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Snow Business: The Hill is Alive at Powder Ridge

The Middlefield snow sports area is alive and well.

The gazebo at the Powder Ridge summit. Photo Credit: Chris Dehnel
The gazebo at the Powder Ridge summit. Photo Credit: Chris Dehnel
Since talking with Powder Ridge owner Sean Hayes about three weeks ago, a visit to the Middlefield snow sports area was highly anticipated. That came last weekend. 

Now let's get one thing out of the way. Considering the place was a virtual ghost town at this time last season, I expected to encounter conditions that were, well, spartan. 

And that was the case to an extent. 

But remember, 12 months ago, the place was considered a lost ski area, a distant memory of snowboarding. So to get on the snow — in Connecticut, in the greater Hartford area, and at Powder Ridge — was truly remarkable. 

You know when it hit me? When I sat on the lift, pulled the bar down and looked at the chairs. Hayes said that, in salvaging them, he replaced the decking and gave them a fresh coat of paint, but they had a new look and feel to them. They looked clean.

Yes, the lodge is still being renovated and yes, the food was limited, But all that is being done at a a pretty quick pace. With that, I decided to concentrate on what Powder Ridge had so far in early 2014 rather than what it did not. 

Here are the highlights: 

Aside from the two main lifts up the center and on the bunny hill, the rental center really stands out. It is spacious and, even at peak hours, no one seemed to wait very long to get fitted and out the door. There were plenty of cool helmets in all kinds of cool colors to satisfy the helmet requirement at the mountain. 

The gazebo at the summit puts a nice touch for not only weddings in the warmer months, but it just gives the top of the hill a classy look. Last weekend, you could ski right into it and check out the views. 

Everyone on staff — and I mean everyone — had a smile, from Hayes to the lifties to the folks fitting rental boots. 

There were a few terrain-park elements to keep the younger crowd happy. 

An outdoor brick pizza oven and waffle station filled in the gap well while the marketplace and full-service restaurant are under construction. 

Here is what Powder Ridge is looking at when all is said and done: 

  • A Burton Riglet Park Learning area that "scopes the snow to alleviate the biggest fears about learning — the ability to stop and turn."
  • A full repair and snow sports service facility along with a ski and snowboard shop — "With reasonable prices." There are a few basic shop offerings already. 
  • Additional retail — including an artisan and crafter venue for the holidays. 
  • Hayes is hinting at using some of the 200 acres for a pick-your-own Christmas tree farm. 
  • Hilltop weddings at the summit gazebo. 
  • A full adventure-type outdoor recreation area for the warmer months. 

In terms of culinary, Powder Ridge has a five-year plan for offering three levels of food: 

  • Level 1 is to be a market-type area (yes the waffle house stays) with a full cafeteria.
  • Level 2 is to be a full-service tavern-type restaurant where one could get something like an angus burger.
  • Level 3 is to be "Fire at the Ridge," a fine dining restaurant presented by Chef Kevin Cottle, the Hell's Kitchen Season 6 runner-up. 

Chris Dehnel is a local editor at Patch. He has been writing about snow sports for about a dozen years and is a past president of the Eastern Ski Writers Association. His Snow Business column runs weekly during the season.
Cindy January 12, 2014 at 06:52 PM
Every time I am up there skiing I have to pinch myself. Is this really happening? Is the mountain really open again after all these years and all the battles and all the deals that fell through? Sometimes I just cannot believe it. Yes, the mountain is pretty bare bones right now but I don't care one bit. I am just so happy it is open again and am looking forward to the continual expansion and improvement. I look at all the people working there, all the jobs it has created, all the families with kids having fun, children learning to ski, teenagers enjoying the outdoor recreation instead of playing video games.... It is just so wonderful. We are blessed as a town to have this back.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT January 12, 2014 at 07:48 PM
We all wish PR to the best. One thing that needs to be addressed before next season is the SNOW MAKING. Mount Southington and Ski Sundown are 100% open with a snow base of between 24"-55". Mohawk has 20 of 25 trail open with 24"-48" base. PR is closed. Ct has had hundreds of hours of good to great weather for snow making. One other thing, The Middlefield Trail is one trail not two. Upper Middlefield and Lower Middlefield. Come on be honest.
Scott Wheeler January 12, 2014 at 09:56 PM
The count of trails is an industry standard "food for Thought", the middlefield can be accessed from other trails so upper and lower. You must really be pissed about Obama care's slow rollout, something that really matters, to continue to post your non educated posts regarding the ridge.
Cindy January 12, 2014 at 11:12 PM
I spoke with Sean Hayes about the snow making. The reason that Southington and Mohawk have snow and PR does not is because they had a month head start on making snow. PR, due to its slow awakening and numerous delays, did not have their snow making ready to go until a few weeks ago. Therefore, they were not able to create a 4 foot base like the other resorts to withstand all the rain and warm weather. I don' t think this will happen next year as they will be up and running earlier in the season.
Scott Wheeler January 27, 2014 at 09:54 PM
"food for thought"....have you been to the slopes lately? The base is getting thicker and I had an outstanding experience this past Sunday on the slopes. If you want we can experience the slopes together this Sunday since I will be there getting in some runs.

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