Day of racing, fun in Adams at Thunderbolt Ski Race


Photo Gallery: Thunderbolt Ski Race

ADAMS -- Hundreds of spectators gathered at the foot of Mount Greylock's "Big Schuss" to welcome racers from across the Northeast to the finish line of the 79th Anniversary Thunderbolt Ski Race on Saturday morning.

Mark Wallace, of Boston, a Williams College graduate, turned in the day's best downhill ski time of two minutes, 45 seconds -- 37 ticks off record time.

"This is just a cool event," Wallace said of the race, which the Thunderbolt Ski Runners group revived in 2010. "Once it started up again, I was psyched to get involved."

The quickest female skier of the day, Amanda Chilson, of North Adams, clocked in at 6:25.

Darren Ovitsky, Saturday's top snowboarder, finished in 4:12 and Dave Armet owned the best telemark ski time of 5:44.

But while the 1.6-mile race down the mountain is the most exhilarating portion of the race, it is also the quickest. An old school, backcountry race, the Thunderbolt requires competitors to first hike up the mountain.

The male and female fastest up and down earned the day's King and Queen of the Mountain honors. They were Jerimy Arnold, with a time of 58:45, and Chilson, at one hour, 30:08.

Skiers and snowboarders reported hard and fast conditions.

Eben Colby, a skier who wore a blazer and tie for his run, explained his outfit:

"I put the tie on because the skiing was unattractive," he joked.

Without the exhaustive efforts of the race committee, however, Saturday's skiing might not have been possible.

On Friday, a crew of around 15 went down the trail at a crawl, using snowshoes, rakes, shovels and sideslipping with skis to groom imperfections.

That did the trick.

After cancellations due to lack of snow in 2012 and 2013, racers and onlookers alike seemed exhilarated to be finally be having a race.

Many local skiers crossed the finish line, along with visitors from New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont and Eastern Massachusetts.

"The morale was so positive and people so excited, you couldn't help but smile," said Josh Chittenden, vice president of the Thunderbolt Ski Runners.

Following the event, more than 1,000 people gathered around the Adams Visitors Center for the post-race party, Thunderfest.

Charlie Sanders, author of "The Boys of Winter," about the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, was among the attendees.

The division included many natives of Adams, who learned to ski on the Thunderbolt course and attended the earliest incarnations of the race.

The accomplishment of becoming members of the 10th Mountain Division required exemplary mountaineering and ski skills. During World War II, these men fought in Italy against the Germans.

The race, Sanders said, so dear to these men and the history of Adams, is a "tradition worth preserving."

"It takes a great deal of love and affection for that trail to do the hard work it takes to maintain it, and it's absolutely worth it," Sanders said. "It's the same labor of love in 2014 that it was in 1936. I'd like to see the race become bigger and more celebratory as time goes on. I see a renaissance starting in Adams, and getting a race like this going again draws a lot of people."

According to Chittenden, such plans might become a reality. He said the Thunderbolt Ski Runners would like to make the 80th anniversary race one to remember.

To reach Phil Demers:
or (413) 281-2859.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD


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