(ADAMS, Mass.) – The annual Thunderbolt Ski Race down the state’s highest mountain will take place this year on Saturday, March 3, 2012, (originally scheduled for February 11 but POSTPONED until March 3 due to lack of snow!!) immediately followed by a free winter festival in downtown Adams.
A hundred intrepid backcountry skiers and snowboarders will hike to the summit of Massachusetts’ highest mountain on the morning of March 3 and then come blazing down the historic Thunderbolt Ski Trail. The Expert-Class A trail runs nearly two miles through the heavily forested slopes of Mount Greylock and presents competitors challenging drops, turns and terrain.
Admission is free for everyone who wishes to watch the race at the foot of the mountain near Greylock Glen in the town of Adams. In addition, volunteers and community-minded sponsors have extended the race into a daylong event by creating Thunderfest, a free winter festival in downtown Adams after the race. The festival is open to all, regardless of attendance at the race.
“The Thunderbolt is unlike any ski race you might see on television or at a ski area,” says Jonathan Butler, town administrator of Adams. “First of all there’s no ride up to the top. And the trail itself is fast, narrow and tough and has no manmade snow. In Adams, we like to think of ourselves as the hub for outdoor recreation in the Berkshires, and the Thunderbolt epitomizes that. To celebrate the race and winter in the Berkshires, this year we’re also offering Thunderfest, a free party in town after the race.”
The Thunderbolt Ski Trail was originally cleared down the precipitous east slope of Mount Greylock in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It quickly became known for the annual world-class race that attracted top skiers, including Olympians, from across the country and Europe. Even Nazi Germany sent a team to compete in 1938.
With the advent of ski areas, the trail fell into disrepair in the 1950s until 2008, when a group of backcountry ski and snowboard enthusiasts took it on themselves to restore the historic ski run and revive the race. Blair Mahar, one the founders of the Thunderbolt Ski Runners, who maintain the trail and organize the annual race says, “It’s as thrilling a ski run as you’ll find anywhere. And we love seeing lots of spectators as we whiz by, so please come and watch.”
The run is 1.6 miles in length with a vertical drop of 2,050 feet and grades as steep as 35 degrees. 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 six categories: Alpine, Telemark, Snowboard, Women’s Overall, The Ascent and King of the Mountain, for fastest overall time.
Registration for competitors is closed for this year’s race. Experienced competitors interested in future events should visit Thunderbolt Ski Runners for details.
The Thunderbolt Ski Race relies on natural snow. Conditions on Mount Greylock may cause the race to be postponed until March 3. Spectators at the race are encouraged to take the free shuttle from downtown Adams. A hike of about 40 minutes is required to reach the finish line of the race.
Thunderfest, the free downtown celebration following the race will be held from noon to 5 p.m. at the Adams Visitors Center on Hoosac Street in Adams. The free festival will feature live bands, hot local food including a chili and chowder cook-off, local beers and hot beverages, family fun, a blazing bonfire and Thunderbolt race videos.