“Terrain enhancement is really the future”
On any given day at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, riders on the Paradise lift may catch a glimpse of talented athletes hurling themselves off of the terrain park jumps underneath, flipping and twisting through the air, only to land perfectly and hear the cheers of onlookers—or to crash in an explosion of skis, powder, and flailing limbs. CBMR officials are particularly pumped about the terrain park this season due to a new partnership with DC Shoes and help from Snow Park Technologies.
CBMR general manager Randy Barrett says the terrain park and superpipe are very important amenities for the resort to have. “That is becoming a growing segment in terms of ski area usage,” Barrett says.
CBMR has been continually striving to make improvements to its main terrain park ever since its glory days next to the Teocalli lift, when there was a single kicker that fed directly into a small half-pipe and a few rails. Now located along the entire length of the Canaan trail under the Paradise lift, the park features three large primary jump features (also called “kickers”), several smaller snow piles and jumps, and rails and jib items scattered throughout the length.
“Jibbing” is the act of sliding along rails, or briefly landing on logs, rocks, tires, tables, or anything else that would seem out of the ordinary on a ski run. Several years ago the half-pipe that was once next to Teocalli was moved above the Paradise Bowl “trench,” and doubled in size and in length.
One of the most noticeable changes to the park and pipe this year is the extended presence of DC Shoes, a skateboarding and snowboarding apparel company.
DC labels could be seen on rail features last year, but according to CBMR terrain park supervisor Rick Ross, the 2007-2008 season is the first official year of DC sponsorship.
For the season, DC has provided the resort with 11 new rail and jib features. Three of the four rail features during the New Year’s Rail Jam were new items provided by DC, according to Ross.
“DC’s goal is to grow the sport of freestyle snowboarding in this area, and by nurturing this area they’ll end up establishing more of a niche,” Ross says of the partnership.
In return, Ross says CBMR gets advertising help through DC, and DC provides the entire park staff with cold-weather jackets and footwear.
Barrett says the terrain park and half-pipe aren’t built just for visiting skiers. He says the park and pipe also play an important role for the Crested Butte Academy, a private college preparatory school for mountain sports athletes.
Crested Butte Academy headmaster Graham Frey says the school has worked with the resort on building a better terrain park since the park’s inception. Frey says the resort continues to be open to suggestions from Academy staff and athletes. “We have over 30 snowboarders on campus, plus 20 park and pipe free-ride skiers. Out of 75 students, that’s 50 who obviously require a great pipe and park to train,” Frey says.
While the current terrain park is turning out great this year, Frey says the Academy is still interested in seeing a bigger and better terrain park. “We have some athletes at a very, very high level, and we need an expert terrain park. That doesn’t exist here and those kids train in Summit County,” Frey says.
Barrett says one of the results of the Academy influence was bringing in Snow Park Technologies, a company that specializes in building terrain parks, to help craft the pipe. Through a pre-existing relationship, Snow Park Technologies was also responsible for building the new rail features paid for by DC.
Frey says Snow Park Technologies became involved after the Academy hired champion snowboarder and Olympian Bud Keene as director of freestyle programs. Keene had previously worked with Snow Park Technologies’ master half-pipe carver Frank Wells and was able to convince Wells to help with the pipe. CBMR and the Academy agreed to split the labor cost of having Wells carve the pipe using CBMR’s pipe dragon.
Frey says, “That shows the desire of the mountain to work with us to provide good facilities.”
Ross says Snow Park Technologies and CBMR spent more time on layout and design of the pipe this year. He says the overall orientation changed and the pipe was designed shorter from top to bottom.
Ross says the real difference is the shape of the pipe walls and the consistency of the cut. “The shape of the pipe is heads and shoulders above what it has ever been,” Ross says.
Frey agrees that Wells did a good job. “Simply put, Frank Wells is the best in the world. A Frank Wells pipe is as good as it gets,” he says.
For anyone who took a run through the terrain park last week and is wondering just where these “improvements” are, Ross admits the park is a work in progress. “The park is open, but it’s definitely not a final cut,” Ross says. He says park crews will add new features and make adjustments based on their own testing and through public feedback.
“Our resort is really challenging for (building) terrain parks. There’s not a whole lot of terrain that is conducive to an expanded park that works in one specific location. One solution is putting smaller parks scattered down the resort,” Ross says, referring to smaller “pocket parks” with only a few jumps and jibs. However, Ross says, the prospect of adding more pocket parks is down the road. The beginner’s terrain park at the top of the Painter Boy lift is open and ready for riders.
Barrett agrees pocket parks are a good idea the resort is continually playing with. “The kids have the pocket park and mom and dad can ski along, too, but they can still be at the bottom at the same time and ride the lift together.” Barrett says.
For a little public display of the terrain park improvements, the CBMR’s Profurious Park and Pipe Championship series will continue on Saturday, February 3.