From Vail Valley’s slopes to the park
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” It’s an unseasonably warm afternoon at Beaver Creek in Colorado’s Vail Valley, and the conditions on the slopes make it a good day to be in the terrain park, judging from the crowd gathered at the Rodeo.
The terrain park, one of four at Beaver Creek, is a flurry of activity as people slide across rails, and coast off the parks four jumps. A brightly clad skier comes sailing over a sizeable jump, expertly tucking and crossing his skis.
Terrain parks have grown in popularity, and the most recent group to populate the jumps is skiers.
Once the territory of snowboarders, terrain parks have become more popular with skiers, too, said Jason Schetrompf, parks coordinator for Vail Snowsports School.
Much of the crossover has to do with the popularity of professional freestyle and snowboarding competitions such as the X-Games, Schetrompf said.
“The X-Games is the biggest driver, and the Dew Tour,” he said. “As people see that stuff on mainstream television, it ignites that desire.”
It’s not uncommon for Vail’s instructors to get requests for terrain-park specific lessons from both snowboarding and skiing students, he said.
In fact, many of Vail’s instructors are beginning to get terrain-park training and certification to teach park clinics.
“In snowboarding, (the park) has always been part of the culture,” he said. “With skiing, it’s been more popular in the last five years, especially with the introduction of twin tip skis.”
In the past, the mountain has offered terrain park clinics in conjunction with the Honda Sessions, a pro snowboarding competition held in Vail until this year.
The clinics were growing in popularity each year, Schetrompf said.
More skiers have found their way into terrain parks thanks to the acceptance of freestyle skiing as a competitive sport, said Brian Baker, freestyle program director for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.
The number of kids in his program shows the growth of the sport, he said.
The club added the freestyle team about five years ago, and now the program has 54 kids in the freestyle program and 33 kids in the freeride program.
The freestyle program includes terrain park, halfpipe and mogul competition. The freeride program, only for kids 10 and older, focuses specifically on park and pipe competition, Baker said.
“The club recognized that there was a demand in the community,” he said. “There were kids who didn’t necessarily want to become ski racers. This gave them an outlet.”
Acceptance of skiers in the park has come slowly, both Baker and Schetrompf.
Snowboarders had been building their own ramps and rails in parking lots or in the backcountry since the late 80s, they said, but it wasn’t until the mid 90s that some skiers started riding the parks.
Baker said he thinks the change is great for the sport of skiing ” freestyle skiing brings new life to a sport that was losing participants and that had the reputation for being stuffy.
“For a while there was a wait-and-see attitude about some of those programs,” he said. “The sport to some extent had stagnated a little bit, and lots of kids were going into snowboarding instead.”
The park trends were probably a bit slower to come to areas like Vail or the East Coast, where there is a rich history of alpine skiing and racing, Schetrompf said.
“But I think everyone recognizes that those disciplines are here forever,” he said. “It takes folks a little while to grow comfortable with change. It’s a great way to keep the sport progressing and growing.”
Staff writer Melanie Wong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-748-2928.
Check out these sites for more information on park-and-pipe options, as well as how to get started safely in the parks.