Go big or go home
In the last couple of years, jibbers have moved from the fringes of ski culture right into the mainstream. In fact, thanks to plenty of publicity and an edgy vibe, freeskiers, snowboarders and terrain park riders have taken center stage.It’s not surprising then that Colorado’s resorts are planning to bump up their emphasis on this exciting, evolving discipline. While it was hard to find a specialized instructional program last year, this season nearly every resort in Eagle and Summit County is planning some sort of sessions and clinics focusing on the "new wave."Vail Resorts is leading the way with new instructional programs at Beaver Creek, Vail, Keystone and Breckenridge. Here’s a roundup of what’s been announced so far, with more to come later in the fall:Beaver CreekBeaver Creek is introducing an innovative "Park-ology" park and pipe program for the 2003-04 winter season, featuring progressive learning terrain and instruction for aspiring freeskiers and riders.Part of the focus is to providing an excellent learning-oriented park product for younger park users eager to learn good technique and etiquette. The program includes three separate parks. An entry level park on upper Sheephorn is called Park 101, featuring rollers, dots and other terrain features that will allow lower level riders and skiers of all ages to learn basic techniques.The next step is the Zoom Room, a progressive entry level to more difficult park, which begins with smaller, introductory features, such as rollers, small tables and small rails, and moves to progressively larger features and rails.The Moonshine Terrain Park and Pipe are designed to be user-friendly for intermediate to expert skiers and riders looking to improve their skills on a wide variety of features, including tables, hips, spines, rails, logslides and a learning half-pipe.In addition to the new terrain features, Beaver Creek will provide park instruction for skiers and riders through its Children’s Ski and Snowboard School with beginner to intermediate level park experience, and for those who want to progress toward intermediate and expert level park skiing and riding.Also planned are beginner and intermediate level learning competitions to help aspiring jibbers hone their skills, learn park etiquette and become more comfortable in a competitive setting.VailAfter providing freeriding instruction through its regular programs last year, Vail is adding special snowboard freestyle programs this year. The half-day park and pipe session is for intermediate and advanced riders, providing freestyle specific snowboard lessons that teach riders how to spin and jib. The sessions will be offered Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays from 12:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the Golden Peak Terrain Park, Jan. 4 -March 13, 2004, excluding Feb. 14-16.For more intensive clinics, riders can try Barrett Christy’s signature four-day camp perfect for women who want to improve their riding while reviving their spirit in the heart of the Rockies. The camp offers snowboard coaching and instruction in a fun, stress-free atmosphere. Participants learn at their own pace in a small group, tackling rail slides, the pipe and the rest of Vail’s varied terrain. The camps also include off-mountain clinics and yoga, all for $799 for the entire session.No word on special programs for skiers, but nine-year Vail Ski School veteran B.J. Aguilar explains that Vail takes a holistic approach to teaching freeskiing. "When I teach, I teach in the halfpipe, I teach in the Back Bowls. We go in the trees and we learn about natural terrain features like cliffs and cornices. It’s all part of skiing,” says the 31-year-old, who mostly teaches seven- to 14-year-old students. Learning to ride the rails and launch of the big hits in the park is part of that larger experience, he says. "Our focus is on skiing as a whole.""When we’re in the Back Bowls, looking at a cornice, we’re trying to figure out the best way to enter do we want to catch air or not? We’ll ski it first, then go back and maybe catch a little air," Aguilar says. That the experience helps develop the same skills needed to maneuver on man-made features in the park, he explains.Aguilar says he takes plenty of students into the park. But once they start wanting to do anything beyond the basic tricks and grabs, the students move out on their own. "People are learning on booters in the backcountry and in camps and on trampolines," he says of the experienced riders who perform impressive terrain park tricks. Skiers looking for more focused terrain park instruction always have the option of taking a private, Aguilar says, adding that Vail does have a number of instructors qualified to teach those lessons.BreckenridgeBreckenridge, long at the leading edge of snowsports trends, will feature regular $60 clinics (half-day) as part of its Park & Pipe Sundays, with experienced instructors giving tips on how to drop into the half-pipe or slide across a rail in the park without fear. Park & Pipe Sundays are scheduled every week from Jan. 4 to April 11, 2004.Teens between the ages of 13 and 18 can look forward to the Mob Rule Park & Pipe Camps. The three-day sessions will be coached by top certified instructors, and members of Breck’s elite team of pro riders will also make an appearance.Teens ages 13-18 can improve their skills in one of the most highly ranked parks and pipes in North America during this 3-day camp coached by top certified instructors. A member of the elite Breckenridge Team Riders will also make an appearance. Camps are scheduled for March 17-19 and March 24-26. The price is $300, including lunch and sweatshirt. Lift tickets must be purchased separately.Breck’s park has been ranked among the best in the country by various publications in recent seasons, but the crew, led by park manager Tim Eastley, is not resting on its laurels. The hottest new addition this winter could be the Superpark bar handrail, aka the I.R.S. (Interchangeable Rail System), which was designed for the 2003 Cutter’s Cup. It looks like a bar where you’d order a drink with the rail 4 feet above the "customer’s" head. And the rails are interchangeable from flat to gap and more.According to Eastley, the park will feature 35 fresh new creations, including a new Rainbow Rail, 7 new fun boxes and up to 15 jumps. The resort’s terrain park crew has created wider surfaces on the new fun boxes much easier for perfecting tricks on. They are made of both steel and wood with a slick Lexan top surface for better sliding.The experts at Breck say it’s all about higher "trickabilty," giving riders the room to make multiple moves on each rail. Innovative new jumps are also part of the plan to keep Breck’s park at the top of the heap. Look for multiple takeoff and multiple landing jump styles, hips, stepups, stepdowns, true tables, and transfers.Props for all this go to Eastley, as well as Elliot Cone, park designer and builder, Eric Armfield, park designer and builder, Brad Hoerter, pipe designer and builder and Brian Arellanes, pipe designer and builder.Keystone also will expand its terrain park and freeride instructional offerings. Along with a huge new park on the west end of the mountain, the resort also plans to expand last year’s pilot Expression Session program for teens. It’s all about learning the progression for jumps and becoming familiar with good terrain park etiquette, Heidebrecht says.Expression Sessions will be offered during all holidays as well as throughout the spring break season, said Chris Heidebrecht, director of skier services. The new park will feature plenty of fun boxes, helping novice terrain park riders get a good feel for maneuvering on man-made terrain features.And by the way, Keystone’s ski school is now called Snow University, and will also feature a terrain park instructional program for the older crowd, which in this case means 15 and over, Heidebrecht says. And the resort’s popular eight-week cruiser sessions, well-utilized by Front Range families, also includes a freestyle component this season, he adds.CopperBen Friedland said Copper hasn’t yet planned any special instructional sessions, but the resort is known for a strong freeride program in any case. Lessons are available within the framework of the regular ski and snowboard classes, and members of the resort’s team can generally be found around the parks, offering tips on style, technique and etiquette in a relaxed, informal setting.Ski instructors try to meet the needs of the group, Dan Huston, director of the resort’s ski and ride school, said late last season. That means if there’s a group that’s looking to focus on terrain park skiing, one of the area’s qualified instructors will lead the way. And Huston said last year that he was looking into the possibility of putting together some spring freeride camps, getting members of the freeride team involved, he added.During busy times, holidays and weekends, the demand is sometimes there, Huston said. "We have a lot of people on our staff with experience instructing in the park and who are familiar with the progression," Huston said.The parks at Copper feature several distinct lines that help create a good learning experience, Huston said, explaining that the easier lines are suitable for skiers who are just getting into it. In general, skiers need to be at an upper-intermediate to advanced level. "You need a good, centered stance and be able to make parallel turns down almost anything," Huston said, explaining that the landing zones of the jumps are fairly steep in order to feather the impacts of landing.A-BasinJust as other resorts around the county start to wind down in the spring, A-Basin the Legend kicks it into high gear with the High Adventure Series. That includes the Adventure Freeski Camp (April 24-25), where top coaches will help participants learn skills needed to handle steep and difficult terrain confidently and safely.A freestyle camp is set for May 1-2, focusing on the technical skills needed for the wild world of competitive freestyle. The camp covers moguls, steep skiing, slopestyle, upright aerials and freeskiing.Around ColoradoWinter Park is putting a new emphasis on the free ski/ride movement in Winter Park Resort’s Children’s Center, with new freeride, twin tip, snowboard pipe and park themes for all ages in kid’s programs. There is also a new terrain garden in Discovery Park and an expanded terrain park with new rails and jumps on Jack Kendrick trail, all geared toward growing and teaching the freeride/ski movement.For both skiers and snowboarders, Snowmass offers Wednesday afternoon Adrenaline Sessions, true all-mountain clinics focusing on skills needed in terrain parks and pipes as well for bumps, powder, steeps, and crud. Skiing, riding and demonstrations while on snow, talking and teaching on the lifts help push guests to new levels of vertical.At Aspen Mountain, Othello’s Rail Riders clinics teach advanced snowboarding techniques in a fun, step-by-step progression. Along with important park etiquette, participants will learn to get on a rail properly, how to land, what not to do and tricks.
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