Greylock Ski Club
Many people have emailed me on NELSAP, stating how much they'd like to go back to a lost ski area of their youth. They wish for a place they could take their family and friends, an area that was both affordable, safe and fun. Someplace that wouldn't cost nearly a thousand dollars for just a weekend! A place that truly captures the essence of skiing.
On Jan 29th, 2005 I was privileged to ski such as place - the Mount Greylock Ski Club in Williamstown, MA. I had been aware of the area for many years but finally had a chance to check it out. What I found was a rare ski area that has survived many obstacles that too many areas have not. An area that captures the fun and ambience of an area from decades ago.
The Mt. Greylock Ski Club area (also known as Goodell Hollow) is a 350' vertical ski area nestled at the western base of Mt. Greylock. The area has 17 trails and glades and several unnamed other sections of trails. Two rope tows serve the terrain, which ranges from beginner to expert. A cozy, snug lodge heated by woods stoves is found at the base.
The Mt. Greylock Ski Club started in the mid-1930's and helped lay out the original "Thunderbolt" ski trail, on the eastern side of Mt. Greylock. The Club also helped clear trails at the nearby Bousquet ski area in Pittsfield. The club was able to purchase a farm site at Goodell Hollow, and trails were cut in the late 1930's/early 1940's. An original 800' rope tow was installed in the 1940's.
General Electric was a large employer in Pittsfield from the 1940's through the 1970's, and this helped lead to the growth of the ski club. During this time, there were 1000 members and a waiting list! A jump was built, as were two other rope tows. More trails were cut from the summit, with the area reaching nearly full size during the 1970's.
As with many other similar small ski areas, competition and changing technologies took their toll on the area. Snowmaking allowed other nearby areas such as Jiminy and Brodie to open even when Mother Nature wouldn't cooperate. Both areas had night skiing as well. Membership unfortunately slipped, and is now close to 150 members.
The area has now evolved into a unique "niche" ski area - basically, a private club that anybody can afford. With memberships at $60 for an individual and only $120 for a whole family - who can't afford to become a member here! Compare that to $14,000/year memberships at the Yellowstone Club out West. The area thrives today on the fact that members help take care of the area - from trail maintenance, to ski patrol, to running the lifts.
A Real Friendly Area
Dick Bailey, a member for over 50 years, running the beginner rope tow.
How many times have you skied at a larger area, only to find that you're just one of 5000 other skiers that day? How many times have you seen rude people in line, skiers out of control on boulevard wide slopes, or very long lift lines that drive you nuts?
You'll find none of that at the Mt. Greylock Ski Club. During my visit, I felt as if I got to know most of the several dozen people skiing there that day. They truly did learn your name, and asked how the skiing was, etc. You wont see that most anywhere else!
Inside the lodge, one member had made homemade chicken soup, which was being warmed by the wood stove. Anybody could have some. They had also made chocolate chip cookies, with one of the younger skier passed out during lunch. People gathered around the wood stove and chatted about conditions, the weather, etc. One could genuinely enjoy themselves here.
And riding the lifts (described below) could be a bit challenging for young skiers. These young skiers would politely wait for an older skier to help them ride the rope tow if needed, and would thank you afterwards. The kids looked like they were having a blast at their own ski area.
Riding the Rope Tows - Bousquet Was a Genius!
I had learned to ski on rope tows at Nashoba Valley ski area. This were relatively slow moving, thin ropes that were easy to ride. There are very few rope tows left in New England. However, the Mt. Greylock Ski Club has the longest, fastest tow left!
|This rope tow is 1350' long,
takes 72 seconds to get to the top, which is about 12.5mph - faster than
most high speed quads! Its amazingly fast, and can allow countless runs
in a day.
However, try to imagine grasping onto a rope that fast and holding on for that long. Not an easy task. Thankfully, there is an easy way to ride this lift - using a Bousquet Tow Gripper.
So what the heck is a Bousquet Tow Gripper? To see a picture, click here. Basically, a tow gripper is a belt you were around your waist/lower chest. It has a cord which has a clasp at the end of it. To ride the lift, you take the tow in your left hand, start to accelerate, then with you're right hand, swing the clasp around the tow. It grasps the tow, and all you have to do is hold onto the handle. Some of the force of the lift can also be used to drag you up so you don't hold on as long. Work gloves are needed so you do not wear out more expensive gloves.
Clare Bousquet invented the gripper in 1939, and eventually sold 500,000 of them! Today, Mt. Greylock is the only area in MA allowed to use the grippers, and perhaps in all of New England as well.
To the right, you can see the main summit rope tow, which is steeper than this picture appears to be. You can also see the steep "Chute" trail to the left. This lift serves all terrain.
||Riding the summit tow. Its hard to take a picture going so fast, but this does show what its like ride the long lift.|
|Another rope tow serves low intermediate and beginner terrain, and is much slower. To the right, you can see this lift in action.||
||Here's a view looking down the 600 foot rope tow. According to Dick Bailey and Burt Wright, both 50 year + members, the tow was built in 1962/1963, with towers purchased for just a dollar each. The engine was an old car engine and still runs today on gasoline.|
Continued on Page Two: Terrain, Membership, and Directions!
Visit the Ski Club:
Head back to other ski area profiles
Head back to the Main Page