The 75th Running of the Thunderbolt Downhill Race

It's one wicked-old ski race in New England.
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Thunderbolt Ski Race

While the cowbell whackers of the world will unite at the Olympics this February, Right Coasters will gather for an entirely different ski race on home turf, a race that has hosted legends and Nazis alike. On February 20, skiers and boarders will stand atop western Massachusetts’s 3,491-foot Mount Greylock for the 75th running of the Thunderbolt Downhill on a steep and narrow trail that was once New England’s premier downhill course. There are no lodges or chair lifts; the only way to the start gate is by hiking or skinning.

The Thunderbolt was originally cut and cleared by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934, with the first race held the next year. From 1935 through World War II, the course attracted world-class racers and drew fans by the thousands thanks to a ski train that came from Manhattan. Competitors included Aspen legend Dick Durrance and Toni Matt, who famously straightlined the headwall at Tuckerman Ravine in 1939. In 1938, when Greylock hosted the U.S. Eastern Downhill Championships, Nazi Germany entered a team. Later, after skiers abandoned the course in favor of lift-served ski hills, it gradually deteriorated until it was just another hiking trail in the Mount Greylock State Reservation, skied by no one but a few devoted Thunderbolt Downhill racers. And we all know what happened to the National Socialist Party.

But after years of backbreaking course restoration by the Thunderbolt Ski Runners—a handful of local volunteers and history buffs—the Thunderbolt has risen again. The racers will compete in six categories: alpine, telemark, snowboard, female, fastest ascent, and, of course, the vintage-gear class. With all 120 race spots filled by early November, the ’Bolt is poised to reclaim some of its past glory. Hopefully no one invites the Nazis. —Todd Felton



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Although heli-skiing in North America dates back to the 1960's, it wasn't until Alaska burst onto the scene in the 1990's when skiers and riders became fixated on the dream to heli-ski. Heli-skiing and more specifically the idea of of heli-skiing are now engrained in ski culture. We’re hooked on the idea of accessing what we believe could be the run of our lives. Heli or no heli, that's the ticket; the feeling of the best run of your life. But the reality of the matter is that heli-skiing is not cheap. Sure, it can be done on a dirt bag’s dime at some operations, but for most of us, putting in the time and effort isn’t realistic. So if you're not able to go heli-skiing this year, why not take a trip to a ski town that offers the chance to get the equivalent of a heli-run-steep lines, limited crowds, and most importantly, untouched snow- every day there's fresh snow. Here's a breakdown of three places you can do just that. Each area has a unique lift, a varying amount of skiable terrain and vertical, and a thirsty group of hard core locals who wait patiently hours before the lift opens to make sure they get an untracked run each powder day—what they deem as the "free" heli-runs they get with each season pass purchase.

Three Inbounds "Heli" Runs

All skiers should have the chance to feel what it’s like to heli-ski. But if you don’t have the dough or can’t make the trip to a heli-pad this year show up to one of these resorts on a powder day, wait patiently in the dark with the locals, and seize your chance to be one of the first to slice through some of the most sought after lift-accessed terrain in the world.