Pull an Alley Oop 270, or grind a rail. It's time to strut your wares in the Northern Rocky Mountains, where terrain parks have been swelling in size and getting better each year. Most parks have added learning terrain to aid beginners just getting into hopping off their first jump while at the same time increasing the number of advanced features to keep park rats intrigued.
Changes are underway this winter at Whitefish Mountain Resort, Mont. Just two years ago, the resort built a Superpipe, but they've already decided to scrap it in favor of enlarging their Fish Bowl Terrain Park. "We're coming off the most successful season the terrain park has ever had. We felt like we did a good job of building it, and we were definitely excited about its popularity. The idea is to continue to expand and improve upon that success, but to be more efficient about it," said Dan Graves, president of the company.
The resort plans to build an expert jump, a quarter pipe, and a permanent boarder- and skier-cross course in the Superpipe's location. Last year, park crews added features for beginners, improved lighting, increased the amount of cat time in the park by 150 percent, and added more jibs-amping the total to around 20. More additions are slated for future seasons.
Now, Big Sky, Mont., maintains the state's only competition Superpipe in addition to three separate parks for different skill levels. Explorer Park is geared for newcomers and those popping new tricks. Swifty Park had nine jumps and eight jibs last year, all in the medium range while the black diamond Ambush Park added two 30-foot jumps and a barrel bonk. The resort is also adding a few small features and rails to their lighted Family Fun Zone to extend the jibbing after the slopes close every day.
Terrain Park Supervisor Tyrell Thornton also instituted a new, safer style of jump that allowed riders and skiers to go big without the risky consequences from wrecking on a tabletop or gap jump. He also creates a different feel in the parks by changing features around during the year, and one of his goals is to keep the parks "photo-worthy everyday."
Other resorts also added their parks - not just square footage, but features, too. Snow King, Wyo., expanded their terrain park last winter. It now includes almost 15 rails, boxes, and jibs plus jumps, berms, and rhythm sections. Grand Targhee, just on the other side of the Tetons, used a little grooming action to buff out Middle Earth, a new freeride playground located off the Teton Vista Traverse. The natural fun zone complements the resort's other parks-the North Pole's gentle rails and rolls as well as the bigger boxes and hills in Trick Town.
Even the small 20-acre Great Bear Recreation Park outside of Sioux Falls, S.D., maintains a terrain park that sees annual tweaking. Grizzly Park sits on its own side of the ski hill that is serviced by a quad lift and its own handle tow. Boxes and rails comprise the bulk of the features, but the park also includes a 350-foot halfpipe.
Big and small resorts across the Northern Rockies continue to improve their terrain parks. Get ready to throw some big tricks.
Read Paul Doherty's There's A Terrain Park For Everyone - Adrenaline Junkie Or Not for a library of information on North American terrain parks, including links to relevant stories.