WINTER PARK, Fla. — Even during the winter months, people likely wouldn't opt to travel to Winter Park to get their skiing and snowboarding fix, despite its name.  

What You Need To Know

  • At WinterClub Indoor Ski and Snowboard in Winter Park, people can learn to ski indoors

  • Workers say there is instruction for people of all skill levels

  • WinterClub Indoor Ski and Snowboard changed the way people hit the slopes

Over at WinterClub Indoor Ski and Snowboard, they are revolutionizing hitting the slopes to be able to happen anywhere and any time of year. 

The company operates on a “magic carpet” of turf sprayed down with water to emulate snow. People of all levels can ski indoors and can be taught by esteemed veteran instructors like Rick O'Donnell.

"I know, it's fun telling people I teach in Orlando, Fla.," O'Donnell said. "And they're like, 'Waterskiing?' I'm like, 'No, snow skiing.'"

O'Donnell has been an instructor with WinterClub Indoor Ski and Snowboard for seven years. The Pennsylvania native said he was drawn to Florida decades ago for the surf, not the slopes.

"We would come down here in the summer and it was just, you know, it was so fantastic. I ran into the ocean with my clothes on," O'Donnell said with a laugh. "That was it. I was hooked. But I never gave up the skiing. I never gave this up."

A ski instructor for nearly 50 years, O'Donnell has taught across the country and around the world. Even with those experiences, he believes the indoor experience is unique for all the right reasons.

"There's no way to teach, honestly, on a hill with somebody moving this close. It just doesn't work unless you ski backwards with them, which a lot of ski instructors will do," said O'Donnell. "But you just don't have this set up. And I can see the body movements better because they're not wearing all the stuff that you normally wear when they're skiing. So it's easier to pick out little things that could be improved or things that would be better or all around."

O'Donnell is able to control the speed and the slope of the magic carpet to match the skiers' level of experience

"I usually start people out it like 30% — and it does percent just like from 0 to 100 on how fast it'll go — and you can change the angle of the slope so you can watch a little slow to make a little depending on your level," he explained.

Even when speaking with others, O'Donnell never lets his eye wander from his students.

"My priority No. 1 is the guest and the safety," he said. "So, you'll notice I never take my eyes off the guest, ever."

"Normally, I have people that come in and they're happy and they have expectations. When you meet them or exceed them, especially, they just light up,” O'Donnell said. “Probably any school teacher that gets the kids that, you know, graduate to university. You know, you're like, 'Man, look, he did it.' You know, it's it just makes your day."

O'Donnell said the joys of teaching and the joys of skiing keep him feeling like he did when he first stepped into his boots. 

"It puts me back to when I was 15 years old and learned honestly, it's I think it's the fountain of youth," he said. "I'm not going to say my age, but it's good. If you're an older person, pick this because it is fun."