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New England's Alpine CCC Ski Trails
Mt. Greylock
Adams, Massachusetts

Mt. Greylock as seen from Spruce Hill Mt. Greylock's ski history is generally traced back to the work of the CCC in the mid 1930s. In addition to the legendary Thunderbolt ski trail, a ski shelter was built, as well as the Bascom Lodge.

While Mt. Greylock was host to two lift served ski areas (Mt. Greylock Ski Club and Thunderbolt Ski Area), many versions of a much larger facility were proposed throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, many of them promising to incorporate the Thunderbolt ski trail. None of these proposed ski areas opened.

Trails on Mt. Greylock
Location mapThunderbolt - Open
The Thunderbolt was cut by the 107th company of the CCC in the fall of 1934. The trail is up to 35 degrees steep in one spot and drops 2,175 vertical feet. The name was derived from the roller coaster at Revere Beach. State, regional, and international races were held on the trail with the likes of Dick Durrance, Alex Bright, Ted Hunter, Fritz Dehmel, and Per Klippgen.

Despite being host to races for parts of four decades, the trail fell victim to neglect in the 1980s. A backcountry skiing resurgence, as well as the release of the documentary Purple Mountain Majesty, helped spur reclamation of the trail.

A 75th anniversary race was held on March 13, 2010. An estimated 400 spectators watched the race in subpar weather as Gery Benedetti raced to the win in 3 minutes and 1 second.

Bellows Pipe Trail - Partially open
The Bellows Pipe Trail runs north the Thunderbolt. It is not known if the CCC was involved when this trail was opened in 1938-39, how ever it was sometimes used as an alternate route when the Thunderbolt was considered too dangerous.
“ Stern Mt. Greylock, near Adams, Mass., has a new easy trail branching off the distinctly uneasey Thunderbolt run. ”
Marshall Sprague, 1938

“ At Adams on Mt. Greylock there is a new trail called the Bellows Pipe, beginning at the top of the championship Thunderbolt run, turning off before the first real steep pitch and rejoining it 300 feet from the finish. This trail of 9575 feet is definitely a recreational trail and not designed for racing. ”
Hartford Courant, 1938

“ Mount Greylock
3,491 feet, highest in the State. Rockwell Road, Notch Road, Cheshire Harbor and Bellows Pipe Trails and Thunderbolt Ski Run meet at Memorial Beacon on summit. Ski lodge, with four fireplaces, is always open. When not windy, the upper portions of the roads provide great cross-country skiing, with beautiful frost and snow formations.
Thunderbolt Ski Run on Greylock's northeast shoulder is a championship racing course, scene of State and Eastern championship races. There are a number of novice slopes about the foot of the trails. Total V.D. 2175'. No Tow.
How reached: From Adams Center turn west up hill, turn left, then take next two rights. Distance: 2 mi.
Massachusetts Ski Guide, 1950

“ Thunderbolt Ski Run - Len. 1.4 mi.; V.D. 2050'; Wid. 18-60'; M.G. 35°; 5" snow (8" top steep slope); Exp. N, NE, E; expert.
Top 1/4 mile safe for novices (control necessary), under good conditions.
Massachusetts Ski Guide, 1950

“ Bellows Pipe Trail
Len. 1.8 mi.; V.D. 2000'; Wid. 12-35'; M.G. 27°; Exp. N, NE; 5" snow; intermediate.
This trail starts and ends near Thunderbolt but is less steep, has more turns.
Massachusetts Ski Guide, 1950

“ The idea of a championship trail for Massachusetts was first suggested at a meeting of the Western Massachusetts Winter Sports Committee. I was named the Chairman of the Trails Committee, but Dwight Francis, who had just returned from extensive skiing in Europe, really carried the ball. Other members were Nelson Bond, Kenneth D. Cuddeback and George F. Maynard. Receiving the enthusiastic cooperation of the then chairman of the Mt. Greylock Reservation Commission, A.K. Sloper, the work got under way in June 1934. The work was done by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which did a wonderful job. ”
Bartlett Hendricks, 1954

“ Company 107 of the CCC, based in Savoy, Massachusetts, began building the ski trail in August 1934. Three months later, national downhill ski champion Joseph Duncan visited the mountain and viewed the run. He promptly declared that the Thunderbolt was "undoubtedly the most thrilling wooded ski run in the country" ”
Backcountry Skiing Adventures: Vermont & New York, p. 180

“ Running parallel to the Thunderbolt was the Bellows Pipe Trail (sometimes referred to as the Bellows Pipeline), which was considered an intermediate ski run. The upper section of the Bellows Pipe still exists, but the easy trail that today runs southeast from Notch Road to where it turns sharply uphill past a lean-to (now called the Bellows Pipe) was not part of the original trail. The lower section of the Bellows Pipe ran parallel to the Thunderbolt for its entire length and is now abandoned. On days when the Thunderbolt was too icy to safely race on, officials would detour racers onto the upper portion of the Bellows Pipe. ”
Backcountry Skiing Adventures: Vermont & New York, p. 181

“ Fall, 1956: Motivating the major renovations on Mt. Greylock's Thunderbolt Trail last fall is the almost revolutionary development of competitive skiing in the past decade. With emphasis on high speed, changes effected on Thunderbolt by the Williams College Outing Club were designed to more adequately test the skill and racing judgement of competitors with an eye toward greater safety. ”
Michael W. Curran, 1957

“ On Saturday morning, five members of the 10th Mountain Division returned to the Thunderbolt to support a new generation of racers. It was the first organized race on the trail since the 1960s.

The veterans were all smiles as about 75 racers battled wind, ice and rain to conquer a trail paved long ago.

Chris Samson, 30, of Adams, went down the 1.4-mile trail on his snowboard. Shortly after crossing the finish line, Samson posed for pictures with the 10th Mountain members, which were seated under a red tent near "The Big Schuss."

"Without those guys, we wouldn’t be doing this today," Samson said. "Those are the heroes."

If the 10th Mountain Division was Saturday’s hero, then the weather may have been the villain. The icy conditions made for a rapid course, which caused most racers to take at least one tumble on the trail.
Patrick Ronan, 2010

  • "Bay State Lists Developments In New Bulletin" Hartford Courant. 9 Dec. 1938.
  • Curran, Michael W. (1957, January 11). "Renovations at Thunderbolt Encompass Saftey Factors." Eastern Ski Bulletin
  • Goodman, David. Backcountry Skiing Adventures: Vermont & New York. Boston, MA: Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2001.
  • Greylock Glen Ski Area - New England's Cancelled Ski Areas
  • Hendricks, Bartlett. (1952). "Major Eastern Racing Trails: The Thunderbolt." American Ski Annual
  • Massachusetts Ski Guide 1950. Boston, MA: Massachusetts Development and Industrial Commission, 1950.
  • Mount Greylock - Wikipedia
  • Mt. Greylock Ski Area - New England's Cancelled Ski Areas
  • Mount Greylock - New England Lost Ski Areas Project
  • Ronan, Patrick. "Competitors brave wind, rain, ice in anniversary Thunderbolt race." North Adams Transcript. 15 March 2010. 16 March 2010.
  • Sprague, Marshall. "New Trails Beckon To Skiers" The New York Times. 4 Dec. 1938.
  • The Thunderbolt Ski Run
  • Winter Work: The CCC and New England Skiing Chronology - New England Ski Museum
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    Last updated: November 10, 2011
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