2020 Thunderbolt Ski Race

The Thunderbolt Ski Race returns to Mount Greylock on Saturday.

Hiking Mount Greylock may be common for Berkshire County residents, but the NE Rando Race Series offers a challenge for those a bit more ambitious.

The Series, sanctioned races by the United Stakes Ski Mountaineering Association, will host The Thunderbolt Ski Race at Mount Greylock, home of the highest point in the state, on Saturday.

“Anything on Mount Greylock is special and looking at it from a distance is beautiful,” said Jonathan Shefftz, the director of the NE Rando Race Series.

Saturday will mark the second-straight and fifth time in eight years that Greylock has hosted a race.

“It can be hard to organize in the backcountry, which is why so many races happen at ski resorts,” Shefftz said. “The infrastructure at Greylock makes it easier. Backcountry conditions are always challenging, but that is what makes a ski mountaineering race.”

Mountaineers will gather, from a distance, at the bottom of the Greylock at 9:30 a.m., before making three trips up and down the mountain.

“Backcountry races emphasis different skills,” Shefftz said. “What is special is that each course is different, some focus on hiking skills and others focus on skiing skills.”

Preparation for the race began in September with trail maintenance, but an ice storm in early January did a bit of damage.

“Once it was skiable, I brought a chainsaw attached to my backpack [to clear the trail],” Shefftz said. “The course was marked on Monday and we went back [Wednesday] to do a bit of re-rooting. [Thursday] we will mark transition zones and critical turns.

“Saturday morning the ski patrols will take their stations and we should be good.”

A United States Ski Mountaineering Association membership is needed to partake in the race, along with flu vaccine proof.

2:30 p.m. is the cutoff time to finish and is usually followed by a celebration at the PNA in Adams, but mountaineers will have to leave after finishing their run, due to COVID-19 protocols.

“Its sad not getting together after, but it is still great seeing people from a distance,” Shefftz said.

Shefftz is in his 13th season organizing events and it was becoming second-nature — until the pandemic hit.

“I spent more time preparing this season than all prior seasons combined,” Shefftz said. “We figured it out, people have cooperated and we feel very safe [racing].”

The powder was light on Wednesday, but mountaineers know that Mother Nature can add another layer of challenges.

“The unpredictability makes it interesting,” Shefftz said. “At a mountain like Greylock with snow, you never know what to expect.”

More information about Saturday’s race at Mount Greylock, and the NE Rando Race Series, is available on the program’s website.

Jake Mendel can be reached at jmendel@berkshireeagle.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-464-3655.