First Time Skiing: Butternut

Ski Butternut in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts is known for teaching first-time skiers. My kids had a fantastic first experience. It was easy to plan and figure out and the kids had a blast.

We were there during our Connecticut February school break, which was the week before the Massachusetts school break. Plus, we skied mid-week and in the morning so we did everything right to avoid the crowds.

20170215_120636Every day at 10:30am and 2pm anyone who has never skied before gathers at this sign after first paying for the $75 package, which includes boot and ski rentals (helmets are $15 extra). The ski rentals building is on the right as you approach the ski area and park in the big lot. Pay at the cashier, get your boots from one counter and your skis from another. Be prepared with the height, weight, and shoe size of each skier for whom you’re renting equipment. Leave your street footwear under the bench in the rentals room or rent a locker.

We were there at 10am on a non-holiday Wednesday and had no line at all for anything. We were all set with rentals and out at the sign at the back of the building by 10:15am. Leave twice as much time on busier days. At 10:30am two other kids and my two, plus two adult women were ready to learn.

The instructors were knowledgeable, kind, and enthusiastic. They taught the newbies how to put on and take off their skis, get up when you fall, lean your weight, etc. For learners, Area One has the slightest of inclines and Area Two has a more pronounced, yet gentle slope. Each has a slow-moving conveyor belt that the students place their skis on to get to the top. There were enough instructors so that my kids (ages 7 and 9) had their own at Area Two while the two younger kids hadn’t graduated from Area One. I don’t know what happened to the two women; they weren’t in sight at the noon pick up. I imagine they caught on faster and went off to other parts of the mountain.

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The ski lift for the bunny slope

After the lesson was over, I was flummoxed. The instructor said the girls did really well and then walked up into the staff lounge, never getting close to me and never stopping moving or telling me what was next. I also had wanted to tip her but she didn’t give me the chance. I’d love it if someone could leave in the comments section if tipping is expected and if so, a general guideline for how much.

I am a non-skier. I didn’t know if we had to pay more for the girls to continue skiing, which they wanted to do. I didn’t know where or how they could continue skiing. I poked my head inside and asked at the rentals counter. They said they didn’t know if we had to pay more but that it was quiet and no one was checking, so go for it. I asked where the bunny hill was and they said right where you were. So I turned around and went back outside and sure enough there was a ski lift right there for the bunny hill.

I wish the instructor had told the girls how to get on and off a ski lift, and practiced with them. They had real trouble with it. The ski lift operators are very used to kids not having a clue so they stopped the lift so my kids could get on after trying unsuccessfully to instruct them how to time it so they get seated and not knocked over when the lifts whip around.

Kids and husband at the bottom of the bunny slope
Kids and husband at the bottom of the bunny slope

They had a few runs on the bunny hill and then wanted to graduate to a more advanced run. Again, I wish I had known if this were prudent and if so, which trail should be next. My husband went with them up the Cruiser trail and it was too advanced for the girls. The younger one kept falling and the older one didn’t know this and skied ahead and lost them. Everyone was reunited and the staff was helpful and lovely.

We returned our gear and when we were heading out at 1pm three school buses full of kids got off to ski. Boy, were we lucky to miss the crowds!

While my kids were in their lesson, I hung out at what the sign calls a Clubhouse but the label on the building is Lockers. There are lockers, a ski shop, bathrooms, and a café in that building. The upper lodge has more of a restaurant, but we didn’t get there.

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View of the trails from the back of the Clubhouse
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