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Things looking up at Berkshire East

Construction continues on mountain coaster, new chairlift

  • Work continues on a Berkshire East construction project, including building a new mountain coaster partially pictured here.<br/>Submitted photo

    Work continues on a Berkshire East construction project, including building a new mountain coaster partially pictured here.
    Submitted photo

  • Work continues on a Berkshire East construction project, including building a new mountain coaster partially pictured here.<br/>Submitted photo

    Work continues on a Berkshire East construction project, including building a new mountain coaster partially pictured here.
    Submitted photo

  • Work continues on a Berkshire East construction project, including building a new mountain coaster partially pictured here.<br/>Submitted photo
  • Work continues on a Berkshire East construction project, including building a new mountain coaster partially pictured here.<br/>Submitted photo

CHARLEMONT — Don’t be alarmed if you see a helicopter hoisting a galvanized steel tower above Mount Institute this morning; it’s just part of the latest additions to be made at Berkshire East.

A new SkyTrac Quad Chairlift is being installed to provide this winter’s skiers a faster ride to the top of the mountain. Not only will the new lift shorten waiting times by taking four skiers up each trip, instead of three; it also shortens the ride time by two minutes, according to Manager Jon Schaefer.

Meanwhile, building continues this summer on the mile-long Mountain Coaster, which Schaefer says will be one of the longest coasters — roller or mountain — in the world. The family-owned resort is hoping to have the mountain coaster ready for riding by Oct. 1, he said.

“When people see this ride for the first time their jaws will drop,” said Schaefer. “We’re definitely building the most impressive mountain coaster on the most rugged terrain,” he explained. “You put down 5,400 feet of track and then torque-wrench it together.”

Because of the long list of safety checks and weather-dependent construction work to be done, Schaefer said the completion date “is a moving target.”

After rising 1,580 feet up the track, each separate rider-controlled cart disengages from the lift system to begin a 3,870-foot descent down the mountain. As they roll down the rails, the riders will control their own speeds with a handbrake.

Among the ride’s twists, turns and thrills are dips, 360-degree spins and steeply banked corners.

The structure will also have anti-collision proximity sensors that apply a brake automatically if the riders approach too close to one another. Also, there’s a magnetic braking system to slow riders to a stop at the offload deck at the bottom of the coaster.

Made by the Aquatic Development Group in New York and installed by Berkshire East Mountain Resort, Schaefer believes this ride will become a “game-changer” for the former winter-only ski resort.

The ski mountain was purchased 37 years ago by Roy Schaefer, whose sons, Jon and Jim Schaefer help him run it. Over the past six years, Berkshire East has gone from a one-season outdoor destination to a year-round one. In 2009, the resort installed three zip line canopy tours, including two that are over a half-mile long.

Last year, the resort finished a three-year $2 million snow-making upgrade that included a new mountain-top pond, new high-pressure water pipelines and a 12,000-square-foot timber frame lodge. The resort’s 900-kilowatt hour wind turbine, built in 2010, and a 500-kWh solar array provides enough renewable energy to run the resort.

New ski lift

The new ski lift, says Schaefer, is popular in European ski resorts and is just making its way into US ski areas. This ski lift includes a type of moving walkway, called a “ChairKid Loading Carpet.” It carries all riders to the loading area without any physical effort. Schaefer said the loading carpet is especially good for families with younger children and it makes loading the lift faster. “It’s much more cost-effective, and a great solution for the mountain,” he said.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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