Slopeside with Kathleen Baglio Humphreys -- Airing it out: Terrain parks take off
Terrain parks have grown in popularity and acceptance over the years, with resorts piling the snow high for the enjoyment of freestylers, snowboarders and even some ski racers.
Bear Peak at Attitash has the Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear of terrain platforms in its Abenaki Terrain Park.
"The beginner park is located at the base of Bear Peak and has beginner rails, boxes and jumps. The medium park is on Kachina, which offers medium-size elements and jumps, while Myth Maker has the expert park which has big rails and big jumps," said Bryan Desgroseilliers, manager of Abenaki Terrain Park. The park's features are constantly being changed, he said.
"Progression and safety are our main concerns," Desgroseilliers said. "You learn a new trick in the beginner park, then bring it to the medium park then the expert park, then go back to the beginner park and learn another new trick."
The beginner park's elements are all ride-on, low to the ground and requiring no jumps to get on them. By comparison, the expert park has platforms 15 to 20 feet off the trails; some jumps are 30- to 40-foot piles of snow.
"It takes a dedicated staff and an eye for ingenuity to be able to make technical and different elements, but with a huge emphasis on safety," said Desgroseilliers.
It also takes a lot of snow and a lot of manpower to build a park. First the park is designed on paper, then the snowguns go to work — for three days in the expert park — and finally the grooming staff pushes the snow around to make ramps and jumps before adding the elements.
"All the takeoffs from rail elements, box elements and take-off ramps we actually groom by hand," added Desgroseilliers.Cannon Mountain blew a lot of snow to design its terrain park, which hosted the Bern Big Air competition last weekend. Franconia Ski Club racer and freestyler Joop Segal, 16, from Lee, was among the competitors.
"I like going off the jumps and doing the rails. It's fun and when you land, it feels good," said Segal, who took fourth place in a recent Rail Jam competition at Cannon.
Segal is one of many racers who go to ski team practice and learn the advanced skills they can bring to the park. Off-mountain, Segal practices his jumps on his trampoline and at the N.H. Academy of Gymnastics, which has a trampoline and foam pit.
In a sport where, at its highest levels, multiple aerial somersaults are standard fare, safety is foremost in many minds.
"Inverted aerials were not allowed," says Attitash's Desgroseilliers. "But with the progression and training facilities such as foam pits, water ramps and our infamous air bag that will be here in a couple of weeks, it allows people to train better and ... do more of the technically difficult tricks.
"And of course, we have some of the best (ski patrol members) I've ever seen."