Seasons Magazines

Seasons Magazines

In the Snow

By John Torsiello


When winter comes calling, many Connecticut residents head outside into the cold and snow, eager to get to the groomed slopes or woodland trails with skies strapped to their feet. Skiing and snowboarding are not only fun but also are great cardio exercises. According to the Compendium of Physical Activities, a 200-pound elite skier moving downhill at 8 miles per hour or faster burns a whopping 1,300 calories an hour while a 150-pound person burns 1,000 calories an hour.


Cross-country skiing is an excellent workout even for those of us who are not elite skiers. A 200-pound person skiing at 2.5 miles an hour will still burn roughly 600 calories per hour, according to the Compendium, and for a 150-pound person, that’s about 460 calories an hour.


Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort in Middlefield is a full-service, year-round urban mountain sports park and resort. It features skiing, snowboarding and tubing during the winter. The 225-acre facility is centrally located at the junction of all the major throughways, providing easy access to the over 23 million people within a 90-mile radius.


“The lodge at Powder Ridge offers a cafeteria, retail store and open seating for winter guests,” said Laura Loffredo, director of sales and marketing. “On the second floor of the lodge is where you will find year-round Fire at The Ridge Restaurant and Tavern, plus 10 hotel rooms.”


“We were very busy during the winter last season—families are looking for a safe outdoor environment and have found a renewed love of the sport and want to share the experience with their children,” Loffredo added. “The mountain has been upgraded with the snow-making equipment, snow-grooming vehicles, and updated aerial and surface lifts. We are also expanding the snowtubing area that includes interstellar night sessions under glow lights and music.”


Loffredo said most of the skiers and snowboarders at Powder Ridge come from central Connecticut and some from New York State. The facility has 20 trails on 80 acres and has a peak vertical run of 550 feet.


“We pride ourselves on being a teaching mountain,” she explained. “The Learning Area utilizes sculpted snow to give beginners high-level skiing sensations without the fear or risks of falling and stopping.”


Mount Southington Ski Area is also a family-friendly place to ski and snowboard. The area claims to have the only man-made mini half-pipe in the state for snowboarders. Mount Southington has 14 trails for skiing on 514 acres with the highest trail having an elevation of 425 feet. The area offers night skiing and has seven lifts of various sizes so there is no waiting to reach the top of the trail for skiing.


“Our team at Mount Southington is what makes us special,” said Brian McClusky, the guest services and marketing manager for the area. “We have dedicated employees, many of whom return season after season because they have a passion for snow sports and love being involved. Our snowmaking and grooming teams put out a consistently great product, which allows for skiers and riders of all abilities to get out and enjoy the terrain. Our Snow Sports School does a phenomenal job of teaching all ages and abilities how to improve and keep the sport fun.”


“New for this year is our partnership with Snow Operating to bring terrain-based learning to Mount Southington,” McClusky continued. “We will be setting up a dedicated space in the beginner area to create features that help people new to skiing and riding to be able to get sliding on snow faster than in a traditional lesson.”


Like other ski areas, Mount Southington tries to get up and running as early in December, but that, of course, is dependent on the weather.


“We need about five days of consistently below freezing temperatures to be able to open up,” said McClusky.


Mount Southington draws customers from the surrounding towns but has also seen an increase in recent years from lower Fairfield and Westchester Counties, stated McClusky. “We also see a good amount of people from New Haven County.”


“We do a great job with our children’s ski lessons and that is one of the programs that draws families in. We have quite a few programs for our juniors. Our children’s program lessons on the weekends are single two-hour sessions for ages four to nine,” explained McClusky about how Mount Southington caters to families. “We also offer Wildthings, which is a four-week program for more intermediate junior skiers as well as an Intro to Alpine Ski Racing and Intro to Freestyle program, which are both eight-week programs for kids interested in learning alpine ski racing or freestyle skiing. All of our lesson programs are very popular.”


Mohawk Mountain, located in Cornwall in the northwest corner of the state, was built on the northwest slope of Mohawk Mountain by Walt Schoenknecht, a pioneer in snowmaking. It opened in 1948. It is a popular destination for both day and night skiers and snowboarders in the tri-state area of New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. It is approximately a 95-mile ride to Mohawk Mountain from Manhattan, which makes it easily accessible to city dwellers. Like most ski areas on the East Coast south of Massachusetts, the area at one time struggled with dependable snow in winter. It has depended on creating and popularizing the snow gun and artificial snow.


Mohawk Mountain has 25 trails on 112 acres and has over a dozen lifts. The longest run is 1.25 miles in length. Snowboarders are welcome.


“We are nestled in suburbia, just two miles off Interstate 84 and just 12 miles from Hartford,” said Executive Director Scott Brown about the great cross-country skiing that can be found at the 360-acre Winding Trails in Farmington. “It is a special place because it is so close yet can make you feel like you are so far away once you get here. As you enter the park, you can’t help but begin to relax as you drive around the 80-acre lake and take in the view of water, trees and wildlife. Once you exit your car and get your skis on, you get into the ‘heart’ of the property and can spend hours meandering through the 12 miles of trails. The park has 100-year-old pines, hardwoods and rolling hills that will appeal to both the novice and expert.”


Winding Trails is a full-service ski center. All the trails are machine-groomed and allow for traditional diagonal stride skiing as well as ski skating. There is also a lodge complete with rentals, ski lessons, concession and a warm fire.


“We are at the mercy of Mother Nature,” said Brown, “and never know what snowfall we will get. The 2022 season was less than spectacular with only seven days of skiing. That compares to 30 days in 2021. Regardless of the number of days, if we have any snow, we will be busy. Weekends typically see 600 to 800 people per day.”

Winding Trails has two new grooming machines: a Bobcat Toolcat purchased early last season and a new Polaris Ranger coming this year.


“When we open is anybody’s guess,” continued Brown. “Typically, we don’t get open until January, but this is all dependent on snowfall. We need a snowfall of around 8 inches to open. If we can get enough snow in December, we will open. On any given day, about two-thirds of our customers are members and one-third general public. It is not unusual for us to draw skiers from the southern part of the state and New York City. General public skiers must purchase day passes in advance online.”


“We do have over 230 sets of rentals that can fit children as young as 4- years old. We also have snowshoeing available,” Brown explained about Winding Trails being a “very family friendly organization” and cross-country skiing a great family activity.


When there’s a good amount of snow on the ground, state parks and wildlife areas offer some scenic cross-country skiing as well as snowshoeing. The snow on the trails gets a little beat up a bit from so many activities being on them, but a significant snowpack preserves them well enough for cross-country skiing, sometimes for miles on end.


All of the ski areas offer programs for juniors and heavily promote family skiing and other activities because skiing is great way for mom, dad and the kids to enjoy the outdoors together. Check individual websites for pricing and hours of operation.