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  • More Ski Resorts Offering Terrain Park & Freeride Lessons

    by Mitch Kaplan

    Photo courtesy Burton Is your kid clamoring to hit the terrain park and master the halfpipe? Is he/she ready to be let loose among the rails and kickers? For that matter, are you ready?

    Ski resorts are ready to teach all of us how.

    Hitting the terrain parks, whether on skis or a board, and knowing how to hit the parks are two different things.

    Time was, not so long ago, that anyone who wanted to learn terrain park skills had only one option: hang around the park, watch others doing tricks, and try to imitate them.

    Park rats, as I like to call them, have always been pretty good about sharing. As long as you weren’t clearly a poser you could always get advice and tips from the older kids. And, it was always kids, wasn’t it?

    That was cool. As far as it went.

    But, parks grew larger, the hits huger, the dangers more manifest, and skills required were that much greater. Time for a more structured learning environment.

    Learn to Jib, Ride Rails and Go Big

    In the past few years, I’ve twice gone to school on terrain park technique. Once in the Burton Progression Park at Loon Mountain. And, last season, at Mountain Creek’s Switch Academy.

    Did those sessions turn me into a park rat?


    But, they did give me a primer in what parks are all about, and how to properly approach elements and hits like boxes, rails and jumps.

    And, hey, for a grandad-age dude, I’m not too shabby in pee-wee parks.

    More importantly, however, is that this is the tip of a trend. More ski/ride resorts are offering park and freestyle training to sliders of all types.

    Good idea. It takes a lot of the guess work—the hit-and-miss, if you will—out of mastering the basics, and that makes everyone safer.

    Not to mention more successful.

    So, what’s involved in terrain park programs and where can you find them? Here are some samples.

    From Boot Camps to Single Sessions Way Out West

    Unlike basic ski/ride lessons, there seems to be very little universality to resort terrain park programs. Some offer one-shot lessons. Many stage intro workshops. Others have multi-day clinics. And, most host season-long programs.

    Photo by Mitch Kaplan At California’s Mammoth Mountain, for example, Parks and Pipes Camps are available to intermediate, advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders ages 10 and up. These are three-day sessions with an instructor in a small group that focus on riding the halfpipe, and park jumps and jibs. Different parks are used for different rider needs—starting on easy features to learn new tricks, and moving progressively to bigger features. The $395 per person cost includes a full-day lesson (9 a.m.-3 p.m.), one-day use of demo skis or snowboard, and video analysis (weather permitting). Dates: Dec. 21-23, 2008; Feb. 17-19 and March 27-29, 2009.

    Steamboat Resort in Colorado offers Maverick’s Freestyle Park & Pipe Clinic for skiers/snowboarders with levels 6-8 skiing/riding ability. The all-day clinics develop rail sliding skills, spins and grabs in Steamboat's "Maverick" Super Pipe and Terrain Park, under the tutelage of instructors with specific freeride training. Clinics meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. from December 23, 2008 through March 26, 2009. Cost:$170.

    At Winter Park, Colorado, they tell us, the Saturday Park & Pipe Freeride Class isn’t just for kids. Specially-trained pros devote a full day to helping everyone from novice freeriders to big-time pipe freaks master any feature. Participants must be 13 years of age or older. Sessions meet on Saturdays, Jan. 24 and Feb. 21, 2009. Cost: $100.

    Something Special at Copper Mountain

    Colorado’s Copper Mountain and Camp Woodward have created Woodward at Copper, the first ski/ride training facility solely dedicated to park and pipe progression. The multi-million dollar facility opens in January, 2009, with progressive teaching tools including trampolines, foam pits and softer landings you can ride away from, allowing participants to push their ability limits in a safer, supported environment.

    Winter Camp Days will run all season, with time split between the indoor facility and Copper’s progressive terrain parks. Cost will be $199, or $159 with a season pass.

    The One Hit Wonder program, starting at $69, is designed specifically for those who wish they could leave the ground, spin just once, and land back on their feet. Working with the Woodward at Copper pros, players will learn use the trampolines, foam pits and softer landings and then bring those skills to the snow.

    Drop-in Sessions in The Barn will happen from 6-7:45 p.m. and 8-9:45 p.m. most days, to provide additional training time for guests, pros and local youth—a perfect program to give you extra time to work on specific skills and tricks introduced during the Camp Day or One Hit Wonder session. One Hit Wonder or a Camp Day participation is required before a skier or rider participates in a Drop-In Session.

    Hittin’ It Out East

    In New Hampshire, Loon Mountain offers Freestyle Progression Camps for ages 13-plus. The resort’s top instructors offer tips and teach techniques to optimize the park and pipe experience. This program is for skiers and riders who can comfortably link turns on blue terrain (Levels 4-7). Participants with a helmet and a good ‘tude are welcome on Saturdays from December 13, 2008 to March 21, 2009. Cost: $135 with lunch; $120 without.

    Gore Mountain in New York offers two options. Their Saturdays in the Parks, for ages 13-17, meets Saturday afternoons, 1:30-3:30 p.m. from Dec. 13, 2008 til March 14, 2009 Teen skiers/riders of intermediate level or better get pointers on park skills, plus safety and etiquette. Kids can buy sessions on an individual basis or as a six-pack. Cost is $35 per Saturday, with a six-pack discount.

    Gore has also inaugurated the Bad Boards Club also for intermediate and advanced skiers/riders ages 13-17. Sessions cover rails, steeps, NASTAR racing, bumps, trees and, well, whatever. These are two-day, weekend adventures in which each weekend has a different focus. You can sign up for all six weeks, or just the weekends of your choice. The program includes a two-day lift ticket, coaching, and lunch, running from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Cost is $175-$185 per weekend, with six-session discount. The schedule:

  • Jan. 3-4, 2009 Personal Skiing & Riding
  • Jan. 10-11, 2009 Parks & Features
  • Jan. 17-18, 2009 Racing
  • Jan. 24-25, 2009 Try the Other Discipline -Snowboard, Alpine Skiing
  • Jan. 31-Feb. 1, 2009 Trees & Steeps
  • Feb. 7-8, 2009 Hangin’ in the Pipe

    Also in New York, Hunter Mountain snowboarders can take on the Park & Pipe Workshop, which covers everything from big jumps and new tricks to looking smoother on the rails or in the pipe. Offered as full-day or two-day workshops, sessions include video analysis, top-level instruction, lift ticket and breakfast/lunch vouchers. For intermediate to advanced snowboarders, the dates are January 10, March 7 and March 8, 2009. Cost is $159 (one day), $299 (two days).

    And here’s something unusual: Hunter’s Boardercross Boot Camp, a.k.a the Jason Evans Boardercross Camp. Evans is a Winter X Games Silver Medalist, five-time National Tour Champion, the 1994 North American Halfpipe Champion, two-time US Open Halfpipe podium winner, and holds more than 12 national event gold medals in Boardercross. Staged on December 13, 2008, the camp includes individualized coaching, video analysis, breakfast, lunch, photographer, camp t-shirt, and starting practice. Cost is $125 per rider and can be booked by calling 518-263-5207.

    At Vermont’s Killington, Camp Freeride offers ages 7-18 the chance to hang with Killington’s best freeride coaches while learning in the resort’s medium-sized park and the new Burton Stash! Sessions include riding/skiing rails, jumps, hips, rollers and transitions. No uptight lesson format here, they assure us, just a fun camp focused on new school skiing and riding. Camp Freeride is for kids who "have reached a level of riding/skiing where they are ready to push their limits and join the new wave of on-snow adventure." It’s a full-day program available during the Christmas (Dec. 24, 2008-Jan. 2, 2009) and President’s Day (Feb 14-21, 2009) holiday weeks. Cost: $180.

    This is but a sampling of the many programs out there. Check with your resort’s ski/ride school for their offerings.

    Or, another option is a private lesson. There’s nothing like one-on-one attention to maximize any kind of instruction, and the parks/pipes are no exception to that rule.

    Archived articles relating to KidzTravel:

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    ...... Mitch Kaplan is the author of The Unofficial Guide to the Mid-Atlantic with Kids, The Cheapskate’s Guide to Myrtle Beach and The Golf Book of Lists. He is a contributor to The Unofficial Guide to New England & New York with Kids and to the annual guide Ski America & Canada.

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