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Progression Rules the Ski Parks

A snowboarder starts small in a terrain park at Mount Sunapee. (Mount Sunapee photograph)

A snowboarder starts small in a terrain park at Mount Sunapee. (Mount Sunapee photograph)

If there’s a buzzword echoing through terrain parks, it’s progression.

Resorts are spending more time creating environments where skiers and riders can ease into the park scene, and once there, move ahead safely.

So, what’s progression?

“At its core, park progression refers to increasingly difficult features, regardless of whether they are metal rails, boxes or jumps, as a skier or snowboarder makes their way down the trail,” said Mount Sunapee marketing director Bruce McCloy.

McCloy spells it out for those not up to speed on on those rollers, berms, gaps and more. He says a series of these features that run downhill one after another is called a “line”.

“As skiers and snowboards progress down the slope, the features found within these lines get increasingly difficult. By designing a terrain park in this way, the athlete is able to build upon their momentum from the previous feature and know if the upcoming one is beyond his or her skill level,” he said.

According to McCloy, this design also allows them the ability to “session” a feature, meaning continually using one particular jump or rail in order to improve their skill. Once they have mastered that feature from their session, the athlete can progress to the next jump or rail in the line.

Changing that line makes things interesting for terrain park users.

Attitash terrain park manager Bryan Desgroseilliers is stressing constant change in its parks, switching elements so guests aren’t always skiing or riding the same features, in the same spots, all season long.

“So we’re mixing it up a bit and giving more variety and options as far as what will be offered to guests,” he said. “The parks will change hopefully once a month.”

Part of the Peak Resorts family, all of the Bartlett resort’s features are manufactured at central fabrication shops located at Mount Snow in Vermont (home of progressive Carinthia loaded with terrain parks like the new rural themed The Farm) and in Pennsylvania. Desgroseilliers says there are seven new elements this season and three parks, maybe more.

“We are hoping to build a fourth park at the base of Bear Peak, neighboring the Sprung Structure,” he said. “This will be a ‘butter’ park. What that entails is very wide, low to ground elements, that require no ‘jumps on’ or ‘takeoffs.’ This will allow you to dial in your flat ground maneuvers before taking them to the hill or creating combinations onto larger elements.”

Cranmore in North Conway is continuing a progressive park focus with a terrain park staff that builds, designs and tests their own features.

“Skiers and riders will see more small and medium size features, but there also still larger features for the more advanced skier and riders,” said Cranmore’s Becca Deschenes. “We want everyone in our parks to feel unintimidated, safe, comfortable and confident no matter what their ability.”

The Double Feature Progression Park on the Alley trail gets lots of love. Split in two sections, the upper park has small to medium size jumps and features, ascending in size.

“The Lower Double Feature Park will be more of an advanced progression park with medium to large elements for more advanced riders, she said.

Bretton Woods by Twin Mountain is operating three main parks this season.

“Again, progression is our main focus here at Bretton Woods,” said freestyle terrain manager Brad Shedd. “We offer everybody the chance to try out freestyle riding for the first time, and also give everyone a great training facility to take it to the next level.”

Toy Box is the introductory park with very small rails or boxes, and in keeping with the latest trend of terrain based learning there are some rollers, a spine, roll backwall and learning bowl on the bunny hill Rosebrook Meadow.

Midway is middle of the road park, packed full of rails, boxes, barrels, jumps, and many other types of objects to bounce off while Coos Park is the largest, a full, top to bottom run, packed with medium to large jumps, and the largest, most technical rail set ups.

“Most of our rails and boxes have been produced on site, but the past two seasons we have worked closely with Cherry Valley Machine (in Bethlehem) to create some beautiful new boxes,” said Shedd. “It’s beneficial for us to use this company because of their attention to detail when creating elements for the parks.”

So if you’re ready to progress this new year, ask about park lessons at your favorite ski area.