The AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge was designed to provide a method for our forum members to get official answers to skiing-related questions directly from a ski area representative. Jeremy Clark, Director of Marketing at Berkshire East in Charlemont, Massachusetts, took the AlpineZone Ski Area Challenge and provided the following responses on 4/13/2004:
ski jay: What factors are involved in determining the price of a season pass at Berkshire East?
Jeremy Clark: The main focus is on capital improvements and increased operational expenses. If there aren’t any projected increases in costs, we leave the prices the same across the board. In the past half decade plus, despite all of the expansion, the adult season pass price has increased only $30 (and only $10 for those who traditionally purchase it during the first discount period). We don’t lower or increase costs in response to other local mountains, as we offer a different pass altogether – we offer one season pass, full, unrestricted, valid day, night, weekends, and holidays.
teachski: What year did the name change from Thunder Mountain to Berkshire East?
Jeremy Clark: Thunder Mountain zoomed to the top of MA Ski Conditions listings after original owner/GM Art Parker left in the mid 1960s. With the mountain name change came new trail names as well (since current ownership took over 30 years ago, some of the original trail names have been restored).
teachski: What was the price of a ticket during Berkshire East’s first year of operation?
Jeremy Clark: Very good question, I assume you mean when the facility first opened as Thunder Mountain. The answer is that I have no brochures from that period and I highly doubt anyone else does! Next time I talk to Art, I will ask him. Just as a side note, Thunder Mountain actually opened in the 1950s, well before its quote unquote grand opening in 1960-61. I suspect, considering there was just one rope tow and one slope, that the price was a dollar or less.
teachski: What is the first year that Berkshire East boasted a chair lift?
Jeremy Clark: The former summit chair (a then new Mueller double) opened in the 1960-61 season. Some photos of its installation are on display in the food court at the Main Lodge.
MichaelJ: As a new skier, just having learned last year and not being familiar with most of the terrain out there that’s available to me for next winter, how would you market your mountain to me? The experts may be interested in fastest or steepest; the boarders may be looking for the half-pipe and the terrain park; I’m just looking to broaden my horizons – what do you have for me?
Jeremy Clark: I don’t think I have much marketing to do at all, actually; I can just report the facts. We have built two great first timer areas in the past 5 years, one served by a handle tow, the other by a small double chair. We cut a true novice trail from the summit and opened it day and night. This past year we installed a quad chairlift serving the last 1.5 miles of that novice run, day and night. The quad also serves intermediate terrain and more of that can be found off the summit.
The truth of the matter is that one of our biggest assets is a mountain with tremendous topography that allows for gentle, moderate, and steep trails. What we have for you is a mountain you can ski throughout your evolution from learning to parallel ski to learning to ski extreme glades, or if that’s not your cup of tea, we have miles of scenic cruisers. I hope to see you at the mountain next year – I’m confident you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.
Greg: Berkshire East has undergone a lot of improvements in the last few years (new triple, new quad, better grooming). Which improvement do you feel has most enhanced the ski experience at Berkshire East?
Jeremy Clark: I think the new grooming and snowmaking equipment have made the biggest difference – we are able to build huge base depths with our state of the art SMI Polecats, Wizzkids, and Wizzards, and take advantage of them with our Bombardier snow cats after a spell of bad weather. Despite the weather this year, skiers were extremely happy with conditions.
The construction of the Outback complex and installation of the West Quad have had a huge impact as well, considering Berkshire East never had a true top to bottom novice trail. The Outback-Roundabout trail combination provides a great way for novices to ski all of the vertical comfortably. The quad, by continuing past the former Exhibtion double’s terminal location, serves twice as much novice/intermediate terrain as its predecessor.
ChileMass: What target demographics does Berkshire East consider to be its core customers? What features/services do these core customers value and why?
What features/services are being changed to attract non-Berkshire East skiers?
Jeremy Clark: Our target audience is generally families who cannot afford to spend a thousand dollars for a day of skiing – we look to attract families who want to make a day trip and not worry about high prices or large crowds – familes can grow up here as well, since there is a wide selection of terrain from novice to extreme available.
I’m not quite sure what you’re asking, but I’ll run with it and say that by adding the novice terrain from the summit, we’ve changed our image of being expert only to being a mountain for all abilities. We’re confident anyone who tries our mountain will enjoy it as much as we do.
ChileMass: What improvements are scheduled for the 04-05 season? For 05-06 and beyond?
Jeremy Clark: We’re doing a lot of behind the scenes work this off-season, including but not limited to increased snowmaking capacity and firepower. We’re considering some trail improvements as well as a few other things, but plans won’t be finalized for a few more months.
In the near future I foresee another chairlift as well as some more trails, novice through advanced. There is still a tremendous amount of terrain not touched in the Wilderness Peak area.
ChileMass: My observation is that Berkshire East seems to offer a “back to basics” ski experience as compared with much more commercial/larger hills. Is this intentional, and if so why? Will it continue? What are the benefits and drawbacks of this approach to the market?
Jeremy Clark: Berkshire East is a skier’s mountain – we’re not here to sell a condo or max out your credit card. The goal has been and continues to be to provide an affordable day of big mountain skiing. One benefit of this is that the mountain continues to preserve its unique features. A disadvantage to this approach is that we don’t collect huge revenues from hotel rooms, timeshares, stores for that matter. Nonetheless, we aren’t willing to wreck Berkshire East just for a few bucks.
ChileMass: Is racing a key differentiator/attraction for Berkshire East? What is the plan to attract more racers or race programs?
Jeremy Clark: Racing is certainly a successful program at Berkshire East – some of the best skiers in New England and the country come from the racing program, from state high school champions to Olympic contenders. I don’t foresee any efforts to change much in terms of expansion, as the racing staff wants to keep the training personal and effective.