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Powder Ridge instructors from left, Ryan Wearne, Scott Douglas and Eddie Beaudry are proud to be part of the park's inaugural season. | (Keith Hagarty / Special to Town Times)

Powder Ridge instructors share love of mountain

(This is the second in a Town Times series of stories about Powder Ridge ski resort. The recently re-opened facility has attracted the interest of winter sports enthusiast throughout the state and region and put the spotlight on Middlefield-Durham.)

When ski instructor Scott Douglas made the decision to join Powder Ridge Mountain Park & Resort for its inaugural 2013-2014 season, he envisioned a great ride.

“When I first got here, the first thing I saw was potential—just look at the amazing potential of this mountain,” said Douglas, who came to Powder Ridge after working as an instructor at Thunder Ridge Ski Area in New York since 2008. He also serves as the facility’s video-grapher. “Even though, at the time, it was grass and green and everything, I can spot a slope when I see it.”

From first-timers young and old to those looking to brush up on their skills, the team of Powder Ridge ski and snowboard instructors is helping skiers and snowboarders develop the confidence and ability to succeed on the park’s 16 trails across more than 80 skiable acres.

Douglas said Powder Ridge instruction is focused on terrain-based learning. Terrain-based learning prepares the physiology of the first-time skier’s body for what to expect on the slopes while in the safety and comfort of a controlled learning environment. “Terrain-based learning is phenomenal,” he said.

The slope designer at Powder Ridge is Chad Snyder. “It’s fascinating because the terrain helps you to carve your turns, and helps give you the rolling sensation of actual downhill skiing,” Douglas said. “It’s nice because they have more confidence and relaxes them when they leave this area when they hit the big mountain, as opposed to hitting the big hill, and being like, ‘oh no, I haven’t felt this before.’”

Douglas has seen many different types of ski terrain. He and his wife, Patricia, also a Powder Ridge instructor, take trips to the mountains of Utah in the offseason to go cliff skiing. “Powder Ridge is the hidden jewel in their own backyard,” he said. “This is something that’s a part of Connecticut that people just haven’t had in a long time.”

Instructor Emily Santella has been teaching skiing for the last seven years. “It’s been fantastic,” she said of her first season at Powder Ridge. “The Zen feeling here is so cool. The staff is wonderful to work with, and have such a great, positive attitude. Everybody is in this together getting it going.”

Santella said, “I knew that Tom Lauring, the head of the ski school, would put together a fantastic staff, and he did.”

There is no one size fits all approach to ski instruction, according to Santella. Each session is a unique to the person with the goal of helping him or her feel comfortable on the slopes.

“I had an instructor once tell me that skiing is 90 percent above the shoulders,” she said. “It’s all mental. Once you can get it in your head and relax, you’ll be successful.

Snowboard instructor Eddie Beaudry said, “Hearing this place was opening back up, I just had to apply, having some of my best memories here growing up.” The first time he visited the Powder Ridge slopes as a second grader with his elementary school ski club and parents. “The first day I sat on that chairlift, I thought, ‘wow, I can’t believe I’m back here eight years later.’”

The crowds at Powder Ridge have been consistent and flowing, according to Beaudry who is certificated by the American Association of Snowboarding Instructors.. “It’s huge now, especially with it being in the Olympics. That next weekend right after the Olympics started, we saw a huge explosion of lessons. The first night of the Olympics was snowboarding slope style, and it was a Thursday night, so that Saturday we we’re absolutely packed with lessons.”

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