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SkiNewEngland.net
 
Butternut Basin in the late 1960s or early 1970s
Ski Butternut
Great Barrington, Massachusetts
Status: Open
First Season:1936-37
Vertical Drop:1000 feet
Standing Lifts:3 quads, 1 triple, 1 double, surface lifts
Past Lifts:4 doubles, surface lifts
Left: Butternut Basin in the late 1960s or early 1970s
Recent NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News:
1/8/2020: Chairlift Chatter
10/25/2017: Ski Butternut Ownership Completes Purchase of Ski Blandford
7/19/2017: Springfield Ski Club Approves Proposed Sale of Ski Blandford
7/1/2017: Ski Blandford May Be Sold to Ski Butternut
SkiNewEngland.net Profile
Located on 1,770 foot Warner Mountain in southwestern Massachusetts, Ski Butternut is a popular mid-sized ski area.

G-Bar-S Dude Ranch

G-Bar-S Ranch
G-Bar-S Ranch

Ski Butternut's rich skiing history dates back to the 1936-37 season, when two trails were cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Rope tow service was also in place at that time.

The trails emptied into a large development known as G-Bar-S Dude Ranch. Years earlier, local entrepreneur Henry J. "Pop" Cairns was told he couldn't fish on a pond near Warner Mountain. Described by some as 'stubborn,' Cairns purchased the pond and the land around it in 1929. In 1936, he opened the G-Bar-S Ranch there. A native of Quebec, Cairns moved to the region in the 1920s, eventually owning a petroleum distribution, lumber, and real estate businesses. In addition to his businesses, Cairns was involved in many local civil and church groups, as well as co-founding nearby Camp Stevens and Camp Sunrise for the Boy Scouts. Prior to settling on G-Bar-S Ranch name, Cairns called the complex the Great Barrington Sports Center.

By the time the 1939-40 season started, two rope tows were in place, running a combined 3,000 feet up Warner Mountain over a vertical drop of 630 feet. The facility was likely the second most popular in Berkshire County with 14,500 visitors that season.

Four rope tows were in place for the 1941-42 season. While some areas closed during World War II, G-Bar-S Ranch remained in operation. A fifth rope tow was in place by the time 1948-49 started. By this time, the ski area was marketed for beginners. Each trail was claimed to end in a different place, as to avoid potential bottlenecks.

Prior to the 1950-51 season, nearby Jug End Barn, Inc. purchased the G-Bar-S Ranch from the Cairns. General improvements were reportedly made to the area for the first season under the management of Robert Thompson.

The 1952-53 season was a disaster for G-Bar-S, which was reportedly only open for one week.

Following the 1953-54 season, Francis Maher's G Bar S Corp. purchased the facility for about $100,000. G Bar S Corp would operate the ski area for two seasons.

The End of G-Bar-S Ranch

The former G-Bar-S Ranch circa 1962
The former G-Bar-S Ranch circa 1962

In June of 1955, the main house of the G-Bar-S Ranch facility was lost in a fire. The ranch headquarters were then moved to the recreation hall, which was subsequently upgraded. In May of 1956, that building too burned to the ground. One month later, the property was sold to Stanley Wincek, owner of the Mountain View Club.

In September of 1956, G-Bar-S Ranch was sold at auction to Robert Wheeler for about $25,000. In addition to being the head of Wheeler & Taylor, Inc. (one time employer of Pop Cairns' daughter Alida), Wheeler was also part owner of Jug End Barn. At the time of the sale, the facility spanned 98 acres and included the ski area, the pond, a swimming pool, 12 cabins, and a bunkhouse. The ski area would likely sit idle after the auction. Wheeler reportedly was hoping to sell the land to the Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources, though the funds were never allocated.

In April of 1960, the old ski area was sold to James and Margaret Joyce of Barrington School, Inc. The school, which opened nearby in the fall of 1960, was purchasing land for a potential campus. Barrington School would quickly run into financial problems.

The Murdock Family Arrives

The Clubhouse Lodge circa the mid to late 1960s
The Clubhouse Lodge circa the mid to late 1960s

In August of 1962, Channing Murdock and his wife Jane purchased the old ski area from the the Joyces and Barrington School for a reported $60,000, while also securing a $100 per year lease for the adjacent state-owned property. A native of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, Murdock graduated from Middlebury College and served in the Army before eventually ending up at Mohawk Mountain. Murdock managed the Connecticut ski area for two years, learning the entire operation from snowmaking to lift construction.

Murdock's plans called for a $250,000 development with a planned 1963-64 opening as Butternut Basin. In addition to a bank loan, Murdock funded the project by selling shares of stock with perks such as free skiing and butternuts. In April of 1963, Murdock signed an agreement to purchase a new Carlevaro & Savio double chairlift for $83,585.

Channing personally cut new trails and managed the installation of the chairlift with a group of high school students. Jane handled the bookkeeping and payroll, with Channing telling the Berkshire Eagle, "She does all this work, even though she's expecting our second child soon." Their second son, Timmy, was born just before the ski season started.

The base lodge was conceived by Murdock, designed by architect T. Merrill Prentice Jr., and constructed by a crew led by Rene Burdet. The 250-seat lodge had a $45,000 price tag, of which $4,000 was for glass. With peak motifs in the form of triangles throughout, form outweighed function when it came to the chairs Murdock wanted, as the three legged chairs resulted in many falls during the first winter. Perhaps harkening to his former boss Walt Schoenknecht, there were subtle Asian influences, including Japanese-style paper lanterns and a doors that were painted 'Chinese Red.'

The summit double circa 1963-64
The summit double circa 1963-64

The Murdocks opened their new ski area on Christmas Eve of 1963. In addition to the new chairlift, up to 4 of the old G-Bar-S Ranch rope tows served 6 trails. A Larchmont snowmaking system was installed on the lower mountain. Both in their mid to late 20s, the Murdocks were the youngest ski area owners around. Paul Brown served as Ski School Director

Though Butternut was only open for 60 days during the winter of 1963-64, it was busy enough to warrant a $70,000 investment during the following off season, including a T-Bar serving the East Area.

G-Bar-S founder Henry Cairns passed away in June 1964 at the age of 73.

Unfortunately, the winter of 1964-65 was a tough one with subpar snowfall. In addition, Butternut pumped its snowmaking pond dry before Christmas and was often limited to its novice slope, seldom having skiing above the mid-station of the chairlift. Overall, the area operated for 65 days, but roughly broke even. No new trails were planned for the off-season, as Murdock stated, "we have trails cut which we haven't even skied yet."

Following the 1964-65 season, Butternut Basin announced it was opening a childrens' summer camp. With a prime location for various summer activities, the camp operated into the 1980s.

New Lifts and a Sister Area

The Upper Lodge
The Upper Lodge

Butternut Basin soon was engulfed in state politics, as the developers of the proposed Saddle Ball ski area on Mt. Greylock claimed they were not given the same treatment as Butternut Basin. Though Murdock was hoping to expand Butternut in 1967, his proposal was halted by the state as they dealt with the Saddle Ball concerns.

Murdock eventually signed a new lease with the state, which addressed some of the concerns raised by the Saddle Ball developers, while allowing him to expand. As a result, his annual state lease fees increased from $100 to between 2% and 3% of his gross ski revenue, the latter being estimated at about $100,000. In addition, Murdock had to give the state control over any development on his adjacent private property, as well as to agree to a prohibition of alcohol sales.

With the new agreement in hand, a new Carlevaro & Savio chairlift was installed in 1968, serving two new intermediate trails in the Highline Area. In addition, the base lodge was expanded by 2,500 feet and snowmaking was improved. Norwegian native Einar Aus was named Ski School Director, as Paul Brown moved to Hawaii. With ample natural snowfall, the 1968-69 season was described by Murdock as "tremendous," enabling for further ski investment.

A third double was installed for the 1969-70 season, giving Butternut the largest number of chairlifts in the county. In addition to the new beginner chairlift, the base lodge was once again expanded, making it twice the size of the original structure. Meanwhile, Murdock purchased defunct Satan's Ridge in nearby Connecticut. The area would reopen for 1969-70 as Ski Sundown and would remain under Murdock's ownership for a few seasons. Meanwhile, a beginner double chairlift was installed at Butternut.

The next big expansion took place at Butternut in 1975, when the Overbrook Area debuted. Serviced by Massachusetts' first triple chairlift, the new pod initially featured two intermediate trails. The Upper Lodge, designed by Butternut skier Lo-Yi Chan of Prentice, Chan & Ohlhausen, would open in 1979 near the new area.

In November of 1983, the Murdocks purchased 135 acres of land west of the ski area. While they had planned to build a new trail pod, the trails and lifts would not be constructed.

Celebrating their 30th season at Butternut, the Murdocks upgraded their original chairlift for 1993-94. A $750,000 project, the summit lift was converted into Massachusetts' second quad chairlift. While things appeared to be running smoothly, Butternut was about to suffer back to back tragedies.

Tragedies

In June of 1994, founder Channing Murdock was seriously injured in a biking crash. In addition to multiple broken bones, Murdock suffered permanent brain injuries that immediately ended his career.

The 1994-95 season was Butternut's worst in nearly a quarter of a century. In order to save money, new General Manager Jeff Murdock cancelled the area's property insurance. Two months later, in May of 1995, an F4 tornado hit Butternut, heavily damaging lifts, buildings, snowmaking equipment, and the countless trees that had been carefully planted and or saved over the years by Channing Murdock. Thanks to the help of ski areas all over the Northeast, as well as a $1.4 million Small Business Administration loan, Butternut was able to rebuild enough to reopen for 1995-96.

Recovery

The Top Flight Quad (2016)
The Top Flight Quad (2016)

Nearly a decade later, Butternut was able to start making sizable investments to its lift infrastructure again. Quad chairlifts were installed in consecutive seasons starting in 2004. As a result, Ski Butternut left the decade with 3 quads and a triple serving its core trails, giving it one of the largest uphill capacities in Southern New England.

NewEnglandSkiConditions.com Reports
Month Average Percent of Terrain Open
February90%    (1 report)90 Open
Recent Conditions Reports
Feb. 12, 2016 by rocket21
Loose Granular, Frozen Granular
Ski Butternut on NewEnglandSkiConditions.com

NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News
Recent Articles
Chairlift Chatter - Jan. 8, 2020
Ski Butternut Ownership Completes Purchase of Ski Blandford - Oct. 25, 2017
Springfield Ski Club Approves Proposed Sale of Ski Blandford - Jul. 19, 2017
Ski Blandford May Be Sold to Ski Butternut - Jul. 1, 2017
Massachusetts Ski Areas Shut Down By Travel Ban - Jan. 27, 2015
Ski Butternut NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News Page

CCC Trails
Trail NameStatus
Forgotten BridgeOpen
TaconicOpen

Expansion History
Project
Season
West Area
Cancelled
1980s
Summit Area
Open
1963-64
East Area
Open
1964-65
Highline Area
Open
1968-69
Overbrook Area
Open
1975-76

Image Gallery
1950 Boston GlobeJanuary 9, 1953 Berkshire Evening Eagle1953-54 Eastern Ski Map1954-55 Eastern Ski Map1964-65 Eastern Ski Map1965-66 Eastern Ski Map
View All Images in Ski Butternut Image Gallery

Lifts
Click on lift name for information and photos
Standing Lifts
Installed
The bottom terminal (2015)
Cruiser Quad
Doppelmayr-CTEC
Chairlift - Quad - Fixed
2005-06
The bottom terminal (2015)
Highline Quad
Doppelmayr-CTEC
Chairlift - Quad - Fixed
2004-05
The Overlook Triple circa the 1980s
Overbrook Triple
Thiokol
Chairlift - Triple - Fixed
1975-76
The Paddy Wagon Double (background) in the early 1980s
Paddy Wagon
Carlevaro & Savio-Stadeli
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1969-70
The bottom terminal (2015)
Poma

Platter
The Top Flight Quad wreckage after the May 1995 tornado
Top Flight Quad
CTEC-Carlevaro & Savio
Chairlift - Quad - Fixed
1993-94

Past Lifts
Seasons
East T-Bar
Doppelmayr
T-Bar
1964-65
-
1980-81
Granny's Double in 2002
Granny's Double
Mueller
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1981-82
-
2004-05
The top counterweight remains (2016)
Highline Double
Carlevaro & Savio
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1968-69
-
2003-04
The Scooter Double (foreground) in the early 1980s
Scooter Double
Poma-Borvig
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1977-78
-
2009-10
The Sheave Train Double circa the mid to late 1960s
Sheave Train
Carlevaro & Savio
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1963-64
-
1992-93

Maps
1936 Warner Mountain Ski Area Map1940-41 East Mountain State Forest Trail Map1963-64 Butternut Basin Trail Map1964-65 Butternut Basin Trail Map1968-69 Butternut Trail Map1969-70 Butternut Basin trail map
View All Ski Butternut Trail Maps

Year by Year History
Adult Weekend Full Day Lift Ticket; Adult Full Price Unlimited Season Pass
2020s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2019-20$65.002019-20 Ticket Price Graph$399.002019-20 Season Pass Price Graph6.1 daysDecember 6March 152019-20 Skier Visit Graph
2010s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2018-19$60.002018-19 Ticket Price Graph$399.002018-19 Season Pass Price Graph6.7 daysDecember 7March 302018-19 Skier Visit Graph
2017-18$60.002017-18 Ticket Price Graph$490.002017-18 Season Pass Price Graph8.2 daysDecember 14April 12017-18 Skier Visit Graph
2016-17$60.002016-17 Ticket Price Graph$455.002016-17 Season Pass Price Graph7.6 daysDecember 15April 22016-17 Skier Visit Graph
2015-16$60.002015-16 Ticket Price Graph$455.002015-16 Season Pass Price Graph7.6 daysJanuary 3March 132015-16 Skier Visit Graph
2014-15$55.002014-15 Ticket Price Graph$440.002014-15 Season Pass Price Graph8.0 daysDecember 5April 52014-15 Skier Visit Graph
2013-14$55.002013-14 Ticket Price Graph$440.002013-14 Season Pass Price Graph8.0 daysDecember 7April 62013-14 Skier Visit Graph
2012-13$55.002012-13 Ticket Price Graph$330.002012-13 Season Pass Price Graph6.0 daysDecember 15April 72012-13 Skier Visit Graph
2011-12$55.002011-12 Ticket Price Graph$330.002011-12 Season Pass Price Graph6.0 daysDecember 16March 182011-12 Skier Visit Graph
2010-11$55.002010-11 Ticket Price Graph$330.002010-11 Season Pass Price Graph6.0 daysDecember 10April 32010-11 Skier Visit Graph
2009-10$55.002009-10 Ticket Price Graph$279.002009-10 Season Pass Price Graph5.1 daysDecember 12March 282009-10 Skier Visit Graph
2000s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2008-09$55.002008-09 Ticket Price Graph$279.002008-09 Season Pass Price Graph5.1 days2008-09 Skier Visit Graph
2007-08$50.002007-08 Ticket Price Graph$279.002007-08 Season Pass Price Graph5.6 daysDecember 72007-08 Skier Visit Graph
2006-07$49.002006-07 Ticket Price Graph$279.002006-07 Season Pass Price Graph5.7 daysApril 12006-07 Skier Visit Graph
2005-06$46.002005-06 Ticket Price Graph$199.002005-06 Season Pass Price Graph4.3 daysMarch 312005-06 Skier Visit Graph
2004-05$46.002004-05 Ticket Price Graph$299.002004-05 Season Pass Price Graph6.5 daysApril 102004-05 Skier Visit Graph
2003-04$45.002003-04 Ticket Price Graph$299.002003-04 Season Pass Price Graph6.6 daysDecember 6April 32003-04 Skier Visit Graph
2002-03$43.002002-03 Ticket Price Graph$299.002002-03 Season Pass Price Graph7.0 daysNovember 29April 62002-03 Skier Visit Graph
2001-02$41.002001-02 Ticket Price Graph2001-02 Season Pass Price Graph2001-02 Skier Visit Graph
2000-01$39.002000-01 Ticket Price Graph$495.002000-01 Season Pass Price Graph12.7 daysApril 82000-01 Skier Visit Graph
1999-00$39.001999-00 Ticket Price Graph1999-00 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 31999-00 Skier Visit Graph
1990s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1998-991998-99 Ticket Price Graph1998-99 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 181998-99 Skier Visit Graph
1996-97$38.001996-97 Ticket Price Graph1996-97 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 71996-97 Skier Visit Graph
1995-961995-96 Ticket Price Graph1995-96 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 21995-96 Skier Visit Graph
1994-951994-95 Ticket Price Graph1994-95 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 31994-95 Skier Visit Graph
1993-941993-94 Ticket Price Graph1993-94 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 171993-94 Skier Visit Graph
1992-93$35.001992-93 Ticket Price Graph1992-93 Season Pass Price Graph1992-93 Skier Visit Graph
1991-92$33.001991-92 Ticket Price Graph1991-92 Season Pass Price Graph1991-92 Skier Visit Graph
1990-91$33.001990-91 Ticket Price Graph1990-91 Season Pass Price Graph1990-91 Skier Visit Graph
1989-90$30.001989-90 Ticket Price Graph1989-90 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 241989-90 Skier Visit Graph
1980s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1988-89$30.001988-89 Ticket Price Graph1988-89 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 91988-89 Skier Visit Graph
1987-88$28.001987-88 Ticket Price Graph1987-88 Season Pass Price Graph1987-88 Skier Visit Graph
1986-87$25.001986-87 Ticket Price Graph1986-87 Season Pass Price Graph1986-87 Skier Visit Graph
1985-86$20.001985-86 Ticket Price Graph1985-86 Season Pass Price Graph1985-86 Skier Visit Graph
1984-85$20.001984-85 Ticket Price Graph1984-85 Season Pass Price Graph1984-85 Skier Visit Graph
1982-83$18.001982-83 Ticket Price Graph1982-83 Season Pass Price Graph1982-83 Skier Visit Graph
1981-82$17.001981-82 Ticket Price Graph1981-82 Season Pass Price Graph1981-82 Skier Visit Graph
1980-81$15.001980-81 Ticket Price Graph1980-81 Season Pass Price Graph100,0001980-81 Skier Visit Graph
1979-80$13.001979-80 Ticket Price Graph1979-80 Season Pass Price Graph1979-80 Skier Visit Graph
1970s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1978-79$12.001978-79 Ticket Price Graph1978-79 Season Pass Price Graph1978-79 Skier Visit Graph
1976-77$11.001976-77 Ticket Price Graph$160.001976-77 Season Pass Price Graph14.5 days1976-77 Skier Visit Graph
1975-76$11.001975-76 Ticket Price Graph1975-76 Season Pass Price Graph1975-76 Skier Visit Graph
1974-75$10.001974-75 Ticket Price Graph1974-75 Season Pass Price Graph1974-75 Skier Visit Graph
1973-74$9.001973-74 Ticket Price Graph1973-74 Season Pass Price Graph1973-74 Skier Visit Graph
1972-73$9.001972-73 Ticket Price Graph1972-73 Season Pass Price Graph1972-73 Skier Visit Graph
1971-72$9.001971-72 Ticket Price Graph$120.001971-72 Season Pass Price Graph13.3 daysNovember 261971-72 Skier Visit Graph
1970-71$8.001970-71 Ticket Price Graph1970-71 Season Pass Price GraphNovember 27April 1180,0001970-71 Skier Visit Graph
1969-70$8.001969-70 Ticket Price Graph1969-70 Season Pass Price Graph68,0001969-70 Skier Visit Graph
1960s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1968-69$7.001968-69 Ticket Price Graph1968-69 Season Pass Price GraphMarch 301968-69 Skier Visit Graph
1967-68$6.501967-68 Ticket Price Graph1967-68 Season Pass Price Graph1967-68 Skier Visit Graph
1966-67$6.501966-67 Ticket Price Graph1966-67 Season Pass Price Graph1966-67 Skier Visit Graph
1965-66$6.001965-66 Ticket Price Graph1965-66 Season Pass Price Graph1965-66 Skier Visit Graph
1964-65$6.001964-65 Ticket Price Graph$80.001964-65 Season Pass Price Graph13.3 days1964-65 Skier Visit Graph
1963-64$6.001963-64 Ticket Price Graph1963-64 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 2420,0001963-64 Skier Visit Graph
1950s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1949-501949-50 Ticket Price Graph1949-50 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 101949-50 Skier Visit Graph
1940s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1948-491948-49 Ticket Price Graph1948-49 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 261948-49 Skier Visit Graph
1939-401939-40 Ticket Price Graph1939-40 Season Pass Price Graph14,5001939-40 Skier Visit Graph

Visitor Memories
"Skied a good part of my younger days at Butternut.Was on the ski Patrol with Ken Noad, Ski school with Einar, Coached Racing and Freestyle, and jumped over the tourist's heads on Lucifer's Leap. Had some really great days at Butternut...will always remember Jane and Channing. Thanks! BUTTERNUT."
Vic Radzevich, Jul. 9, 2014
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External Links
  • Ski Butternut - official site
  • Ski Butternut - Wikipedia
  • G-Bar-S Ranch - New England Lost Ski Areas Project
  • Last updated: February 5, 2020

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