By Dave Mongillo
(February 2015) Almost three years ago I asked General Manager, Sean Hayes about the future of the venerable, but long closed, ski area. “We want Powder Ridge Mountain Resort to be a family fun, outdoor winter adventure destination for our patrons”, said Hayes. Fast forward to today and the job is done. The rebirth is complete and the Ridge is in full operation.
There were many pains along the way however and many obstacles to overcome. “Everything that could be broken, was,” said Hayes about the task. “Almost everything here has been repaired, rebuilt or replaced. This is a new resort built on the foundations of the long dead ski hill.” “When we, Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park, started this project we envisioned creating a safe, family oriented, winter experience close to our potential customers”, said Hayes. “There were some problems along the way, but we are confident that we have done what we set out to do.” When asked about the bumps in the road, Hayes said there were many. “Wires and pipes were removed, stolen from all the buildings”, said Hayes. “And controls were taken from the lifts and snow making systems.” “The most difficult part of rebuilding the resort was today’s regulatory climate”, said Hayes. “For every nail you drive and hole you dig, you have to get a permit from several layers of government. Sometimes the paper work held up the project.”
Thanks to the return of a normal New England winter, with great snowmaking temperatures and finally ample snowfall, the ski conditions were great to fantastic when I visited the Ridge again. Every trail, from “Lower 747” over to “Shredwood Forest” and “The Chute” was covered with deep groomed powder. I even found some new soft fluff in the trees, but we won’t tell the Ski Patrol about that.
Under the cold stare of the accountants, we were told that the reborn Ridge would be a significant employer. Today, about three hundred people work there. I found the entire staff I encountered friendly, helpful, competent and informative. They seemed to be enjoying the job they were doing. A friendly staff helps to make any experience enjoyable. This isn’t the Motor Vehicle Dept.
Today’s Ridge is new, but very much the same as it’s forefather. The wide rolling trails are still there, as are some of the original lifts. You won’t find any detachable high speed quad lifts at this new Powder Ridge. I asked Hayes about future plans for uphill transport, and his reply was both interesting and business like. “For the last twenty years ski resorts have been in a lift race”, says Hayes. “They have been building bigger, faster, higher and stronger lifts, but the number of skiers has gone down. A new lift is a tremendous capital outlay. It can cost millions of dollars. Then, to keep the accountants and bankers happy, they raise ticket prices. We don’t want to do that. We want to increase the fun value for our visitors’, not the cost.”
The base lodge was probably the biggest challenge in the rebirth of the Ridge. Three years ago it was a complete wreck- unusable, and almost falling down. It was on the cusp of being condemned and ripped down. The rebuilt base lodge at the Ridge is a gem. On my last visit – a sun drenched midweek afternoon with new fallen snow covering the entire mountain – I found the lodge clean, un-crowded and welcoming.
The management at the reborn Powder Ridge is creating a safe, family friendly, winter adventure. They have adopted the Terrain Based learning program, or ski school, to build a good base for new snow sliders. They have brought in “Snow Biking” to bring new people into the outdoors in winter. They have a fledgling racing program, and hope to develop a viable race team for young skiers and boarders.
Now that they’re in full operation Powder Ridge Mountain Resort will survive and thrive. Their snowmaking, which was a problem early in the season, will improve. The upper level of the base lodge will be completed, and the whole resort will catch up with time. If you haven’t been to Powder Ridge in the last twenty years or so, I recommend you give the new resort a try. While the storms keep coming, get out there and leave your tracks in the new groomed snow. For more info visit: www.http://powderridgepark.com/