Thunderbolt Ski Race, Festival Return to Adams March 1

By Dan GigliottiiBerkshires Correspondent
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Hundreds attended last year's ThunderFest. The ski race may be dependent on the weather but the festival is a definite go for its third year.

ADAMS, Mass. — The outdoor winter event ThunderFest returns downtown in March, while the Thunderbolt Ski Race remains subject to weather conditions.

The two events are scheduled to coincide on Saturday, March 1. The ski race will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., barring poor weather conditions. Starting at noon, the Adams Visitors Center on Hoosac Street will host local musicians and vendors for an outdoor winter festival until 5 p.m.

Music by blues singer and guitarist Chris Kleeman and rock and reggae band Rebel Alliance will accompany a slate of craft beer from Wandering Star Brewery, a chowder cookoff and a number of kids' activities at the free event.

"The Thunderbolt and ThunderFest have become signature events for our community," Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said in a press release issued on Friday.

An awards ceremony will also take place to reward winners of the Thunderbolt competition.

The Thunderbolt Ski Race is scheduled to take place despite less-than-ideal weather conditions in each of the last two years, which led to cancellations in the days leading to the event.

The historic Thunderbolt race — 1.6 miles long with a vertical drop of 2,050 feet — has been modified since its inception in the 1930s, when it attracted world-class competitors from all over the western part of the world. Since then, the race has been divided into seven categories, including Alpine, Telemark, Snowboard, Women's Overall, The Ascent and the fastest overall times up and down the mountain for men and women respectively, or the "King and Queen of the Mountain."

Registration for the race is open at the Thunderbolt Ski Runners website through Feb. 15. Prospective racers must pay a membership fee of $25 to the Ski Runners, along with a non-refundable $75 registration fee for the race, which includes a dinner the night before the race and following its completion.

"It's been tough, because we've had two years in a row where it's been canceled," Paul Chojnowski said, a member of the Thunderbolt Ski Runners' group that has been working on the logistics of the race since October. "In New England, you can't really count on the weather. Instead, what we've done this year is put all our eggs in the basket for March 1."

This is the fifth attempt the Ski Runners have made to resurrect the historic Thunderbolt Race, beginning in 2010 with the 75th anniversary of the race's origin. The last successful race took place in 2011. Chojnowski said the process of organizing the race necessitates a lot of foresight and a good amount of fortune.

"It's our mission to put a race on each year. With so many logistical details that we have to attend, that we just go ahead with it," Chojnowski said.

Representatives of the race will examine the Thunderbolt trail to determine whether it is safe to race on, according to Chojnowski, though a cancellation can occur within days of the event.

In 2012 and 2013, town and race officials said in February the Thunderbolt Ski Race would take place based on favorable weather predictions, but were forced to cancel later in the month. Last year, a contingency of skiiers congregated atop the mountain for a group-skiing session, which is expected again this year, should the race be canceled.

In 2012, ThunderFest was established to complement the ski race, drawing hundreds of people to the Visitors Center for music and food. The festival runs with or without the race. Festivalgoers can also check out the Thunderbolt exhibit in the Visitors Center.

Tags: Thunderbolt,   Thunderfest,   

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