In response to the frequently asked question regarding which of the different race venues you should attend, the obvious answer is of course: all of them!
But to provide more of a "big picture" overview for the different race venues thereby allowing you to compare/contrast them more easily, without referencing the detailed course layout pages, here are some descriptions.
"The Beast" @ Berkshire East
By far the most eclectic and transition-intense venue!
As if prior years weren't eclectic enough, the 2017 course includes skinning up open ski trails, closed ski trails, mountain bike trails, purpose-cut skintrack in the woods, work roads, and underneath a lift for maximize visibility (try to pass the lift riders!).
All the skinning is on very efficient grades.
Two bootpacks: both STEEP!
The skiing is steep but usually groomed (unless the Liftline and/or Beast trails are open, which they usually aren't at this time of year).
And since the shortened course option skips all the bootpacks and partial descents (i.e., as opposed to the typical venue's shortened course option of skipping a final lap or two), participants of different speeds are often mixing it up along the way.
Read the detailed description and you do the math!
(Might be 25...)
Overall, if you're looking for a first-ever rando race, the Berkshire East shortened-course option (i.e., just skinning & skiing, five laps or even less) is probably your best introduction to the sport.
(And if you're a seasoned vet, then dial in those transitions beforehand!)
[Caveat: significant changes pending for 2018 from ski resort's planned expansion to NE face of Mount Institute.]
"The 'Bolt" @ Mount Greylock
[On hold for 2017, but preserved here pending a return in some future year.]
The Northeast's only 100% backcountry rando race!
With backcountry conditions for both the up & down (as well as for waiting around at the start & finish), this is a race only for skiers with prior backcountry experience.
Starting with 2015, the full competitive course entails only two laps (i.e., as compared to the more complicated three-lap layout in 2014).
But each lap goes all the way from the base at Greylock Glen to the summit (which is often bitterly cold and windy, even when conditions are warm and sunny down low).
The descents are long, with variable backcountry conditions, and without any groomed terrain for a rest.
Although the 2015 layout entailed only three transitions, plus a very short off-skis portage, the course has since been modified to include a bootpack (and additional partial descent) on "The Big Bend"!
Overall, although this course has only a relatively modest ~5,000' vertical, the challenge is far from modest -- but the reward is worth it!
"The Magic" @ Magic Mountain
[On hold pending gauging sufficient interest to reschedule.]
Fast efficient skinning, a very steep bootback (only for the full competitive course), and skiing that is either difficult (if Black Line is our best option) or even far more difficult (if Red Line is open).
Overall, if you want straightforward efficient ascents combined with tough descents, then this is your race venue!
(And pending landowner negotiations, the course might be combined with the defunct yet still maintained Timber Ridge ski area.)
The smallest mountain in the series but the most accessible to the most number of skiers.
Fast efficient skiing followed by a challenging partial descent, leading into a skin>boot>skin partial ascent, then a full descent.
Repeat, then repeat again!
(If this circuit sequence sounds familiar to Berkshire East, then yes, same general plan to max out the cumulative vertical of a relatively small hill without going through the same circuit more than three times.)
"The Sun" @ Bromley Mountain
Fast efficient skinning, without any bootpacks.
Lots of moguls (rerouting starting in 2015 to eliminate almost all the groomers), but only lower-expert pitch, and southern exposure in mid-March.
Overall, well, it's fun!
"Something Bigger @ Sunday River
The best overall course layout in Eastern North America.
Nothing else even comes close.
[Period -- or should that be an exclamation mark?]
Sunday River's unique layout of a series of adjacent peaks combined with a segregation between the upper and lower peaks allows for an out-and-back tour while not repeating, overlapping, and/or intersecting any of the "out" vs. "back" segments.
The skinning is efficient and the skiing is challenging.
Plus a bootpack too.
Be there or miss out in a big way!