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Riding the terrain Local ski resorts

Snowboarding, terrain parks thrive this season

Whether you are a diehard snowbunny or a shaky snow novice, you don’t have to travel to Killington or Steamboat Springs to hit the slopes — you can hit any one of our local resorts.

Unlike last season, which saw an almost debilitating lack of snowfall for much of the season, the recent warmer winter weather didn’t hinder local ski resorts too much.

“It gave me the opportunity to rip everything out, close it down for a couple days and rebuild everything,” said Dan Woolley, manager and designer of the terrain park at Elk Mountain Ski Resort in Union Dale. “We have twice the park because of it.”

Terrain parks, which may include jumps, rails and half-pipes for both skiers and snowboarders to do tricks, have gained momentum in our area.

“We have focused a lot on the terrain park,” said Andrea Prokop, Sno Mountain Ski Resort’s director of sales and marketing. “We don’t have the terrain other places do like steeps and backcountry, but we do find that we can set up our terrain park to where it is really great and accessible to kids in the area.”

This Sunday, Jan. 27, Sno Mountain will hold its first contest of the season, the second annual Loki’s Slopestyle Competition.

The competition, open to ages 10 and under, 11-14, 15-17 and 18 and over, starts at 10:30 a.m. Registration will be from 8-9 a.m. and the entry fee is $10. Participants will be judged on form, difficulty of tricks, creativity and how they use the terrain park by reps from within the ski and snowboard industry.

“This is a chance for local kids to get out and compete against each other,” said Prokop. “We are trying to get local people tuned into and turned onto the sport and how it and the industry is progressing.”

It’s not only the industry that has progressed.

“Some of the kids who come up are sponsored by major companies,” said Mike Beaker, Sno Mountain’s events coordinator. “The talent here is absolutely amazing.”

That talent will also have a chance to show off in the coming weeks when Elk Mountain will hold its own slopestyle competition, either at the end of February or the beginning of March.

Woolley, who has been snowboarding for 20 years, feels that slopestyle is part of the reason terrain parks are so popular across the country.

“They’re showcased in The X Games and involve an actual course that one person goes through — it’s not a race,” he said. “It’s up to the rider or skier to look at the course and come up with their own run. It adds another element to have the rider look at what we’ve built and see what they come up with when they hit it.”

Maintaining a park

It takes more than just snowfall to keep a terrain park in top shape. Woolley and his crew spend nearly four days grooming and placing the handrails and jump features each time the park needs to be redesigned. And then they take a test run.

“All of my crew are very good snowboarders, and we all go in and test everything — safety is our primary issue,” he said.

Camelback Ski Area in Tannersville has redesigned its terrain park more often than it has in previous years, including adding a handle tow lift and a larger half-pipe.

“We’ve reinvested in our snowmaking system over the last six years, and it’s paid off each year,” said Brian Bossuyt, assistant director of sales and marketing. “After the warm up we went through last year, we just decided to increase it even more so that we could battle the warm weather.”

Elk Mountain has also enhanced its snowmaking systems over the years — including starting this season with an additional groomer and 54 new guns — and that has paid off for the resort. In the October 2007 issue of SKI magazine, Elk Mountain was named Best in Pennsylvania for Snow, Grooming, Value and Weather by readers.

“One of the reasons we obtained those honors from those readers is that we pay such close attention to those things,” said Bob Deluca, director of sales and marketing. “Every year as technology improves, you make better and better snow that is more precise and gives you more yield.”

‘Revolution’ on the mountain

Sno Mountain will host the Chevrolet Revolution Tour Friday-Sunday, Feb. 29-March 2. The tour, which participants can only be registered online through the U.S. Snowboard Association, will see competitors flying in from all over the country.

The event is used to qualify athletes for the US Open, FIS Junior World Snowboarding Championships, USASA Open Class Nationals and the Visa US Snowboarding Cup.

According to Beaker, Sno Mountain became involved in the Revolution Tour through Planet, a company owned by pro snowboarder Ryan Neptune that designed the resort’s terrain park. Planet has also designed the snowboard parks for the Olympics in Salt Lake City and the US Open.

“Sno Mountain invested millions of dollars into their park and you have to have a first rate product to be considered for the event,” Beaker said.

This will be Revolution Tours only east coast stop — other qualifiers were held in Minnesota, Colorado, Utah and Oregon.

“It will be amazing for our region,” said Prokop. “That’s the biggest of the big.”

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