The art of terrain park building: Copper’s Chase Davis sculpts terrain parks for every type of athlete
A paint brush, a pencil, a set of paints and clay are all materials or tools that artists use in hopes of creating a piece of art that will be admired by others.
For terrain park builder Chase Davis, his paintbrush of choice is a snowcat, and the white blanket of snow across Copper Mountain Resort’s slopes act as his canvas.
“I see it as an art form,” Davis said of building terrain parks. “We are sculptors and (the snowcat) is the piece of equipment we have to shape the snow and then people get to go have fun on them.”
Davis has been working in terrain parks for the past 16 seasons, beginning his career at Steamboat Resort.
“I have been doing it quite a while,” Davis said. “I started out in Steamboat, was there for four years and then was at Keystone for two years and this is my 10th year here at Copper.”
After spending a season grooming the trails at Steamboat, Davis was asked if he wanted to help build parks for the resort the following season. Davis agreed to the job and from then on a love for the art form of terrain park building was born.
Like any piece of art, his craft took hours of practice to master. Davis says some of the ramps and rails he laid in the early part of his career were a bit rough.
“I was learning by myself over there (Steamboat),” Davis said. “Looking at pictures and videos, things that I saw in magazines and stuff. I built a lot of sketchy things in Steamboat when I first started.”
However, once Davis moved to Keystone, he felt like he had a solid group of mentors around him that shaped him into the terrain park builder that he is today. With lots of practice and experience over the past 16 seasons, Davis says he feels like his terrain park building skills are at a completely different level than when he first started at Steamboat.
“It just takes time to make stuff more clean,” Davis said. “To make things sharper, it’s just not a pile of rubble and snow.”
Like an artist’s signature at the bottom of a painting, Davis says each terrain park builder has their own unique style or touch. For Davis, he begins every approach to a build from ground zero in order to build a complete jump line or series of rails and features.
After spending two years at Keystone, Davis gravitated towards Copper because of the number of events the ski resort puts on throughout the winter.
Whether it’s the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix, Visa Big Air, U.S. Revolution Tour or next week’s Dew Tour, Davis and Copper’s terrain park builders are always preparing for the area’s next ski and snowboard competition.
“There are not a lot of mountains that don’t do events anymore,” Davis said. “I feel like a lot of mountains are going away from parks or slimming them down. I feel like Copper is pushing the progression and is supporting us in building parks.”
Davis is currently the head terrain park builder at Copper and spends his time building, tailoring and shaping Copper’s 10 terrain parks while also working with Snow Park Technologies to build snowboard and skiing venues for competitions.
At this point in her career, Davis says he feels most fulfilled by the builds he completes for competitions like Aspen’s X Games or the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix.
“It is a special event,” Davis said. “A lot of big name pros are going to be in there. That is your work that they are hitting and they are getting their photo shoot off of it, videos and television. I think that is pretty awesome to do. Like I said, not a lot of resorts have competitions.”
Outside of building venues for competitions, Davis says his days usually consist of him and the Copper terrain park team maintaining and building upon the mountain’s terrain parks.
“We have hand crew that has been here all day and they know what is wrong,” Davis said. “We get a briefing on what feature needs to be replaced or a takeoff that needs to be adjusted. Then that gives us a plan of what we need to do at night and then we come in to take care of everything, groom everything and then if we have free time to put in new features.”
The terrain park team at Copper will have four or five people working on a given night from 4:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on four-day swing shifts.
Davis and his team will ride in the snowcat to do a lot of the grooming and maintenance of Copper’s terrain parks, but the team will also get out to hand carve and shape jumps, set new rails and make sure the features are safe for the public.
Davis says making sure the features are safe for the public also comes with feedback and experience. The feedback can often feel like a gut punch after he and his crew have spent hours, and sometimes weeks, on a build, but is necessary in order to improve upon the builders’ skills and make the parks satisfactory to the public.
Ultimately, he says the feedback is valuable, even if it sometimes requires taking things in stride.
“We spent all these hours building this thing and we wonder why it sucks,” Davis said. “That was a learning experience when I first started. You find out you can’t make everybody happy, but we try to make most people happy.”
Davis says one of his favorite parts of his job at Copper is when he gets to be creative by dreaming up new features or doing something he hasn’t done before.
“That is probably the best thing about this,” Davis said. “Being creative. You can use your imagination. Be creative and make sure it is safe for the public. That is the best part of the job — the building part.”
Davis says he views his job and craft as anything but work. Combining creativity, fun and art, being a terrain park builder is a dream profession for Davis.
“I feel this is the best job ever,” Davis said. “I am getting paid to build jumps, set rails and have people huck themselves off of it and they are having a good time”
Davis is currently lending his hand to some of the builds for Copper’s Dew Tour which will take place from Friday, Feb. 24, to Sunday, Feb. 26. The event will feature both superpipe and streetstyle competitions and is free to the public.
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