Paige Blankenbuehler
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November 25, 2012
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Keystone Resort's A51 park a 'jib heaven'

In snowboarding and freeskiing, progression is the name of the game. Athletes are only as good as their last run, and their tricks go in and out of style as quickly as their apparel.

Keystone's A51 Terrain Park is topping the industry by supporting all the jibbing and jumping while keeping up with the ever-changing demands of athletes.

"We promote a friendly and progressive vibe in our park for all ages and abilities of riders," said Kevin Laverty, terrain park manager. "A51 has been a highly ranked park for years now, and we accomplish this by staying current with our features and not only following but setting trends."

As the terrain park supervisor for Keystone Resort, Laverty makes sure that happens.

Keystone is world renowned for its terrain park, this year TransWorld Snowboarding ranked the park No. 2 and Freeskier ranked it No. 3.

"We were stoked to hear that all the hard work from last year was appreciated by our guests," Laverty said. "We try to incorporate features that riders of all skill levels will enjoy. The rankings show we are on our way to accomplishing our goal."

Laverty and his park crew, Tony Wertin, the grooming supervisor and Walker Lutz, the day supervisor of the terrain park, are all skiers and riders and work closely to keep A51 competitive in the industry. They talk to the people who ride the park and try to incorporate the feedback to make the best product available.

"We work long hours as a team because we are excited about what we do," Laverty said. "This is our playground, so we build the things we want to ride."

A51 is a massive terrain park located in Keystone. During the peak of the winter season, the park is made up of more than 100 features, including four separate jump lines. The area is broken up into beginner, intermediate and advanced sections and has its own lift.

"It's jib paradise," local rider Josh Stock said. "The whole park flows like a skate park so you can combo features and pick weird, creative lines all day."

What's more: Laverty, Wertin and Lutz are welders and fabricators, creating a majority of the features in A51 right at Keystone.

"We buy the raw materials and the crew develops the features they want," said Laura Parquette, spokeswoman for the resort. "Most of our features are made in-house."

With an ever-changing lineup of various features, getting everything ready for the season can be a challenge. And snow is usually the major issue, but still A51 has been ranked high among early season terrain parks in the continent.

"We were one of the first resorts to open in North America with the biggest terrain park," Parquette said. "It's a huge focus for us to be one of the largest terrain parks open, we've been rated as one of the best early season terrain parks, so we've become a training ground for professionals."

Every year, Keystone strives to have features ready for opening day on the Scout trail, located on the run of the same name on the west side of the mountain.

Once the man-made and natural snow builds up enough in A51, it opens with about 50 features and the full slate of jump lines, while slowly adding more and more features until the area is fully operational.

It's a fluid process, Parquette said, as there is not a single permanent feature anywhere in the park with crew members making adjustments to elements every day.

Everything can be adjusted, she said, "whether the park crew is working on Freda's Incubator to make it better suited to the beginner-level skier or snowboarder or redoing the entire jump line because they need to take it up another level."

Laverty and his crew spend countless hours in the offseason repairing and building features.

"After the park is closed and before we open A51, our park groomers and day crew put in hours of hard work installing new features and making the current features and jumps look perfect for the next day of operation," Laverty said.

Greg Kennagh, one of Keystone's local team riders from Silverthorne is out in A51 nearly every day.

"Having this in my backyard is amazing," Kennagh said. "The features help me improve my skills, it's a great time."

Kennagh, who also rides for Anon snowboarding company, said A51 is one of the best parks he's ever been in.

"There are so many features," he said. "Doing laps through the park is great because it's impossible to hit everything one time through."

This year, Keystone shifted its focus to local riders, according to Parquette.

"That's really who Keystone is," she said. "It's an awesome community up there - it's an atmosphere of sharing knowledge on a free-flow basis."

The lift that services the terrain park exclusively contributes to the community feel of the park, with many riders and skiers dedicated to staying in the park for the duration of the day.

"People enjoy being up there," Parquette said. "Our park guys know so many of the local riders by name. They do laps all day, they bring lunch and eat it out on the hill. It all makes for a community vibe and we're very prideful of that."


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The Summit Daily Updated Nov 26, 2012 09:11PM Published Nov 25, 2012 12:08AM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.