MIDDLEFIELD — A typically busy day on the slopes was even more hectic at Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort because of its recent reopening and helmet requirement.
The park reopened at the end of November for the first time since 2007 with a new requirement that all skiers and snowboarders must wear helmets, regardless of skill level. In order to accommodate winter sports enthusiasts who don’t already own helmets, the ski park rents helmets. But an influx of people eager to get back out on the mountain meant wait times for rental were upwards of two hours on Monday.
Sean Hayes, CEO and one of the owners of Powder Ridge, said Monday that since the park had opened, roughly 40 percent of patrons were renting gear of some sort. Typically that’s around 25 percent, Hayes said.
“What that tells me is that we have a lot of inexperienced skiers and snowboarders out here, a lot of people either new to the sport, or dusting off their skis after 10 years of not using them,” Hayes said, “Those are exactly the people who should be wearing helmets, and I’m glad they are.”
Tom Loring, the park’s ski and snowboarding school director, said Powder Ridge has about 600 helmets available to rent.
They are also selling helmets at a discount for $60. A spokesman for Suburban Sports in Berlin said that helmets there start between $70 and $80, and go up well above that.
Loring and Hayes cited at least four incidents already this season when wearing a helmet has prevented injuries for skiers, keeping the cracked equipment as examples.
“We had one guy, 6 feet, 4 inches, 250 pounds, who walked in here and said he might have a slight concussion after crashing. He turns around, and the whole back of his helmet is cracked all the way down. That would have been his skull,” Hayes said.
While few doubt the safety benefit, the time spent waiting for them created headaches for more than a few would-be skiers.
“It seems like they’re just not ready,” said Vlad Shapiro, a Brighton, Mass. resident originally from the Ukraine.
“It’s a perfect storm for us today,” Hayes said of the crowding. “The Olympics inspire people to get back out here, it’s a beautiful day with some fresh snow on the ground, and people have the day off. So, we’re busy.”
By comparison, rental wait times at Mount Southington in Plantsville are around 20 minutes, general manager Edward Beckley said. The ski area does not require helmets or provide helmet rentals.
The ski area, which opened in 1959, closed in 2007 because of bankruptcy and sale proceedings. The town bought the 246-acre park in 2008 for $2.55 million.
The new owner, Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park of Portland, bought the property from the town in 2012 for $700,000. Brownstone anticipated spending more than $3 million to re-open and plans on staying open year-round. The pond on the mountain was doubled from its 4 million gallon capacity to 8 million gallons to create artificial snow.
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