Ski Butternut: The Real Deal for Northeast Families

kids skiing at butternut

Photo courtesy Ski Butternut. Photographer: Matt Sawyer.

“There are no coincidences.” –Master Oegui (Kung Fu Panda)

braveskimom logoFor two months, I’d been trying to find a Butternut ski mom.

My quest started in the fall, when I got a really nice email from Ski Butternut in Massachusetts. The email told me that Ski Butternut was a “True Family Mountain” and a “Family Gem” according to SKI Magazine.

I was intrigued. But I wanted to confirm this with a Butternut ski mom.

I posted requests on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. “Anyone out there ski Butternut?” I asked.

The only responses I got were from several dads who grew up skiing Butternut.

And then I visited Squaw Valley.

Chairlift Kismet

My son and I were boarding the Shirley Express Lift at Squaw when a friendly looking woman joined us. I asked her if she was having fun, and yes she was. She, too, was at Squaw skiing with her family and enjoying Spring Break.

I asked where she was from. “New York,” she answered. Then I asked “Do you ever ski at Butternut?”

Her smile grew larger. She is a Butternut Ski Mom.

It was no coincidence.

Photo courtesy Ski Butternut. Photographer: Matt Sawyer.

Photo courtesy Ski Butternut. Photographer: Matt Sawyer.

Ski Butternut: The Real Deal for Northeast Families

When June Sidwell Fenniman and I spoke again by phone in April, I asked her why her family skis Butternut.

“Butternut is ideally situated for us for weekend. We live just north of New York City and Butternut is only 2 hours from New York and 2 hours from Boston.

She told me about the nearby villages of South Egremount, Great Barrington and Stockbridge. It turns out that this part of Massachusetts is a beautiful, historic year-round tourist destination.

scenic ski butternut

Photo courtesy Ski Butternut. Photographer: Matt Sawyer.

Great Barrington has been ranked the #1 Town in America by Smithsonian Magazine and one of the Top 10 Resort Communities in the World by Forbes.

Tanglewood is nearby for summer concerts. Norman Rockwell had his studio in Stockbridge. And in the winter, many people have ski homes, which makes for a fun, vibrant ski community.

But mostly we talked about the skiing.

“Butternut is an excellent family mountain,” June told me. “The resort has a great learn-to-ski program and can teach kids from an early age to be skilled and safe skiers.”

Ski Butternut Map

Ski Butternut Map

Butternut is a small mountain, with about 1000 feet of vertical. There are 110 acres of skiing, with a total of 22 trails. Butternut makes no pretension toward being something it isn’t.

“No one is coming here to bash bumps,” explained Matt Sawyer the resort’s Director of Marketing and a ski dad himself. “Some skiers won’t be overly challenged, but they will have a great experience. Butternut is a great place to learn, and everyone leaves feeling good.”

That Good Community Feeling

As June and I continued talking, I realized that “feeling good” as Matt put it, is important to the Ski Butternut experience.

“Because Butternut is small, little kids can ski around with their pack of friends. You don’t have to watch them every second of every day,” she explained.

Everyone knows everyone at Butternut.

Kids love the freedom and so do the parents. In fact, when I asked June if there was anything at Butternut that she would change or improve she laughed and told me that the resort needs a bar.

“Right now, we can’t have a party at the end of the day. But other than the lack of après ski, it’s perfect!”

Now this is not necessarily the complaint of a one- or two-time per year skier. To be concerned about where to party, means you have a lot of friends. You have to be a part of the Butternut community.

ski buttenut park

Photo courtesy Ski Butternut. Photographer: Matt Sawyer.

Racer Ready?

Youth ski racing is the glue that holds this community. Butternut has a strong tradition of racing, and currently about 100 kids compete on their ski team. As part of this program, kids learn to race on Saturdays and interclub competitions at other mountains in the Berkshires on Sundays.

The competition level steps up as the kids get older and join the Tri-State team, with racers from  resorts in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. At the highest levels, Butternut racers compete against the very best youth skiers from across New England.

Parents provide all the support and labor and keep the race club going. They’ve even created their own adult league. Spending this much time together at a small mountain, traveling together for competitions, all the while searching for a place to party; it’s no wonder they’ve become friends.

butternut race team

Photo courtesy Ski Butternut. Photographer: Matt Sawyer.

June’s Advice

Finally, I asked June what advice she would give other families visiting Ski Butternut.

Plan on having a nice friendly time and don’t worry about letting your kids go off on their own. Just tell them to meet at the pine trees if you can’t find each other. And, definitely put children in lessons. Butternut is a great learn to ski place – go for it!

June Sidwell Fenniman and friends at Butternut.

June and friends at Butternut. Do these ski moms look like fun, or what?

As for the lack of après ski, June and her friends have found a way around this.

“We have a great group of friends and we started our own informal ski and wine group!”

It’s all part of being a community.

When You Go…

Ski Butternut is located near the village of Great Barrington in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. A family owned resort, it’s known for being friendly, low-key and affordable.

Midweek lift tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for juniors, while non-holiday weekends are $55 and $45. An adult season pass is $300. As Matt Sawyer put it, “ We don’t want skiing to be expensive. It is such a great sport that we want to share it with the masses. We encourage people to play hookey.”

The ski school is extensive with over 350 instructors and as June explained, Ski Butternut is a learn-to-ski destination. Again, there is an emphasis on affordability. First time lessons are $75 and include a lift ticket, equipment rental and instruction. This price is good any day of the season.

And, because Ski Butternut has extensive snowmaking, you can bank on the snow being good any day of the season, as well. “We don’t have to rely on snow, just cold weather,” explains Sawyer. “Ski Butternut is usually the first resort in this area to open, with a larger percentage of open trails than other mountains.”

ski butternut snowmaking

Photo courtesy Ski Butternut. Photographer: Matt Sawyer.

Grooming is another Ski Butternut specialty.

ski butternut corduroy

Photo courtesy Ski Butternut. Photographer: Matt Sawyer.

“Grooming makes our skiers feel better, so we groom everything every night into miles of corduroy. Our guests constantly tell us they enjoy the good snow quality and that our grooming is spot on,” according to Sawyer.

For more information on Ski Butternut including lodging, dining, terrain parks and tubing, please visit SkiButternut.com.

Thanks to June Sidwell Fenniman for chatting with me on a chairlift and then spending a very enjoyable half-hour chatting over the phone. June is a lot of fun and I only wish we could ski together!

In addition to being a ski mom to two boys, June is a talented graphic designer.

 

 

© 2013, Kristen Lummis. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.

About Kristen Lummis

I am the owner, writer and head ski tech at www.braveskimom.com. The mom of two boys in a busy outdoor family, I write about skiing all year round, tossing in some biking, hiking, parenting and even a bit of reflection during the off-season. While my recreational passion is for all things snow, my real passion is for my family.
This entry was posted in Ski Resort Reviews, Skiing With Kids and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Ski Butternut: The Real Deal for Northeast Families

  1. Hi Kristen! Thanks for the great post!
    The Brave Butternut Ski Moms have been busy behind the scenes getting ready for another great race season. We’re hoping the mountain can open this weekend because we’re ready to ski!
    Enjoy your lovely Colorado Winter and look forward to our ski tracks crossing again!
    —June

  2. Thanks for a very well written and balanced article. So glad that you connected with June. all the best to you and your skiing family this winter Kristen. Respectfully Matthew Sawyer

  3. Maryann Burke says:

    I just had to add my two cents. I learned to ski on Ski Butternut. I was 42 years old the first time I put skis on. I spent three years on the bunny hill because I was sure I was going to die. NEVER ONCE in that whole three years did I ever feel out of place. EVERYONE knew me. The lift people, the guest service people skiing around, and the instructors. They were always wonderful to me. I’m 56 now. I can ski the mountain, I can ski any mountain I want. But it was here at Butternut that I learned that I wasn’t going to die. I learned how much fun skiing is. So, I can’t wait to get my old bad knees (5 operations, with a replacement knee now and missing the MCL on the other one) back out on those slopes. It really is one big family and I’m the crazy aunt having way too much fun. Maryann in Westfield

    • braveskimom says:

      Dear Maryann! Crazy Aunts are always appreciated! I love your comment and congratulations on 14 years of skiing…and not dying! Hooray!

      I love to hear how loyal everyone is to Butternut. It’s clearly a special place. Thanks!

  4. Tara says:

    I am a Butternut Ski Mom! This is our 3rd season and our family loves it!!! Great article!

  5. Shredlana says:

    I am a local Butternut snowboard mom, and love it too, my kids grew up on this mountain! Thank you for the great article on a place very near and dear to us. We just ask that people leave their prejudices at home, as this is a lovely and inclusive place for everyone, skiers and snowboarders alike. Also, if you are looking for wonderful apres, head just a tiny bit down the road on Rt. 7 to the Barrington Brewery ;)

  6. Carol says:

    I’ve been a Butternut Ski Mom for the past 3 years. It’s a great spot for the mom (like me) who doesn’t necessarily want to ski all day. I ski in the morning with my youngest daughter. Then we head in to the upper lodge and setup for lunch. After lunch (or before) one of her teenage siblings will take her on a run or two. I may go back for a couple of runs after lunch then escort her to her lesson. Again, I may take another run but usually am happy to sit in the lodge near the big windows with my book and some coffee. My oldest three love to snowboard through the terrain park all day long. At 4pm I round them up and am refreshed from my break to drive everyone home to Connecticut.

    • braveskimom says:

      You’ve got a great routine going Carol! It does sound like you’ve found the perfect spot! I love hearing from people from CT! That’s my husband’s home state. Take care and enjoy the ski season with your family!

  7. KariAri says:

    I’m a Butternut ski mom, too! My husband grew up skiing at Butternut. My mother-in-law took my then 5 year old son skiing there, and a love affair was born. My son started in the race development program at age 7, progressing to a Tri-state racer. Meanwhile, my skiing was not pretty. The other parents and coaches encouraged me (a 40 year old mom) to join the development and race classes for adults. The classes are awesome, and a great bonus are a bunch of new ski buddies! We all love skiing and spend as much time at Butternut as we can. We live in NJ, but enjoy visiting frequently. Everyone is so friendly!

  8. Susan says:

    I’m a Butternut ski mom too! I was a Butternut Ski Bunny for years before becoming a mom, skiing at Butternut from my early teen years, returning home from college to hit the slopes, and then moving forward with kids in tote. My girls were on skis as early as two years old, skiing between my legs, and then learning the fundamentals in Butternut’s amazing ski school, before advancing to the big slopes. We loved the “bunny trail” at Butternut because they actually have a chair lift that hauls you up the gentile mountainside, rather than the old-school rope tow that ate up your mittens in no time, and would cause new skiers to cross their tips and end up in a twisted pretzel in the path of the skier behind. Now, besides the beginner chair lift, they have quite a few Magic Carpet lifts which are just perfect for young tots and beginner skiers.

    Here is my guilty (bad Mom) confession- when my kids became of school age, I’d race to drop them off at school, and take off down the Mass Pike to the Berkshires by myself, with just my music device (advancing over the years from a Walkman to now an iPod!), ski gear, and lunch, and there I would be for hours, at my favorite ski mountain, enjoying every minute of tearing up the slopes, meeting new folks on the chairlift, and enjoying the natural beauty Butternut has to offer. Okay, another confession-I STILL do this, only my now teenaged kids are wise to me and I often get caught red-handed and whined at for not taking them along!

    Lots of amazing fond memories skiing at Butternut, from meeting Eric the Grateful Dead, tie-dye wearing ski attendant midway up the main chair, who year after year always remembered our names, to the tornado that caused such devastation, but didn’t take with it Butternut”s spirit, to dating the cute ski instructor I met while in high school, and lots of family memories my girls will cherish for a lifetime, Butternut is always in our hearts. <3.

    PS-Après ski would be a real asset!!

    Susan
    Westfield, MA

    • braveskimom says:

      Susan: I sometimes do the same. “Bye kids! Have a great day…I’m going….skiing!” It’s our reward for being moms! So cool that you’ve grown up skiing at Butternut and now your girls are too! Enjoy!

    • Susan thanks for a fun trip down your memory lane. We need to foster more “Ski Moms” that are as determined as you to get in some incredible midweek turns. Mid-station Erik was and always will be a trip and treat to be remembered, a real character. Thank you for sharing what makes Ski Butternut special to you and your family. Question did the kids ever win out and get you to take them on a midweek visit instead of dropping them at school?

      • Susan says:

        Hi Matt!

        You’re welcome! Lots of family memories of Butternut and many more to come! The girls did win out a few times…I found it’s the perfect incentive for achieving good grades in school, and some Mommy/daughter time for me (don’t tell them, but it’s really a win for me!). I mentioned to Bruce via Facebook a week or so ago, how much fun it would be if the lodge could be kept open for a couple of hours after the lifts close…I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the apres ski atmosphere at Butternut than listening to some live music entertainment and sipping one of Butternut’s amazing hot Apple Jack Ciders! What do you think? I also suggested warm hand-made Belgian waffles…Mmmm!!!

  9. Samara says:

    I grew up just south of Butternut in CT and spent many weekends there skiing with friends. Between Ski Sundown and Butternut I caught the bug, and when I graduated from high school I moved west to steeper slopes, and stayed. I credit Berkshire Mountain skiing with changing my life. Thanks for this great article! I hope that it encourages families to head to Great Barrington and get some! (Side note – Infinity Theater in Norfolk, CT has great musical acts and fabulous food. It’s about 30 minutes from Butternut and would be a great grown ups date destination.)

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