Stan Kopala: The Godfather of Greylock (Robert Dodge)
Published on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 in Guest Columns, News & Updates, Vintage
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A true story. At one time or another, most of us have gone riding on beautiful Mt. Greylock. Located in the western part of Massachusetts with its peak reaching 3,491 feet, one can view four states from the top. If you’ve never been, you should put that on your things to do list. If you have been, you’ll know that between the state and the surrounding clubs, the trails are very well taken care of.

When I lived in Pittsfield, Greylock was just up the road a few miles, so I would use it as a starting point. Most times, my wife, our two sons, and I would stick to the main trails. We would head out towards Savoy or maybe to Worthington, but always starting from Greylock. Anyway the wind blew, we didn’t care as long as we were riding. Sometimes we would just take a ride to the top, head over to Brodie Mt. Ski Area, have lunch, watch a couple skiers do what they do best, then go home. Sometimes we would take the trail less traveled. On the Adams side of the mountain I always noticed the secondary trails were a little more “fine-tuned.”

Stan Kopala with Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts

Once in the late 1980’s I was up on top of Mt. Greylock at 9:30 am, on a cold – and I do mean cold – Saturday morning with my old riding buddy, Steve Mix from Savoy. I commented on the secondary trail system. Steve told me the secondary’s were usually maintained by the local clubs, and one particular “individual” took responsibility to make sure some “other” trails were taken care of. The name of the individual soon slipped my mind as Steve and I took our Yamaha’s out on those trails. It was some of the best ridding I had done at that point, and it was right in my own backyard!

Occasionally I would go out for a little ride on my day off. I’ve always been a bit of a wonderer, and would explore more and more of these trails. There are a lot of trails on that one mountain!

As the years passed, I made Mt. Greylock my personal stomping grounds, not so much getting to know the names of the trails, just getting to know the trails and the mountain itself. Once you’ve been up there, something just keeps bringing you back. Anyhow, as time passed on and my career kicked into a higher gear, I started working more and riding less. I really hate it when that happens. The few times I did get out to ride, it would always be Mt. Greylock.

The Summit of Greylock Mountain in the winter

Once when I was out on a secondary trail and stopped to help someone, the guy commented on the trail system and mentioned that “individual’s” name who took care of a lot of trails up there. A little Belt Changing 101 and he was on his way… and I forgot the “individual’s” name once more. Outfoxed again! I wanted to meet this “individual.” I had heard that he did a lot for this mountain, and I loved this mountain, too, but I couldn’t even remember his name.

I was at a Savoy Kanary Kats’ meeting when someone mentioned the “individual’s” name and said that would be a story they would like to see… hmmm! I called Dan Gould, and before I could even get the words out, he said, “You know, you should do a story about you know who.” That’s the guy! That’s the name of the individual whose name I could never remember!

I called the “individual,” set up an interview, but never got there! I got injured and had to put everything on hold. Then I had other stories that were time sensitive that had to be done right away. I was wondering if the interview would ever materialize. It seemed like every time we tried to get together something would happen. It was turning into a ghost story.

Stan Kopala and snowmobile friends at Greylock Mountain

Finally we met. Folks, meet Stan Kopala. His friends call him the Silver Fox. With a nickname like that, no wonder he eluded me so long! Stan, a native and life-long resident of Adams, started skiing when he was 8 years old. His passion was to be out in the cold and take-in what the great wintery outdoors had to offer. By the age of 15 Stan was a member of the Thunderbolt Ski Club located on – you guessed it – Mt. Greylock! In 1951 he went into the Army and trained as a medic, serving in Pusan South Korea before being discharged in 1953.

Once back home Stan worked as a carpenter. Still a member of a couple of different ski clubs, Stan helped to organize events such as races and rescues, even working as an instructor. In the winter of 1969-1970 Stan was returning home from skiing at Chickley Alps, which use to be in Charlemont, when he saw some folks on their snowmobiles at the Savoy store, and thought, boy that looks like a lotta fun. Shortly thereafter, he bought his first sled from Ronnie’s in Adams – a new Yamaha 338.

Stan joined the Adams Sno-Drifters and immediately became a huge asset for that club. Knowing the town, its people, the hills, and Greylock, this man was tailor-made for the sport.

Gould's Farm at Mt Greylock

In 1970 Stan became the first SAM Delegate for the Sno-Drifters, a title he held for nearly 40-plus years! He was club president in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, has always put on a couple of rides a year, has helped local law enforcement in numerous rescues, and has even helped locate and assist with two plane crashes on Greylock.

He helped organized and put on the annual 100 Miler Ride from 1977 to 1988, only missing one year due to a lack of snow. Stan also put on the Endurance Ride. In 1994 Stan was presented the SAM Snowmobiler of the Year Award, in 1997 he was honored as the SAM Trail Worker of the Year. He has always been an advocate of safety, as well as informed the media on events and promoting snowmobiling. Nothing more, nothing less. And all of that on the club level.

Now let’s talk about what Stan has done on his own. If you were to look at a snowmobile map of Mt. Greylock, you would see Gould Road on the right side of the map, which leads to Gould Farm. It’s above the Greylock Glen, which never got developed, but that’s a story within itself. Years ago, Stan befriended Margie Gould who owned the farm (Editors note, Margie passed away in 2013). If you were to look a Mt. Greylock from the Adams side, it’s estimated the Gould Farm spreads half way up the mountain. Stan had a good working relationship with this lady and his knowledge of the mountain from his earlier skiing days gave Stan the opportunity to spend time where he wanted to the most, on Greylock. Like they say, the rest is history.

Stan Kopala snowmobiling to the peak of Mt Greylock

Many events, like the 100 Miler, The Endurance Ride, and different rallies, all started from Gould’s Farm. According to Stan, Margie would come out and see what’s going on, and sometimes even participate in the happenings; after all, Margie was a rider as well. How many times have you see that, a private landowner who let’s you use her property for club events or private functions? Margie, I tip my hat to you. Thank you.

Some of the trails on Greylock were single handily cut by Stan. His son helped his father out on one trail when he was about 13 years old. He worked on it start to finish. Stan rewarded him by naming the trail after him, David’s Pass.

Stan and the crews were always careful not to harm what Mother Nature had built around them. Something he holds close to his heart is the natural beauty of the woods. It’s easy to see that this man truly enjoys spending time outdoors where everyone benefits from his efforts.

Stan Kopala on his Yamaha snowmobile at Greylock

Snowmobilers are very lucky to have such an individual who is willing to share his ideas and commitment to our sport. Stan’s only real complaint is vandalism, “It’s discouraging to do well and then have someone ruin it.” This accomplished man has done well on more than one level. All the while fulfilling his dreams and putting his thoughts forward, Stan managed a career as a carpenter, raised three children, John, David, and Nancy, with his wife Sylvia, who always supported his efforts.

Stan served as a member of the Greylock Advisory Board, since 1975, the longest serving member ever! A little known fact, the first three SAM maps had pictures of Mt. Greylock on them, all taken by Stan. A separate picture of the summit also won him a photo contest and a page on a calendar.

All this success didn’t come without its close calls. Once Stan and David were on Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield and Stan fell through the ice with his sled. He managed to get out, got on the other sled with David, went about 35 feet and then both of them broke thru the ice. He chuckled when he spoke of that day. “It cost me a bundle of money to get the sleds out, but at least my boy and I were okay. That was a close one, twice.”

Stan Kopala and David Kopala at Mt Greylock

As I left Stan’s house on that chilly November evening, I was extremely overwhelmed at the fact that I finally got to meet the guy who does so much for Mt. Greylock. A place I truly enjoy going to any time of year, not just winter. As I pulled my pickup out of Stan’s driveway, I had a perfect view of Mt. Greylock, with its bright red and white lights. At that moment a thought came to me: What would Stan be without Mt. Greylock? But then, what would Mt. Greylock be without Stan?

Photos from Stan Kopala’s archives

A version of this story originally appeared in “On The Trails With SAM” in 2009.

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