Thunderbolt Ski Race – and ThunderFest – Return
On the morning of Saturday, March 1, more than 100 intrepid backcountry skiers and snowboarders will make a two-hour heart-pounding trek to the top of Mount Greylock, to strap on their equipment, take a few deep breaths and launch into a blistering three-minute run down the narrow, steep and unpredictable Thunderbolt Ski Trail.
Admission is free for everyone who wishes to watch the race from Greylock Glen at the foot of the mountain in Adams, Mass. After the race, ThunderFest, noon to 5 p.m., will offer food from a variety of local vendors, craft beer from Wandering Star Brewery, hot beverages, a chowder cook-off, kids’ activities and a toasty campfire.There will be live music outdoors at the Adams Visitors Center by Chris Kleeman and Rebel Alliance. Admission is free and open to all, regardless of attendance at the race.
Parking will be very limited; free shuttles from Hoosac Street will begin running loops at 9 a.m. A hike of about 30 minutes is required to reach the finish line. The race will conclude by 2 p.m. The Thunderbolt Ski Race relies on natural snow; in the event that the race cannot be held due to lack of snow, the Thunderbolt Ski Runners will still host a smaller event up on the mountain and visitors to Town will still be encouraged to attend the downtown celebration. The public is encouraged to dress appropriately for both outdoor events. ThunderFest is sponsored by the Adams Community Bank, ALADCO, Berkshire Gas, Firehouse Café, Ronnie’s Cycle, Wandering Star Brewery and the Town of Adams.
The Thunderbolt Ski Trail was originally cleared down the precipitous east slope of Mount Greylock in the 1930s as a
public works project of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). It quickly became known for the annual world-class race that attracted top skiers from across the country and Europe. With the advent of ski areas, the trail fell into disrepair after World War II until 2008 when the Thunderbolt Ski Runners, a group of backcountry ski and snowboard enthusiasts, took it on themselves to restore the historic ski run and revive the race. In 2013, the Ski Runners opened the Thunderbolt Ski Museum at the Adams Visitors Center. The museum features artifacts and informational displays about the history of the trail, its many world-class competitions and the colorful characters and stories from its early days.
The fastest known time down the trail is 2 minutes, 8.6 seconds, set by Norwegian Olympian, Per Klippgen in 1948. Modern racers compete in seven total categories: Alpine, Telemark, Snowboard, Women’s Overall, the Ascent, and both King and Queen of the Mountain for fastest overall combined time up and down the mountain. The most recent King of the Mountain is Jonathan Schefftz with a total time of 53 minutes, 16 seconds set in 2011. The race is 1.6 miles long with a vertical drop of 2,050 feet and grades as steep as 35 degrees.