Night owls light up the sky Thursdays at Bousquet Ski Area

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PITTSFIELD — A groomer hummed outside as the last of the skiers and snowboarders made their way into Bousquet Ski Area's Tamarack Lounge on a recent Thursday night. Just-N-Kace was in the midst of its weekly set, covering some throwback hits and, in the process, re-energizing some of the customers bearing the exhaustion of a night spent speeding down the mountain's slopes. When the band tried to wrap up around 10 p.m., many of those lining the bar, dining at tables and warming by the fire pit protested the group's departure.

"We're not leaving," a patron yelled.

Neither is night skiing at Bousquet. For decades, it has been a mainstay of the Pittsfield after-dark scene. While Bousquet offers skiing every night except Sundays through March 17, its Thursday Night Owl special allows customers to purchase lift tickets to ski from 3-9 p.m. for $10, half of the normal price.

"It gives people an opportunity to try an expensive sport at a reasonable rate," Bousquet Ski Area owner Sherry Roberts said, later noting that tubing is also $10.

In 1936, Bousquet became the first commercial ski area to light its slopes with the help of some General Electric engineers. Rest assured, the lighting is a little bit more high-tech these days.

"We had the new LED lights put in about four years ago, so I think the visibility is good," Roberts said.

The Thursday night special has been around for the duration of Roberts' more than 26 years at Bousquet. Its after-work and after-school potential for locals is unique.

"People can get out of work, come, ski for a couple hours, and you're not doing the two or three-hour drive," Roberts said. "It's very unusual for a small city to have a landmark ski area."

Night skiing is also attractive enough to draw visitors from Vermont, Northampton, Springfield and Albany, she added. Bousquet isn't currently selling day ski passes on weekdays.

"[That's] because we actually get more people at night than during the day," Roberts said.

Bousquet's ski season will end this year on March 17. Its annual St. Patrick's Day festivities will be held the day before.

"What we have always found in the past is after St. Patrick's Day, it starts slowing up. You have more sunlight," Roberts said of the end date.

When the sun goes down during the season, the Tamarack Lounge becomes a beacon for skiers looking to apres after their final runs.

"They can come, have a beer, have some fries and consider it a night out," Roberts said.

Live entertainment ensures that Thursday night fun at the mountain isn't limited to those donning snow pants and ski goggles, either.

"We even have some non-skiers that will come in and enjoy some good old-fashioned music," Roberts said.

The lounge offers burgers, sandwiches, salads and a full bar. Windows frame two sides of the restaurant, providing some views of the powder outside. A large projection screen supplements the other TV screens. And the fire pit is a magnet for snow enthusiasts in need of some thawing.

"It makes it cozy," Roberts said. "It's like an old-fashioned skiing hill."

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251.




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