'A perfect fit'

Mt. Ashland Ski Area employee Brian Tekulve can guide skiers all the way from their first turns down the bunny slope to big air and beyond.

The 28-year-old snow sports director at Mt. Ashland was honored this month as one of 10 "young gun" award winners in Connecticut-based Ski Area Management Magazine's 10 under 30 contest highlighting ambitious, up-and-coming leaders in the ski and snowboard industry.

"He impressed us from the start with his overall thoughts and ideas on ski school, terrain parks and pulling together the first-time skier and snowboarder program," said Kim Clark, general manager at Mt. Ashland.

This is the first time an employee from Mt. Ashland has received the award, he said.

Clark hired Tekulve four years ago as a ski school and rental shop manager. The then-24-year-old, fresh out of college, showed plenty of potential, so Clark handed him the ski area's terrain parks to manage. Tekulve's been stepping into new roles ever since.

"We all have to pitch in and wear a lot of different hats at the mountain," said Tekulve, who also manages races and special events, the after-school ski program, group sales and an environmental youth program, which is currently underway on the ski area's slopes.

Tekulve started skiing when he was 3, picked up snowboarding at the age of 8 and was teaching ski school as a 15-year-old in Pennsylvania, he said.

"I realized that I just wanted to continue doing something I really had a passion for and still have a passion for," Tekulve said.

He moved to Lake Tahoe, Calif., and graduated from Sierra Nevada College in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in ski business and resort management. He drove back to Pennsylvania and tried to settle in, but it didn't feel right.

He'd never been to Mount Ashland when Clark hired him over the phone, but that made no difference to him.

"It just sounded like a perfect fit," he said. "I was offered the job, and a week later I had a U-Haul packed and I was driving back across the country."

"We were looking for someone up-and-coming and enthusiastic, and we are very, very pleased with what we found," Clark said.

Tekulve's most satisfying work on the mountain, he said, is helping families through first-time ski and snowboard programs and watching them return the next year, hungry for a season pass so they can enjoy their new activity together.

In Tekulve's first season at the mountain, the ski area implemented the My Turn Program for first-timers, and about 45 percent of guests under 13 who completed the program purchased a season pass the next year, he said.

"That was big for me," said Tekulve, who can't find a reason to leave Mt. Ashland.

"Working with the people I get to work with is just awesome. It's nice to be able to know your co-workers and managers and get to know everyone coming up here, and create a special place for the community to get together," he said.

Tekulve said he is looking forward to improvement projects on the mountain, because new runs mean more intermediate and beginner terrain for people to learn on.

"This place is a gem," he said. "We just do our best to remind people that it's right in their backyard."

Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at samuelcwheeler@gmail.com.

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