermediate SKI
- Intermediate SNOWBOARD
- Open/Pro SKI
- Open/Pro SNOWBOARD
Entry fee is $20 for all categories except Open/Pro, which has a $25 entry fee. There are $1000 in cash prizes given away, $300 to first place in each of the open/pro categories, $150 to second in each of the open/pro, and $50 to 3rd in each open/pro. Other categories win great non-cash prizes, from sponsors including Kenver LTD, The Garden, Berkshire Bike & Board, Michele’s Salon and Day Spa. Women may enter the open/pro competition or the women-only category.
All competitors must have a lift ticket or season pass, as well as a terrain park pass ($3/day or $10/season, plus required test which is linked below).
We will be offering a discounted $35 full-day lift ticket to competitors (that’s a $20 discount off our regular adult prices — enough to offset your whole entry fee in some cases).
Registration will take place on the morning of the event, Sunday Feb 12, from 8AM until 9:30AM in the lower lodge. The course will be open for practice runs from 8:30am until 9:35am (so try to get here and register early if you’d like to get some practice time in).
Fill out the required forms ahead of time and save time:
Ice Coast 2012 Registration Form
Ice Coast 2012 Release Form
PARK PASS APPLICATION (if you don’t already have one)
- I don’t want to enter, but I want to watch. Can I?
Of course! The event is open to spectators, and your cheers and support are encouraged. But there are a few rules to keep in mind: Skiers and boarders who are not competing will be permitted to enter the terrain park at the Twist entryway. You WILL NOT need a terrain park pass to enter and watch the competition, just a valid lift ticket or season pass. Certain parts of the park will be open to competitors only: Please respect all signs, ropes, and staff instructions to keep the park safe. If you do not have a ticket or don’t want to ski in, you will be allowed to hike up to the designated spectator area from the bottom of Westway. Wear good shoes: You won’t be able to hike up in ski boots.
- Can I go inverted?
NO! Keep your tricks steezy and your head up!
- What’s the schedule and format for the competition?
The event starts promptly at 10AM. Each competitor will have 2 judged runs. There will be a variety of terrain park elements, photos of which are up on the Terrain Parks facebook wall.
- I’m not a competitor, but I’d like to use the park. Can I?
During the competition, the Twisted terrain park’s features will be closed to non-competitors. You will be able to enter and watch, but will not be able to ski or ride the park features. The Progression Park on Cruiser will be open to everyone all day, including during the competition. The Twisted Park will reopen to anyone with a park pass after the competition is over.
- Post additional questions on the Terrain Parks facebook wall!
From time-to-time, I intend to profile some of Ski Butternut’s awesome employees on this blog. First up, Morgan.
Morgan is 17 years old. He is a high school senior in southern Connecticut, and a ski instructor at Ski Butternut. Like other high schoolers on staff, he primarily teaches in our full-day children’s programs on weekends and holidays when he’s not busy attending classes.
And like all our ski instructors, Morgan undergoes hours of training each season to keep up with the latest teaching methods and equipment, and to hone his own skills.
But Morgan’s ski equipment looks unlike that used by any other instructor at our mountain. As you probably noticed, in addition to the ski boots and two skis on his feet, Morgan also has skis on the bottom of his poles, called outriggers.
Morgan uses this specialized equipment because he was born with spina bifida, a disorder that results in the incomplete formation of the vertebrae of the spine. In fact, in the first two years of his life, Morgan had to undergo more than a dozen orthopedic and neurosurgeries to help correct some of the complications of spina bifida. As a result, he spent much of his early years in the hospital.
But, incredibly, just two years later, Morgan started skiing. At first, it wasn’t easy. Given his physical requirements, and his small stature, there was no proper equipment for him to use. But, determined to ski, his family improvised, and came up with clever solutions like sawing a hula hoop in half for Morgan to hold onto one part of it while an adult held on to the other.
A few years later, Morgan discovered Pat White and Butternut’s adaptive program. At Ski Butternut, we believe that everyone should be able to experience the thrills of winter sports, in spite of any disabilities or challenges they may face. With patient, extensively-trained instructors like Pat White, and the generous support of donors, our adaptive program has the expertise and specialized equipment to introduce skiing to people with a wide variety of physical and developmental disabilities, including blindness, autism, and mobility impairments.
Once under Pat’s wing, Morgan thrived. And as he grew, he was able to ‘graduate’ into more appropriate equipment, including properly-sized outriggers.
As you can see, he’s developed into an exceptional skier. With a deep, smooth, and rhythmic carve, Morgan’s technique places him amongst the best skiers on the mountain, whether on 2 skis or 4, and his hip counter-angles (legs out to the side, shoulders perpendicular to the ground) are worth emulating — all this despite the lifelong physical challenges that spina bifida presents.
And while his skis, boots, and outriggers have improved throughout the years, Morgan is still working to find the perfect equipment set-up. Spending long days on the snow requires equipment that fits and performs well; this is just as true for those of us who use 2 skis as it is for Morgan. Morgan usually wears external leg supports when walking and going about his typical daily activities, but must remove them to wear his ski boots. Along with Butternut’s expert bootfitter, Penny Spoja, Morgan is working to find a better boot solution, and is looking into ski boots that combine some of the roominess and comfort of snowboard boots with the required stiffness and support of ski boots, so that they might accommodate his braces. But ski equipment can be very expensive, and that is doubly true for adaptive stuff.
While chatting on several chairlift rides up together, Morgan told me that he feels that he can do just about anything that his peers can do, as long as the proper adaptations are made. Thoughtful and mature beyond his 17 years, we talked about the things he enjoys, and both his short- and long-term goals. I learned that in addition to alpine skiing, Morgan also skis cross country (his dad is the high school cross country ski coach, as well as a fellow Butternut instructor).
As a high school senior, Morgan has just finished applying to colleges and is waiting to hear back on their admissions decisions. He’s considering a few schools close to home in Connecticut, as well as a school or two further north (with, of course, access to bigger ski mountains). He’d also like to learn to drive a car one day, but is waiting at least until he turns 18 (much cheaper insurance), and until he has access to an automatic transmission car that he can modify with hand pedal controls, a common adaptation for drivers with physical disabilities.
When I told him about my good friend, Carl, who was a member of the US Disabled Ski Team and participated in 3 Paralympics, Morgan mentioned, with characteristic mellowness, that he aspires to ski in the Paralympics one day, too. I asked him if he has done much racing or race training. He said that he’d spent a little bit of time on the race course, but when he’s on snow, there’s one thing he loves doing more than anything else: teaching kids to ski. -rj
The northeast isn’t the only region of the United States starved for snow this year. Across the country, from Utah, to Colorado, to California, ski resorts have received just a fraction of the snowfall that they receive in a typical winter — and much less than last winter, which was an epic La Niña season from coast-to-coast.
So ski resorts have had to resort to drastic measures to bring on the winter.
Here at Ski Butternut, we’ve been running our snowmaking system at full-capacity whenever the weather permits us to do so. As a result of these efforts, we’re amongst the first 3 mountains in all of New England that has managed to open and maintain operation on 100% of its trails (shout out to Sundown, CT and Pats Peak, NH for sharing this achievement with us). So, while we love natural snow for the beauty it brings to our mountain and the surrounding region, and for the wonders it does for our surface conditions, we can get along just fine without it.
Out west, they’re not so fortunate. Those mountains don’t have nearly the percentage of snowmaking coverage that we do, and without natural snow, many of their trails simply lie fallow, waiting for nature to do its seasonal duty.
And nature hasn’t cooperated.
So, at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah, they decided to appeal to nature for help. And they turned to the Northern Ute, a tribe that has called that area of the country home since long before the first Mexican settlers or Mormon Pioneers ever laid eyes on the majestic Wasatch mountains.
On Saturday, before an audience of skiers and boarders, members of the Northern Ute performed a traditional blessing for the snow, or as we colloquially refer to it, a “snow dance.”
But, being that this is 2012 – the age of instant-on, always-connected, text, tweet, friend, fan, follow social media – even the most traditional snow dance gets a modern touch. In order to share the blessing both near and far, Park City Mountain Resort live-streamed the event in a Hangout on Google+. I think it’s probably safe to say that this is the first time that this ritual has ever taken place in a multimedia, multi-user, interactive online environment.
And we’re hoping that just maybe the blessing traveled via the internet to Great Barrington, Massachusetts (despite the fact that our internet access is a bit unreliable around here), and that we will soon be bestowed with plentiful flakes from above.
You can see images of the ceremony, mixing the beautiful, the ornate, and the solemn with – Hey, what’s a MacBook Pro doing there?! – on Park City Mountain Resort’s page.