New ski trails for Berkshire East resort?

Recorder Staff
Last modified: 1/11/2016 8:19:31 PM
CHARLEMONT — If all goes as planned, Berkshire East skiers could see a new network of beginner and intermediate downhill ski trails next season.

Berkshire East comes before a second town Conservation Commission hearing tonight at 6:30 p.m. for a determination on whether a timber harvest on roughly 15 to 16 acres of the mountain resort property meets state wetlands regulations.

Berkshire East hired Tighe and Bond engineering consultants to do species and wetlands surveys to identify areas that couldn’t be disturbed and then used that information as a guide to laying out the new trail design.

Berkshire East Ski Resort LLC already has a special permit from the Planning Board for the project, which will include an additional ski lift and trails of up to 150 feet wide, although most are to be narrower.

The special permit doesn’t specify how many new trails will be built, but it says the expansion would add about four more jobs to the mountain resort. The trails won’t be lighted for nighttime use, although lights will be installed for the lift and to provide for safe snow-making operations. Those lights will be designed to prevent light pollution, according to the permit.

Eventually Berkshire East will construct a warming hut to serve the new ski lift and trails.

A gravel road will be constructed to facilitate logging access from South River Road, and tree stumps will be left in place to help prevent erosion.

According to information submitted to the Conservation Commission, the resort hopes to do the logging during winter months, while the ground is frozen, to minimize environmental damage.

Roy Schaefer bought the ski mountain resort 38 years ago. His sons, Jon and Jim Schaefer now help him run it.

Over the past six years, Berkshire East has gone from a one-season outdoor destination to a year-round one, fully powered by renewable energy from a 900-kilowatt-hour (kWh) wind turbine and a 500-kWh solar array.

Besides zip-line canopy tours from spring through early autumn, the resort installed a mile-long “Mountain Coaster” in late 2014. That same year, the ski area finished a three-year, $2 million snow-making upgrade and built a 12,000 square-foot timber frame lodge.

In 2015, Berkshire East added whitewater rafting and a downhill “Thunder Mountain Bike Park,” which takes bikers to the top of the mountain on a lift, for a 10-mile bicycle descent through a series of trails.

The Schaefers, owners of the outdoors recreation resort, were not immediately available for comment.


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