A Day in the Life of an Instructor

Blake Dolan, Snow Ridge ski instructor, assists student Mason Lee down the hill.

BY: Norah Machia
Since the age of three, Blake Dolan has been spending each winter on a pair of skis at the Snow Ridge Ski Area in Turin. “This was my daycare,” he joked, referring to the number of hours he spent as a child on the slopes.

    Downhill skiing is a tradition that has been passed down through three generations of his family, and today, the 15-year-old is not only skiing at Snow Ridge, but he’s teaching lessons there as well.

   “This is where I learned to ski, and I’m really enjoying teaching other people how to do it,” he said on a recent Sunday afternoon at the ski area located off West Road. “Everyone here is really supportive and friendly.”

     Blake is the son of Michael and Brandi Dolan, Turin. Both his grandparents and his parents spent years skiing at Snow Ridge. His grandmother, Sandy Dolan, Glenfield, ran the Snow Ridge Children’s Snow School for many years, and still works at the ski area managing the cafeteria operation.

   Although Blake has tried snowboarding, he prefers downhill skiing. A sophomore at South Lewis Central School, he is also member of the school’s ski team.

     This is his first winter season teaching lessons at Snow Ridge. “I really like the challenge,” said Blake.

    One of his youngest students is Mason Lee, a 5-year-old with a lot of spunk, both on and off the hill. He bonded with Blake on the small teaching hill, and over some French fries in the cafeteria.

    Mason’s mother, Nicole Lee, said it was beneficial for her son to start downhill skiing lessons at young age, so won’t be scared of falling, she said. Mrs. Lee also skis and snowboards at Snow Ridge, and is an advisor to the Copenhagen Central School’s ski club.

     “I bring the students here as well,” said Mrs. Lee, Lowville. 

     Snow Ridge is located at 4173 West Road and offers downhill skiing and snowboarding lessons for all ages. There are six chair lifts and 21 trails for all levels, along with two terrain parks, a lodge and dining area.

     The snow sports school offers private and group lessons, and a range of children’s programs, including “Snow Puppies” for 3 and 4-year-olds, and “SkiWee” for children ages 5 to 10 years old. The lessons emphasize both fun and safety.

     Many ski experts suggest children can learn how to downhill ski as young as age three or four. A recent article in Ski Magazine noted that while some parents may want to teach their own children themselves, a certified instructor can help to ensure the child has a positive experience the first time out on the slopes because of his or her expertise.

     Often times the ski instructors will share some valuable advice and tips with parents that they can use on their own when skiing with their children. For example, instructors can show parents how to select the correct boot and ski sizes for their children.

     The Dry Hill Ski Area in Watertown also offers a range of downhill skiing and snowboarding lessons, including those aimed at very young children, according to its website.

    The ski area’s “Tiny Tot Training” is specifically designed for children ages 3 to 6 years old, and includes a one hour private lesson and rental equipment. A “Never-Ever” package is offered for first-timers of all ages, and includes a two-hour group lesson and all rental equipment. There are also other options for private, semi-private and group lessons.