Sure, you want to spend 500 bucks on equipment, drive up the mountain, and catch some air off the superpipe. There's just one problem: you suck at snowboarding. You're not alone. Skiers and snowboarders alike have been intrigued by the terrain parks popping up across the region, but most of them don't have the skills to ride them. There is hope, however. Resorts are now devising "progression parks," which are designed for all skill levels and intended to take skiers and riders from the most basic six-inch-wide rail to the lofty superpipe.
"Resorts saw that only one to two percent of the riders can use the hardest parks," says Tom Horrocks, communications manager at Killington. "Now you are seeing terrain parks geared toward 100 percent of the riding public. The evolution over the last five years has been incredible." A few years ago most resorts offered one terrain park and a superpipe. Now resorts are offering three to five different parks and more smaller-scale features. Here are four mountains that will get you up off your ass pad and into the air.
Although Stratton has only three parks in addition to the one that hosts the US Open, the devil's in the details. For example, in Tyrolean Park, some of the table jumps will have landing areas on the downhill and on the sides so that skiers and riders can learn how to ride the feature without needing to clear it on their first try.
But the experts have not been left behind. This year Stratton will have a 12-foot halfpipe on Burnside as a steppingstone to the superpipe in Power Park, which has been moved to a steeper section of the slope, giving the pipe better flow and making it more challenging. For those who manage to conquer this superpipe comes the supreme challenge: the superpipe used in the US Open Snowboarding Championships (see sidebar).
The next step up at Loon is Northstar park, an intermediate zone that now has its own snowmaking equipment, ensuring that the features will be well-maintained and user-friendly. At the bottom of Northstar is a minipipe, which, with the progression idea in mind, is designed to get riders and skiers used to the feeling of going vertical. Loon's signature - and most advanced - park, is Loon Mountain Park. Covering 15 acres, it includes a 20-feet-tall wallride. Below Loon Mountain Park is the superpipe, which measures 400 feet long and 17 feet high.
For the advanced, Jay features the Big Mountain Challenge, a competition in which participants ski or ride 20 laps on the mountain's biggest and longest mogul run. They describe it as "pushing your body to the point that you can barely walk for a month (or more)."
Killington has also stepped up its commitment to freestyle by adding new parks and by moving its SoBe Superpipe to Bear. The new location lets the superpipe get sun on both sides, eliminating the sun wall/shade wall possibility of an icy side. In a wise blending of old and new, they also installed a rope tow.
A technical rail park has been added on Upper Wildfire, featuring advanced, high-end, street-style rails described as "gnarly [and] difficult." There will also be a big-air venue for expert athletes, featuring a showcase jump with a huge launch and large landing area. Lower Wildfire features technical rails and jumps for the most advanced riders. The Dream Maker park will be used by boardercross athletes and as a stop on the USSA Evolution Tour. Later in the season the park will downshift from most advanced to more advanced, becoming more user-friendly to a wider audience.