USASA slopestyle comp signals start of Golden Peak terrain park
VAIL — Riding Chair 6 on Friday, local skier Bobby Bank said he couldn’t believe the crowds gathered at Golden Peak.
The terrain park made its 2016 debut on Friday afternoon, with a large group of local freeskiers and snowboarders waiting outside the gates for its opening. Ski & Snowboard Club Vail snowboarding coaches Chris Laske and Brady McNeill were among them.
“The jumps are riding well,” McNeill said. “It’s really off to a good start this year.”
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Prompting the park’s opening was this weekend’s USASA slopestyle competition, two days of non-stop action for all age levels on the jumps and rails at Golden Peak. Saturday was snowboarders, Sunday was freeskiers.
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail had several podium finishes across the various age divisions. Most of the local athletes seemed to agree the park has improved this year.
“I think the set up is way better this year,” said Jack Coyne, 13, an Eagle County native and Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athlete who won his age division on Saturday. “The Park Crew did a great job.”
For that park crew, it’s athletes like Coyne who will most benefit from their hard work. Slopestyle, with its high flying jumps and high consequence rails, has become a discipline where the right training environment can be the key difference in how far a young athlete is able to progress.
McNeill says in his 12 years as a snowboarding coach with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, he has seen some key changes take place allowing athletes to take their skills to the top level.
The club’s private air bag would be one example of a top level training tool necessary in learning the spins and flips that award athletes high marks from the judges of today. McNeill says the sides of the bag have 22-foot walls mimicking that of an Olympic-sized halfpipe.
“And we also have a jump into the entry,” he said. “So it’s open to slopestyle riders and halfpipe riders.”
But McNeill says it’s the halfpipe itself that has been the club’s greatest accomplishment over the last few years.
“The second thing I’m most proud of is Vail being willing to partner with our club to come together, to raise funds so that we could afford to get the (halfpipe grooming machine), so we could maintain a 22-foot pipe year round, so we have an excellent training facility at our home mountain,” McNeill said.
The Ski & Snowboard Club Vail snowboarders who competed Saturday at Golden Peak will now switch over to halfpipe training for the next few weeks, as their next competitions will be a halfpipe event at Breckenridge.
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail snowboard program director Chris Laske says he expects the Vail halfpipe will be open soon.
“We’ll be training there with our Mini Shred team,” he said.