With Franklin County’s rural landscape featuring more than 75 percent of its acreage in forest and open land, it is no surprise that winter recreation abounds. Whether your destination is a resort or multi-activity facility or a quiet pond, the most rural county in Massachusetts is sure to please. From downhill and cross-country skiing to snowshoeing and snowmobiling, we’ve got your winter adventures covered. Bring your sports equipment and hit one of the many state forest trails, or travel light and check out the full-service options at Berkshire East or Northfield Mountain. Make it a weekend and stay at a cozy inn or rustic cabin and dine out for delicious meals of locally sourced foods and be sure to sample local micro brews, wine, or spirits.
Berkshire East Mountain Resort
With 47 trails on more than 180 acres, Berkshire East is on the map as southern New England’s winter adventure destination. The resort offers downhill skiing, snowboarding, and a snow tube park, along with updated facilities and full equipment rental. New to skiing? Take a beginner lesson. Or up your game and sign up for the Mountain Master Camp, a fun, intensive coaching program designed to elevate your skills and take your skiing to the next level in a small group setting. Be sure to check current conditions before heading out.
Come in from the slopes and warm up at the onsite Crazy Horse Bar and Grill offering a full bar, beers on tap, a great wine selection and a satisfying menu, plus cozy tables by the fire. Extend your stay at the resort’s Warfield House Inn, a former New England family farm on a breathtaking 530 acres overlooking the scenic Mohawk Trail and Deerfield River.
Here’s an interesting fact: The Berkshire East resort has onsite renewable energy powering 100 percent of its state-of-the-art snowmaking, making it the only ski area in the world to produce all of its own electricity.
With all of these amenities so close by, skip the crowds and the long drive to other resorts and spend more time out on the slopes at Berkshire East!
99 Millers Falls Road, Northfield, MA, 800-859-2960, website
Open Wednesday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Open on Monday holidays.
This full-service facility in Northfield offers regularly groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing as well as equipment rental and lessons. If you time it right, you can catch some of the year-round naturalist programs like full-moon snowshoe outings and winter wildlife tracking. Check the schedule here.
Northfield Mountain has more than 25 miles of trails designed specifically for cross-country skiing and groomed for both classical and free-style skiing. It offers some of the finest Nordic skiing in the region, from beginner trails to the demanding 800-foot vertical climb of Tenth Mountain Trail.
More than six miles of trails are reserved exclusively for snowshoeing. The trails meander through scenic sections of the mountain, with great views from Rose Ledges. Free snowshoe trail tickets must be picked up at the ski shop before heading out. Snowshoe rentals are available.
Before heading out, call the 24-hour Snow Phone for the most current conditions: 800- 859-2960 or check out the Trails Report on Facebook. The trail system is closed to all users on Mondays and Tuesdays, except holiday openings. Equipment rental is available as well as combination packages that include rentals, trail fees and lessons. For those with very young children, pulls may be rented for $5 per hour.
Winter sports at state parks and conservation areas
With fresh air and room to roam, Franklin County boasts 13 state forests with ample recreational access. Hiking trails are great for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing if you have your own equipment and are not seeking groomed trails. Venture into these forests for scenic views and enchanting trails.
Erving State Forest, Erving, MA
This dramatic and undeveloped landscape covering 4,479 acres offers cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, hiking and snowshoeing.
Mt. Grace State Forest, Warwick, MA
This site encompasses 1,689 acres including Massachusetts’ third highest peak with access for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking.
Wendell State Forest, Wendell, MA, 413-659-3797
This is one of the few state parks with groomed trails and limited equipment available. Featuring 7,900 acres including groomed cross-country ski trails, snowmobiling, hiking, snowshoeing and ice skating. Seated skiing and ice-skating equipment is available for use in the winter.
Mohawk Trail State Forest, Charlemont, MA
Spanning 6,457 acres in the towns of Charlemont, Savoy, Florida and Hawley, Mohawk Trail State Forest is one of the most scenic woodland areas in Massachusetts featuring mountain ridges, gorges, woods and a variety of plant and animal life. You can cross-country ski, hike, and snowshoe up to some of the most amazing tall, aged, old growth trees in the state! Year round cabins are available.
Monroe State Forest, Monroe, MA, 413-339-5504
A rugged landscape of valleys and mountains, this 4,321-acre forest in southern and central Monroe and Florida offers a scenic lookout platform at the side of Hunt Hill with several miles of trails for cross-country skiing, hiking and snowmobiling. You are likely to come across cellar holes and stone walls from when the forest was farm land in the 19th century.
Roadside Adventures – Ice Climbing
Just get out of your car and look up. One of the most thrilling of winter experiences is ice climbing. As one climber described, “It is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.”
As the adventure capital of the region, Charlemont has one of the most dependable ice climbing spots with roadside ice as high as 40 feet at what is known to climbers as the Zoar Road Cut, a mile and a half up Zoar Road and the Deerfield River from Route 2 west of Charlemont Center. The more snow there is, the better the ice. Another dependable ice spot is at Farley Ledge in Erving . This ledge looms over Route 2 about four miles east of the Connecticut River. Being south facing, the best ice is in the shade of hemlocks on the upper left side.
More about ice climbing can be found at neice.com .
If the weather cooperates and the outdoor ice is safe, glide along some of the ponds at state parks like Wendell State Forest. Manmade ice might be available outside at Beacon Field and Green River Park in Greenfield. Northfield Golf Club allows public skating on their pond in the winter. If you’re going out on a pond or lake, put safety first and never go out on the ice alone. As the winter heads into spring, use extreme caution as the condition of older ice varies and can change quickly. If you prefer to skate indoors, try the Collins/Moylan Arena at 41 Barr Ave. in Greenfield. Public skating is $5; skate rental is $5. The public ice-skating facility is overseen by the Department of Conservation and Recreation and has a full-service pro shop. For more information, call 413-772-6891.
There is a vast network of snowmobile trails in Franklin County. The Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts works to develop and maintain an expanding interconnected snowmobile trail system, allowing snowmobile enthusiasts to travel from Worcester County to the Berkshires safely. There are numerous snowmobile clubs in Franklin County. Memberships to the Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts are available through affiliated clubs and provide lawful access to the interconnected trail system. Check sledmass.com.
If you’re 15 years old or older you need a license to fish the fresh waters of Massachusetts. All fishing licenses are valid from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. License costs are $27.50 for residents above age 17 and $11.50 for residents between age 15 and 17. Non-resident fishing licenses cost $37.50 a year. Three-day non-resident fishing licenses cost $23.50 for people above age 17 and $11.50 for people between the ages of 15 and 17. Licenses can be purchased online or at most town halls, at local bait shops and at designated retail stores.
Once you have a license, try these spots for ice fishing:
Lake Wyola in Shutesbury
Lake Mattawa in Orange
Ashfield Lake in Ashfield
Ruggles Pond at Wendell State Forest.
And when you’re done with the winter activities…