Vail: Turning the terrain park green |

Vail: Turning the terrain park green

Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyStephen Laterra, co-owner of Vail Valley-based 4 Pine Design, offers terrain-park consulting for resorts. The company is already working with Eldora Mountain Resort near Boulder. The company tries to incorporate street features, such as this now-chained rail in Edwards.

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – The Vail Valley’s terrain parks are fun. Whether you’re a pro looking to soar over a 50-foot table-top or a beginner trying to conquer a 5-foot rail, the sensation of gliding through the park can be exhilarating.

But they can be resource-hungry, too. The big parks require huge amounts of water and power for man-made snow. It can take 100 million gallons of water to make the snow needed to make a large terrain park. Snow guns also need lots of energy.

Stephen Laterra and Brodie McNeil are trying to reduce the amount of resources terrain parks need. The partners started Vail Valley-based 4 Pine Design, a terrain park design and consulting company.

For years, Laterra, a pro snowboarder from Avon, was terrain park designer at Vail Mountain. Now he and McNeil, a Boulder-based snowboarder, are trying to bring his years of expertise to other mountains.

That expertise comes with a green bent. Laterra wants to introduce practices that can allow resorts to build top-notch terrain parks with fewer resources.

“We want to reduce where we can without changing the product,” Laterra said.

He believes resorts can reduce snowmaking significantly using techniques such as excavating and shaping dirt to form the foundations of wintertime features. Laterra believes resorts will soon be able to reduce snowmaking by 30 percent.

“I think it’s possible for any resort to do that,” he said.

The answer to building bigger and better terrain parks has often been to make more snow. But, as water and energy become scarcer resources, that may not always be the answer, Laterra said.

“There’s going to be a day when you’re not going to be able to make enough snow,” he said.

Excavating dirt can be the answer to less energy use, but the dirt-moving has to be done responsibly, taking into account wildlife, erosion and runoff, Laterra said. The company plans to work with the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to make sure those projects are done the right way, he said.

The company, which was created a year and a half ago, is already working with Eldora Mountain Resort, near Boulder, to bolster its terrain parks. 4 Pine Design aims to work with resorts to assess their current park programs or to start from square one with a new program. It designs creative layouts that can provide the “flow” that riders of all levels seek as they navigate the park from feature to feature, Laterra said.

“Flow, in my opinion, is being able, from the start to the finish of any park, to roll in, be comfortable and have a wide choice of options all the way through the park,” Laterra said.

Laterra is keen on focusing on a mountain’s natural freestyle terrain to create freestyle features, in essence creating pockets of micro-parks across the mountain.

Another focus for the company is using features including stairways, ledges and walls that are installed on the hill.

Once the park has been created, 4 Pine Design can train crews for the best practices in maintaining and grooming the park.

Laterra has been involved in terrain parks since just about the beginning. He started riding Breckenridge’s park in 1991, and became Vail’s terrain park designer in 1999.

“I started as a kid skateboarding and building my own ramps,” Laterra said. “I really took to that whole scene. What really caught my eye wasn’t just jumping and having fun but also learning how it’s built and wanting to learn that and build it myself.”

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or

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