Family-friendly Blandford in southern Massachusetts was poised for extinction or development, but Ski Butternut and its owner Jeffrey Murdock bought it Sept. 1 and saved it.

Here comes the snow making. Blandford’s lodges get facelifts and the slopes get upgrades in grooming and snow making.

It’s a rescue mission of historic proportions. Right now, crews are working furiously to renovate Blandford’s base lodges, upgrade the grooming equipment, and install new snowmaking to help smooth out fickle weather cycles that have troubled the family-style ski area in the Berkshire Mountains.

The timing is tight. Renovations couldn’t start until Sept. 1 when the purchase was finalized.

“We’re putting a lot of resources into Blandford,” said Dick McCann, general manager of Ski Butternut. “We want to build the skier base back up. And we care very much about making skiing affordable.”

“We think the ski industry is better for having these small ski areas,” McCann said.

In reality, no one needs a mega resort to learn to ski and have family fun. Yet mega resorts across the country are gobbling up smaller areas.

Historically, Blandford Ski Area was founded in 1936 by members of the Springfield Ski Club, and it was owned by the members. At that time, hardy skiers drove to the end of the road and then hiked to ski the rolling hills.

It’s surmised that Blandford might be the oldest member-owned ski area in North America. It’s located about 20 miles west of Springfield, Mass.

By the 1970s, the popular day ski area had many rope tows and one double chair lift. Families loved the area and spent many volunteer hours doing maintenance and especially picking up stones from the slopes and tossing them into the woods. That made the slopes skiable even if natural snowfall was skimpy.

That’s where I learned to ski and I loved the place. The snow was often thin, but it was groomed to perfection with no stones poking through.

Today, it has 25 trails, three double chairlifts and two base lodges. But snowfall became erratic during recent years and families drifted off to do other things in winter. Blandford was on the brink of extinction.

Ski Butternut’s owner Jeffrey Murdock now owns three ski areas in the Berkshires: Ski Butternut, Otis Ridge, and now Blandford Ski Area.

Ski area management runs in his family, and it started with Butternut. Its first trails were cut by the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) in the late 1930s, but that was followed by many rocky years. Finally in 1962, Channing and Jane Murdock, Jeffrey Murdock’s parents, bought the state-of-the-art chairlift and the ski area that went with it.

Ski Butternut now has one of the largest uphill capacities in Southern New England.

As to Blandford Ski Area, Murdock is breathing new life into it. Massive renovations are underway and they’ll be ready for this winter. A season pass is $199 for adults, $169 for kids 7 to 13, and $79 for kids 6 and under.

To read more from Harriet click here for her stories on SkiUtah.

 

One Comment

  1. Hi Harriet
    I’ve enjoyed your articles about Blandford. I taught my kids to ski there and I learned at Otis and still go to Butternut each winter.
    THANKS for the updates.
    Don

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