I know a lot of things about family skiing. But I don’t know anything about terrain parks.
Recognizing my ignorance about all things freestyle and terrain park, I recently spent a morning with Jason Hartmann, the Snowmass Snowboard Program Coordinator, talking about terrain park safety and etiquette.
Hartmann suggested reviewing the skier and snowboarder responsibility code as a starting point, taking into account how each rule applies specifically to terrain parks.
Know the Code
1. Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects. In the terrain park this means start small and work up. Terrain parks are designated Small, Medium and Large. These designations are more important than whether or not the park is on a green or blue run. If you’re new to park skiing, the small park is the place for you. Be sure to read the signs before your enter the park.
Additionally, it’s not a good idea to cruise through terrain parks or half pipes with no intention of riding the features.
Or as Hartmann puts it, “These features are meant to be ridden. If you’re not riding them, don’t go into them or do laps alongside them. You don’t want to create a possibly dangerous situation for yourself or others by being somewhere you shouldn’t be.”
2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them. When you ski up to a terrain park, the first thing you’ll notice is the queue. Don’t cut it. If you’re unsure who is next, just ask. Then when it’s your time to ride, call your drop by putting your arm in the air and loudly saying “drop.” Give everyone space and don’t follow anyone too closely.
This also means being aware of the rider in front of you. Don’t drop in until you are certain the previous rider is clear.
3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above. Don’t stop under a jump or next to any features. Clear all landings quickly so that you leave plenty of space for the next rider. If you see someone fall and they don’t get up, close the jump or feature by making an “X” in the air with your arms or ski poles.
If you’re pre-riding the park, or skiing through as your children hit the features, Hartmann suggests looking for corduroy. You’ll find it way off to the side where no one else is skiing. Want to take photos or video? Look for decks adjacent to each feature and stay on them.
4. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others. Parks are designed to have flow. The idea is that each rider will hit the features in order from the top of the park to the bottom. If you choose to skip a feature, that’s okay. Just ski around it and stay in the flow.
What you don’t want to do is start and stop within the park, possibly getting in another rider’s way. If you’re done with your turn, ski off to the side. If you want to merge back into the park, look uphill and make sure you have room before skiing in.
5. Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment. If you lose your equipment, get out of the way. Never hike up a jump to retrieve it. You could get hit if no one can see you. Instead, if you lose anything from your goggles to your skis, get out of the way, run up beside the feature and close it before the next rider drops in.
6. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas. Don’t duck ropes or enter a closed park. Look for Park SMART signs. Read and understand them.
7. Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely. Substitute the word “feature” for “lift” and you get the idea.
Never ride a feature cold. No matter how experienced you are, Hartmann suggests sticking to the “terrain park mantra.” That is pre-ride, re-ride, free-ride.
This means warming up and skiing alongside each feature, the first time through the park. Features vary from day-to-day and snow conditions are always changing. Even if you know the park well, take an inspection lap.
On the second lap, try a little more, maybe ride the features, but don’t go big. Get comfortable with the park layout and dimensions.
Finally, on the third lap, ride the features to your ability.
Hartmann emphasizes that it doesn’t matter how experienced you are.
A Final Word for Parents
Standing at the top of the Snowmass Park, Hartmann introduced me to Chris Olson, a snowboard coach with Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.
Olson had this to add.
“I think it’s awesome that parents want to bring their kids into the park. As long as parents know the proper etiquette of being in here and realize that the runs within the terrain parks are far different from any other runs on the mountain. I think it’s important for parents to be educated to educate their kids so that no one gets hurt.”
Wise words, indeed.
Here is a 2011 video from NSAA and Burton Snowboards. It’s worth a watch
© 2017, braveskimom. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.