A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
If Paul Revere was still around to carry a lantern to the best ski resorts in Massachusetts, he’d likely head to Wachusett Mountain, Ski Butternut and Jiminy Peak. But, there are plenty of other choices, a bit smaller and certainly family-friendly ski areas, that offer plenty of snowmaking, terrain options, great kids programs and affordable lift tickets in the Bay State. And you don't have to drive any farther north to find them.
Many people credit the start of snowmaking to local ski manufacturers Art Hunt, Dave Richey, and Wayne Pierce, who invented a snow cannon capable of creating snow in 1950 after a particularly dry winter. They placed a patent on the machine in 1952. And, as they say, the rest is history. In fact the father-son team of Brian and Tyler Fairbank at Jiminy Peak are always tinkering with snow guns and other toys to makes their slopes an almost-guaranteed good experience.
Yes, Massachusetts can get a decent share of natural snow, particularly when a good old-fashioned Nor’easter rolls through. But, most every resort in the state has close to 100 percent snowmaking to assure your good time, particularly when coming on a day trip.
There are plenty of choices for the best skiing near Boston and within an hour's drive or less.
Jiminy Peak is a very popular, pretty, self-contained mid-size ski resort located in the Taconic Mountains near Hancock. While it began operations on Christmas Day in 1948, most of the development that turned Jiminy into a true jewel of a resort came under the leadership of Brian Fairbank and his partner Joe O’Donnell and more recently, Brian’s son, Tyler. While the resort has been sold to a capital management firm, Brian and Tyler still lead the way. Jiminy has a 1,150-foot vertical drop, 170 skiable acres, 40 trails, 9 lifts and snowmaking capacity of 98 percent. The mountain averages 100 inches of natural snow each year. The Jiminy Peak Country Inn is a delightful place to stay at the base of the mountain, with an excellent restaurant.
Wachusett Mountain Ski Area in Princeton (30 minutes from Worcester) is another family owned and operated, very high quality resort, a favorite of the huge Boston skiing and snowboarding market about an hour away. Ralph Crowley founded Wachusett and his son Jeff (CEO) and his family members are currently running what many consider to be one of the best ski resort operations in the Northeast. The Crowleys continually invest in mountain improvements every year, non-stop, and it shows. There are 27 trails off a 1,000-foot vertical, 8 lifts and 100 percent snowmaking. There is no lodging at the mountain, but close-by in Princeton and other local towns.
Ski Butternut in Great Barrington sits in the heart of the Berkshire mountains near some iconic lodges and shops. And, yes, it’s another family-owned, family-oriented delight. One of the differences is that Butternut marks 50 percent of its terrain for intermediates. That makes a stop here for New York skiers and riders looking for a bit of a challenge, a much closer alternative than the bigger Vermont resorts. Even a gnarly looking mogul field can have a nicely groomed sideline in case your nerves start fading. The commitment of the Murdoch family to a quality product and affordable pricing holds up some 60+ years after opening. The vertical drop is 1,000 feet, there are 22 trails with 100 percent snowmaking coverage.
Berkshire East Ski Resort, owned and run by Roy Schaefer and his family for nearly half a century and now run by his son Jon, is located in Charlemont. This could be classified as one of those “throwback” mountains. Originally called Thunder Mountain, by the way. Not glitzy, but with fairly equally divided terrain. The vertical is 1,181 feet. While there’s plenty of room for beginners and intermediates on its 38 trails, Berkshire East may offer the steepest expert terrain in the state: 9 black diamond and 4 double black diamond runs. This is a ski mountain that gets you saying, “I’ll be back.”
Bosquet Ski Area in Pittsfield is one of the oldest in the country dating back to 1932. It has recently been acquired by Mill Town Capital in a collaboration agreement with the Schaefer Family of Berkshire East. It’s a nice mountain to learn to ski or ride and a new base lodge recently opened bringing the facilities into the more modern era. The interior is steeped in nostalgia. Bosquet has a vertical of 750 feet, 22 trails over 200 skiable acres. There are 8 lifts of various configurations and plenty of night skiing and snow tubing, too. Snowmaking covers 90 percent of the mountain.
Nashoba Valley Ski Area, a venerable 50-year-old family ski hill in Westford, is currently owned by Al Fletcher (son of founder Al Fletcher) with the expert help of his sister, former Olympian and World Cup star Pam Fletcher running special events and marketing. The small area is beautifully groomed and managed and is known for one of the best terrain parks anywhere. Nashoba, incidentally, was among the first to allow snowboarding. The Overlook Restaurant and Lounge is a wonderful place to watch the slope action with a nice warm drink.
Nashoba has 17 trails on its 240-foot vertical and its tubing park has 17 lanes. Night skiing is very popular at the resort that is only 50 minutes from Boston. Witch’s Woods, created on site each October, has to be the region's premier family Halloween haunt.
Ski Bradford is a very small ski area located in Haverhill, about 50 minutes from the Boston market. Its 220-foot vertical rolls out 15 trails on its 45 acres of skiable terrain. This is a good place to learn to ski as it sports 6 surface ski lifts and 3 triples. There’s night skiing, snowmaking and a terrain park with a mini-halfpipe. The area is owned by Neil Sawyer. Don’t confuse it with Ski Blandford, which was purchased by Butternut’s owners in hopes of saving it, but is now closed.
Otis Ridge Ski Area was rescued from bankruptcy by the owners of Butternut a few years ago, so this venerable ski area that dates back to 1946 remains open. It’s a nice spot for beginners and families in the Berkshires. It was founded by David Judson and Bartow Holbrook, returning 10th Mountain Division vets returning from WWII, as were so many other resorts. Otis sports a 400-foot vertical drop, 11 runs over 60 acres with 2 double chairs and 3 surface lifts. Otis is also a cool ski town.
Blue Hills Ski Area is located in Canton and offers 60 acres of skier and rider accessible terrain with a vertical drop of 309 feet and 90 percent snowmaking with 12 trails and a terrain park. The land is part of the Blue Hills Reservation and is operated under a lease by the owners of Campgaw ski area in N.J. It is only 37 minutes from Boston.
Ski Ward has been owned since the '70s by Bruce and Lucy Ward and is a tiny ski area minutes from Worcester in Shrewsbury. There is a 220-foot vertical with great skiing and riding spread over 45 acres. There are 9 trails and 4 lifts and 12 lanes for tubing.
There are 13 ski resorts in Massachusetts. However, Mt. Graylock is operated by a ski club and only open some weekends and holidays. Ski Blandford permanently closed recently and Catamount is located as much in N.Y. as Massachusetts and you will find info on it in OnTheSnow.com's New York State FAQ.
Yes. Jiminy Peak, Wachusett Mountain, Berkshire East, Bosquet, Bradford, Ski Butternut, Nashoba Valley, Otis Ridge, Blue Hills and Ski Ward all are operating mostly from early December. Check out all projected opening dates for ski places in Massachusetts.
Ski Butternut in Great Barrrington is the largest ski resort in Massachusetts. The vertical drop is 1,000 feet, there are 22 trails spread over 100 acres with 100 percent snowmaking coverage of this family friendly ski area.
Massachusetts ski areas make plenty of room for snowboarders to ply their skills, including Jiminy Peak, Berkshire East, Ski Butternut, Otis Ridge, Wachusett Mt., Ski Ward, Blue Hills and Nashoba.
Massachusetts gets some kind of precipitation, on average, 125 days per year. It averages 47 inches of snow per year. Winters are cold. The state does have extreme temperatures from time to time with temperatures below 0 °F not being totally unusual. Massachusetts is often hit with major storms called Nor'easters during the winter months.
Massachusetts is loaded with charm and history. You can pretty much spot a picturesque white steeple, historic building, or gorgeous ocean sunset anywhere you go. These towns just kick it up a notch:
Stockbridge is a lovely village in the Berkshires often described as small-town America. Known for its most famous resident, artist Norman Rockwell, the town welcomes you to walk down Main Street as he painted it and step back in time. Arlo Guthrie, in his famous song Alice’s Restaurant, described the town as having “"three stop signs, two police officers and one police car." Pittsfield is at the center of it all in wintertime. The cultural highlight of the winter in Pittsfield is the annual 10×10 Arts Festival. Otis offers quality restaurants and shops that provide a simpler retreat and a small ski mountain.
Boston’s Logan International Airport is where to fly into, hire a car and drive. Ski areas in Massachusetts are conveniently located to Boston which is a big benefit for those that want to squeeze in a day or night skiing and riding but can’t or don't want to travel to the more northern New England mountains. The journey takes anywhere between under 40 minutes to 2.5 hours. Train and shuttle options are also available for Wachusett Mountain.