Vail terrain park: ‘Respect gets respect’ |

Vail terrain park: ‘Respect gets respect’

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyMichael Wilhelm, 15, rotates off a jump onto the safety of Vail Mountain's new landing pad, a cushion-like air bag designed for practicing bigger tricks with less risk

VAIL, Colorado –To gain respect in Vail Mountain’s terrain park, you have to give it.

That’s what Vail Snowsports School instructors say about terrain park etiquette –good etiquette not only equals respect, but also safety.

“If everyone is in there helping each other, you’re going to get respect,” said Josh Heminger, a Vail Snowsports School instructor and Vail Valley native.

Heminger was at Vail’s Golden Peak terrain park Wednesday with colleague Charlie Clarke sharing etiquette tips and advice with park skiers and riders as part of National Safety Awareness Week at Vail. They were reminding park users, both novices and veterans, on the laws of the land.

“So many people come into the park and don’t really know it’s a different set of guidelines (than the rest of the mountain),” Clarke said. “If you go in and you know the etiquette, you’re going to be golden. If you don’t know the etiquette, it makes it harder to cohabitate.”

Skiers and rides have to look our for each other, and for themselves, at all times in terrain parks. One general rule of thumb is “look before you leap,” Heminger said.

Some terrain park rules seem like common sense, but many skiers and riders are surprised at some of the things that go on in terrain parks.

“You just got to watch out,” said Zac Rappa, 25, of Vail. “Make sure jumps are clear and you’ve got to watch the person in front of you.”

Rappa said terrain park safety has come a long way in the last few years. He finds skiers and riders are a lot more aware of what’s going on and a lot more respectful of one another.

Bryan Lane said it’s good to ask the other skiers and riders around about speeds heading into each jump. Lane, a skier, said asking each other for speeds can prevent under or over-shooting a jump.

“Check all the jumps before you hit them,” Lane said.

Then there are the obvious rules, like don’t sit below a jump or stand somewhere that’s out of sight to anyone uphill.

“Never stop on the lip of a jump or a landing, or somewhere where someone can’t see you,” said Joel Kramer, 25, of Lakewood. “And know your own ability – don’t push it too hard.”

Heminger and Clarke said those looking to get into park riding have several options before going at it full speed without enough knowledge. They said beginners should always take a lesson if they’re trying to break into the park scene, or try one of the practice features.

One such feature is the air bag, a learning system for getting used to tricks skiers and riders haven’t yet tried, said Gideon Baldridge, of Katal Innovations, the company that designed it.

Baldridge, who is testing his company’s various products in Vail throughout the winter, said a great way to begin park riding is by testing tricks on a trampoline before taking them to the mountain. The trampoline can help with rotations, which skiers and riders can then try to master with the help of a landing pad, he said.

Regardless of ability levels, though, Heminger and Clarke stress the importance of knowing the rules – there are signs in every terrain park laying out the dos and don’ts – and skiing or riding within the right ability level.

“Start small, watch people hit the features and just know your ability,” Heminger said. “Respect gets respect.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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