Mt. Ashland moving carpet gets rave reviews
Snow sports novices and their instructors have words of praise for the new First Act enclosed moving carpet installed on the beginner’s slope at Mt. Ashland Ski Area this season.
“It’s easy to get up there. It’s kind of fun,” said Nolan Geller, 17, of Medford, who was waiting to get on the carpet at the bottom. Geller was taking his first ever snowboarding lesson Thursday morning and had already made five trips down the slope.
The 150-foot-long carpet is surrounded by a plastic, see-through tube that protects skiers, snowboarders and the equipment from the elements. A lift operator at the top of the tube controls the moving surface while instructors teach students how to get on at the bottom.
Moving carpet lifts are now the industry standard, said new area General Manager Andrew Gast. “By far, that is the way, especially for beginners,” he said.
With the carpet, the emphasis is more on getting downhill rather than the mechanics of getting up the hill, said Gast. Previously novices either used the Poet rope tow, where they grabbed onto a moving rope, or walked up the slope. Using the rope tow required an ability to slide on the snow with comfort, something that learners are trying to pick up.
First-timers are gaining a lot more time to practice coming downhill, said Snowsports Director Nick Allen, who heads instruction at Mt. Ashland. Additionally, the moving carpet doesn’t wear out the beginners like the rope tow or hiking up the hill did, said Allen.
“I love the game,” said Andre Krase, 5, who was visiting the area from California and taking a ski lesson for the second day using First Act. The game involved Andre squatting and grabbing first his ankles, then shins, then moving higher up his body as he rode the carpet. The game teaches balance but also keeps the student looking ahead rather than down at his feet.
Kristen Gast, Andrew’s wife, is learning to ski this year and appreciated the new device’s help easing her into the sport.
“It felt great on the way up. Getting on it and getting off it is a breeze,” said Kristen. She also likes the music played inside the tube and said the total environment makes learning easier.
“We are just trying to get the fundamentals down,” said Kristen, who had intended to learn for the past three winters. Learning this year will give her the chance to be with her family on the slopes. The couple’s sons, ages 9 and 11, have skied for a number of years.
Kristen had skied the Sonnet beginners lift runs a number of times and was considering moving on to the Comer lift with more difficult intermediate runs.
“A lot more adults have come to learn,” said Allen. The previous rope tow, designed for kids, requires adults to bend over to grab it, he said.
Since installation of the moving carpet required moving earth, the area took the opportunity to recontour the beginner area. There’s now a 9% grade instead of the previous 14% to 15% grade, said Allen. The work also eliminated a dip in the middle of the site.
An operator is always at the top of the 150-foot-long tunnel to control the speed and stop the mechanism, if required.
“We do a lot of watching to see if they are struggling,” said lift operator Kayla Stone Thursday. “I love watching people progress. It can be a make-or-break time.”
Because there are walkways on both sides of the moving carpet, instructors or parents can walk beside students to give them advice or support if needed. One dad walked beside two snowboarders, helping one.
Instructor Tom Oliver reminded a very young student that she needed to move forward after the carpet ride ended as others would be coming from behind.
“I’m going to have you use the lift and show me all the wonderful things you have learned,” instructor Mary Snellgrove said to another young student at the end of a lesson.
“People can get up more easily. With no rope tow, you don’t tear up your gloves,” said Bill Hernon, a snowboard instructor who has taught at Mt. Ashland for seven years.
Most private lessons have been booked in advance over the internet this year. People who show up wanting groups lessons can usually be accommodated, said Emily Parrish, guest services director. Unlike last year, the area has all 58 of its instructor slots filled.
More first-timers will get to use the carpet when night skiing begins Jan. 5. Many area schools bring up students for evening sessions Thursdays and Fridays that last into March.
Mt. Ashland purchased a Sunkid moving carpet system, the first created for the ski industry. The devices were invented in Europe in the mid-1990s and have since been adapted for other uses including in bike parks, water parks and at event sites. The $240,000 cost, which included installation, was paid for entirely by donations to the nonprofit organization.
For more information, see mtashland.com.
Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at email@example.com.