Playtime in spring terrain parks at Woodward Copper, Keystone A51 and Breckenridge Freeway
March 12, 2017
Ah, the joys of spring: patio beers, bluebird Sundays, random powder days and park lap after park lap.
Right around Halloween, everyone clambers to Arapahoe Basin for runs through the jam-packed terrain park, which is really more like a collection of mellow rails and boxes. It's an exciting time of the season — almost as exciting as homemade features at Loveland Pass a week earlier — yet, when real winter rolls around, most park rats are more interested in Summit County's big three: Copper, Keystone and Breckenridge.
No matter how much snow we get in December, the terrain parks aren't quite ripe. There's usually not enough snow for superpipes or big jumps — Breck couldn't even build a pipe in time for Dew Tour this year — and the rail features aren't too gnarly. There's no need to break yourself off before Christmas. (Or ever.)
Come February and March, though, the park builders are busy rethinking the flow of every park, beginning with 80-foot kickers and urban features before introducing stuff you've hardly seen before in real life, like the the shipping container at Keystone A51 or the Willy Wonka-style rails at Woodward Copper's Central Park.
Spring is playtime for park rats, and crews at all three mountains are going bonkers switching out rails, jibs and everything else once every two weeks, give or take. Now, with more than a month of riding to go, here's a look at the marquee features at the big three. It's open season out there.
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Since taking over design at the Copper a few years back, Woodward has propelled a decent park in the upper echelons of progressive, pro-level riding. The medium and large lines, dubbed Central Park, feature a near-perfect combination of familiar — down rails, double-kinks, quarterpipes — and the odd, like dozens of jibs, pills and those weirdo rails in the lower park.
Beginning last season, terrain park supervisor Shane Nay says his crew started making several improvements to the park, including a revised layout for the small/medium lines and a slew of new features in Central Park. The team also added a brand-new Pisten Bully cat "to build everything pristine and keep things in good shape for our park users," he says.
This all means that the park rarely (if ever) gets old and boring.
"We'll start with what isn't working to its full potential, fix it, then move to make improvements on what is working," Nay says. "This system usually rotates at least one feature per night in our bigger parks, ensuring nothing gets stale."
The supervisor's favorite feature from last season — the combo 22-foot, 13-foot and 8-foot multi-transition hybrid quarterpipe at the base of the Central Park jump line — didn't return, but there are still plenty of quarterpipe hits and other snow monstrosities, like the short-lived roller field. They're the sort of features you can session for days and still never get tired.
Oh, and don't forget the public park in summer, open every Saturday until the snow melts. Last season, it was still rocking until nearly October.
Central Park highlights: Medium jump line with progressive transition; lower urban jibs
Lifts: Union Creek Quad, American Flyer (via High Point)
There's no doubt Keystone A51 is one of the best medium/large parks in North America. It regularly cracks top 10 in the Transworld Snowboarding reader's poll and is known for a mix of jibs, jumps, urban rails and more, all spread across a wide swath of terrain with a dedicated two-chair.
New this spring, as always, is just about everything in lower Main Street, where park supervisor Walker Lutz and crew typically put all of their big, burly, nasty rails. In the past, it's been home to step-downs and other major features — sort of like the park builder's playground.
"That feature flows into a multi-use feature that includes a step-up, hip, true table and transfer jump," Lutz says of past three-way jumps in lower Main Street. "This new design gives (daily) skiers and riders the chance to hit features you might find in events such as Superpark."
What's Superpark? It's A51's pro claim to fame, an invite-only even held after the lifts stop for the season. In the past, it's drawn just about everyone who's anyone, like film stars Austen Sweetin, Jamie Lynn and Peter Line, along with Silverthorne local Red Gerard.
Don't think that tons and tons of snow means things don't switch up. The night shift changes out a few rails and jibs nightly, from one or two to upwards of five.
A51 highlights: Huge rainbow rail in lower Park Lane; upper Park Lane shipping container; lower Main Street snow features
Lifts: A51 lift; Santiago Express; all Dercum Mountain lifts (via Schoolmarm)
It's no secret: Breck is known for its terrain parks and has been for decades. The big, bad, intimidating daddy of them all boasts more pro-level features for longer than any resort in Summit, and, with the exception of park-only mountains like New Zealand's now-defunct Snow Park NZ, they often set the standard for the industry.
But what does that mean, exactly? For some, it means that this is a playground without equal, a place where local pros like Brett Esser, Benji Farrow, Eric Willett, Bobby Brown and more train for the X Games, Burton U.S. Open and Winter Olympics. It's familiar yet challenging all at once, and come spring, one of the best ways to spend an afternoon is lapping the park lift (Chair 5) for a free (if kind of slow) show.
For others, those world-class features mean the large Freeway lines and medium Park Lane lines are too big and too aggressive for the average Joe. But, in the world of park riding, progression is the name of the game, and you'll never get better if you keep hitting the same dinky boxes and down rails.
"Our overall layout (has a) focus on quality and consistency as well as fresh set-ups," terrain park manager Greg Davidson says. "We strive for our jumps and halfpipe to be in perfect condition, every day, so that the features have the same feel day-to-day and the riders can focus on practicing their tricks."
Still, Davidson's crew is constantly at work, including a nearly complete redesign of the lower Freeway jumps (the Dew Tour ones). Just be aware that the halfpipe usually closes at 1 p.m. daily come mid-March to avoid wear and tear in the dog days of spring.
Freeway and Park Lane highlights: Park Lane six-pack jump line; Freeway superpipe
Lifts: Chair 5, Colorado SuperChair (via Upper Four O'Clock or Springmeier)
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