What You’ll learn here: How to enjoy the fun and safe outdoor adventure activity of zip lining, and how Berkshire East Ski Resort/Zip Lining Tour is using sustainable practices to build a family-friendly outdoor adventure “playground.”
When our family was in the Berkshire Mountains on vacation this past week with my sister and brother-in-law, we all decided to go zip lining. Our family were novices but Ellen and Bob were “pros,” having done it in Alaska and in Branson, Missouri before. For our novice zip lining experience, Ellen and Bob suggested the Mountain Top Tour, one of three zip line tours offered by Berkshire East Canopy Tours, a company featured by USA Today listed among the “Top 10 Zip Lines in the U.S.”
Although zip lining has been around for centuries as a way to cross ravines and valleys and to get supplies to remote locations, ski areas have recently been building zip line courses as a way to offer great summer outdoor adventure activities and to gain year-round revenue.
We signed off on the waiverwork, got “geared up” with harnesses and helmets, then we took the chair lift to the top of the mountain for a breathtaking view, then a short hike to the first zip line. At the top, our guides Patrick and Shannon explained “the rules” which were very simple: No hanging upside down or in-air somersaults (almost impossible to do); hold the taut harness line, not the steel cable; form a starfish with your body to slow down or a cannonball to speed up; don’t play with the gear; don’t worry about landing the platform exactly (if you’re coming in fast, they help catch you and the platform poles are well-padded. If you don’t quite make it to the platform, they have a pull rope they send out to attach and bring you in).
Then we were off!
I admit I’m a bit squeamish about heights so that first step was “pushing the envelope” for me, but once past that “leap of faith,” I loved the sensation of flying over the landscape. At each of the 7 zips, we did something a little different… on the second, they show you how to steer; a couple were platform-to-platform; some were ground landings; at one platform, they taught you how to go off backwards; on one you ran and leaped off a cliff (by the time you get to this one, you’re seasoned so it’s not as anxiety producing as it sounds); at one they teach you how to push off for extra speed and the sixth is the longest and highest (800′ long and 75′ above the ground). As a novice, I was concerned about taking my video camera and I used my little hand-held point-and-shoot non-HD Canon to capture the attached “down and dirty” video.
After the last zip, we took a chair lift back to the base where we ran into Christopher Loftus, Berkshire East’s Marketing Director, who told us about the company’s sustainability efforts. They’ve installed a 900kWh wind turbine that generates approximately 2.2 million kWh of electricity each year, or 100% of the electricity needed by the ski resort/zip line tour annually. He also shared that they are in the process of building a water reservoir, anticipated to be ready next year, that will sustain their winter snow making efforts.
At Berkshire East Canopy Tours, there are three zip line tours available:
- Base Area Tour - 4 zips from 380′ to 570′ long and up to 30′ off the ground. For ages 8 and up and weights from 70 lbs. to 275 lbs. Fees: Adult $30; Youth, Seniors and Military with ID $20. (Great for a taste of zip lining. Allow approximately 1 hour).
- Mountain Top Tour (described above) – 7 zip lines from 250′ to 800′ long and up to 75′ off the ground. For ages 8 and up and weights from 70 lbs. to 275 lbs. Fees: Adult $85; Youth, Seniors and Military with ID $75. (Allow approximately 2.5-3 hours).
- Valley Jump Tour – 6 zip lines from 700′ to 2600′ long, up to 50 mph and up to 185′ off the ground. For ages 12 and up and weights from 100 lbs. to 260 lbs. Fees: Adult $110; Youth, Seniors and Military with ID $100. (Allow approximately 3-3.5 hours).
Be sure to check out Berkshire East’s website for video of all three tour options.
For those considering zip lining for the first time, here are a few tips:
- Wear comfortable clothing, appropriate for the weather. Because you’re at the top of the mountain, it may be a bit cooler than where you’re staying.
- Avoid short shorts or the leg harnesses may be uncomfortable.
- Wear closed-toed flat shoes. No sandals and definitely no high heels.
- Don’t forget your camera or video camcorder. (Note: Not all zip lines allow cameras, but this one does)
- Consider putting on sun screen and/or bug repellant before you set out.
- Be sure to get your drink and use the rest room facilities before you leave. (There is a water station part way through the tour, but no rest room facilities)
- Don’t touch the steel zip line, especially when you’re moving.
- Superior safety standards mean you are always well-tethered anytime your feet are off the ground (in the air or on a platform).
- Look straight out when you step off, rather than down – it’s a lot easier that way!
- Listen to the staff.
- Have a blast!
This is a great activity for the kid in all of us and it was a highlight of our vacation!
Berkshire East Canopy Tour is open for zip lining from May through late October or early November, weather permitting (and they run tours, rain or shine). Reservations are strongly recommended because the tours are limited to 12 people and there are a limited number of tours each day. You can confirm tour hours by calling 413-339-6617 or selecting your tour and making your reservations online. Berkshire East is located at 66 Thunder Mountain Road in Charlemont, Massachusetts.
P.S. I have to send special thanks with our guides Patrick and Shannon who were great…reassuring, encouraging, informative and funny. Although just by chance, you don’t get to see much of Patrick in this video (Sorry Patrick!), he’s a hoot! The two definitely added to the experience and enjoyment factor.
P.P.S. Be sure to check out the winter adventures of skiing, snowboarding, tubing and lessons at Berkshire East too!