Park rats rejoice! This winter is shaping up nicely for freestyle skiing and snowboarding since resorts are spending more time and money on terrain parks than ever before.
Progression parks has been the buzz term for the last decade as ski areas have focused on making their terrain parks accessible to everyone. Instead of massive jumps and half pipes, today’s terrain parks are made up of rails, jumps and other features in a variety of sizes to allow all levels of skiers and snowboarders to catch a little air and try a few moves.
This season will be a continuation of that trend as resorts are furthering their efforts towards well-balanced and well-maintained terrain parks. The progressive nature of the jumps and other features allow users to develop their skills and confidence before hitting the big features in the advanced parks. Combine that with the fact that the average age of people going into terrain parks is on the rise and you have something with broad appeal to the general skiing public. These factors differ drastically from the early days when terrain parks were almost strictly for snowboarders.
“There is a change in demographic in the parks,” says Kendra Scurfield from Sunshine Village. “Snowboarding has been around since the ’80s, and now people who have been doing it all along are older, have professional jobs in some cases, and still want to have a park they can use. There are still lots of kids using it, but there are a lot of adults too.”
Both skiers and snowboarders now populate terrain parks and the acceptance of freestylers of all ability levels is commonplace.
“We try to accommodate everyone at the same time,” says Mike Gere, Marmot Basin’s terrain park supervisor. “We have our bigger air features down the middle of the park and our medium and smaller features on the sides. People have options to take the size of hit they are comfortable with.”
Marmot Basin is considering adding more acreage to its terrain park and has increased the size of its park-maintenance crew this season.
Locally, Sunridge Ski Area is also increasing its park crew from two to six as it expands to include three separate terrain parks.
“The advance park will be competition-level and we’re adding a bordercross track, which will be the first one in the city,” says Zack Dayman, Sunridge’s self-declared “Park Dad.” The terrain park expansion at Sunridge will increase options for freestylers within Edmonton as Snow Valley, Rabbit Hill and Edmonton Ski Club all have well-established terrain parks.
Down at Nakiska, the rail park and skier-cross course (named Na.Jib.Ska) is developing into a major draw on its own.
“We’ve had an incredible outpouring of positive feedback from riders,” says Matt Mosteller from Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which owns Nakiska and four other resorts.
“We’ve brought in park builders that have a lot of experience and they’ve come up with some real creative stuff that also has multiple options to keep it safe,” he says. “Our parks at Nakiska and Kimberley particularly have developed a big community of locals that are really into it.”
This season’s biggest terrain-park improvements will likely be at Sunshine Village where four parks will be on offer. Thirteen new boxes, rails and tubes are being added to the resort that include a banked rail, a toe jam tube and 40-foot-long “waterfall” tube.
“That puts our feature inventory up over 40, so we have lots of options for the upcoming season,” says Sunshine’s terrain-park supervisor Ben Suurallik.
Freestylers will be spoiled for choice with big plans for terrain parks at so many resorts this winter. However, that won’t be for a few weeks yet as Mother Nature or her helper, the snow gun, need to get plenty of the white stuff on the ground so the park crews can do their thing. While some small, temporary parks are already open, it will be at least a few weeks before the bigger features are fully built.