Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper resorts prepare for spring skiing | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper resorts prepare for spring skiing

By March, the terrain parks and park crews at Breckenridge, Keystone and Woodward Copper are firing on all cylinders. Here’s a look at what’s in store for park rats in the warm days of spring.

By Phil Lindeman

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 a few mellow rails and boxes. It's an exciting time of the season — almost as exciting as homemade features at Loveland Pass — yet, when December rolls around, most park rats are more interested in Summit County's big three: Copper, Keystone and Breckenridge.

But, 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 — the home of Dew Tour at Breck is the exception — and the rail features are always hittable. Thing is, we're all getting back in the groove. 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 Peace Park-style rollers and step-downs at Keystone or the multiple staircases and close-outs at Copper.

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 the best days of spring yet to come, here's a look at the marquee features at the big three. It's open season out there.

Woodward Copper

Since taking over design at Copper a few years back, Woodward has propelled a decent park into 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 walls rides at every angle.

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Last season, terrain park supervisor Shane Nay says his crew made several improvements, 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 "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."

Comps: USASA Junior Nationals from April 1-13

Central Park highlights: Medium jump line with progressive transition; lower urban jibs

Lifts: Union Creek Quad, American Flyer (via High Point)

Keystone

There's no doubt Keystone A51 is one of the best medium/large parks in North America. It regularly cracks the 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.

Improvements have been made to lower Min Street, where park supervisor Walker Lutz and crew typically put all of their big, burly, nasty rails. Reigning supreme in previous seasons was an enormous step-down with pipe-cut sides that allows for multiple angles and take-off options, almost like a natural feature with pristine, machine-cut transitions. Expect more of the same this spring, including a 15-foot halfpipe in lower I-70.

"That feature flows into a multi-use feature that includes a step-up, hip, true table and transfer jump," Lutz says. "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 event held after the lifts stop for the season. In the past it has 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: Urban features in The Alley and Park Lane; 15-foot halfpipe in lower I-70; lower Main Street snow features

Lifts: A51 lift; Santiago all Dercum Mountain lifts (via Schoolmarm)

Breckenridge

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.

"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," terrain park manager Greg Davidson says.

Still, Davidson's crew is constantly at work. Just be aware that the halfpipe typically closes at 1 p.m. daily in mid-March and early April to avoid wear and tear in the dog days of spring.

Freeway and Park Lane highlights: Park Lane six-pack jump line;
Spring Fever jibs

Lifts: Chair 5, Colorado SuperChair (via Upper Four O'Clock or Springmeier)

Q&A with Greg Davidson, terrain park manager at Breckenridge ski resort

Spring is prime park season. What’s new and different in your park this year?

Our overall layout is similar to last year, with a focus on quality and consistency as well as fresh set-ups.

How do you make sure all of
your parks encourage progression, whether it’s a newbie in the beginner park or a pro training
for a comp?

When it comes to progression for the professionals, our focus is on consistency and quality of features. 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.

How often can people expect your park crew to mix up features in the large/med park? The progression parks?

We do not have a set schedule of how often features get changed. Our crew is out in the park every day evaluating which features are getting used, which ones are not and what can be improved. With this approach we can put our resources towards the areas that need it most, keeping our popular features in prime condition, and trying something new where it is appropriate.

I’ve noticed a lot of step-downs in the past few years but none at Breck. Any reason?

We have built plenty of huge step downs over the years at Breck Parks. This style of jump looks impressive, and is often desirable for competitions and photo shoots, but they are not the most conducive to progression. They inherently have a higher impact for the rider on the landing than other styles of jumps. They will always have a place in the park, but recently the trend for us and the industry as a whole is to design jumps that have the same amount of airtime with less impact on the landing.