Keystone’s A51: Jibbing, jumping at its finest
summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
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.
So, it comes as no surprise that the industry supporting all the jibbing and jumping has to keep up with the ever-changing demands of athletes.
“I want to go to a park that is always changing up features and coming up with stuff I haven’t seen before,” Matt Melilli said.
And as the terrain park supervisor for Keystone Resort, Melilli makes sure that happens.
Keystone is renowned for its level of park features, especially the A51 Terrain Park, and Melilli knows exactly why.
“It’s the ability to be flexible and customize features in our park that meet the demands of the public riding it,” he said. ” … We talk to the people who ride our park and try to incorporate the feedback they give us to make the best product available. We work long hours as a team because we are excited about what we do; this is our playground. We build the things we want to ride.”
A51 is slated to open in the coming weeks – weather permitting – but Keystone already has its early season area, Spring Dipper, up and running.
Ranked No. 2 in the country by TransWorld Magazine, A51 is a massive terrain park located in Keystone’s Packsaddle Bowl just below the Peru Express lift by the Mountain House base area. The park is made up of more than 100 features, a 22-foot superpipe and four separate jump lines. The area is broken up into beginner, intermediate and advanced sections and has its own A51 lift.
“(A) focus we have is to make sure that all levels of riders can enjoy the terrain park experience,” Melilli said. “From the beginners to the seasoned pros, we feel we have something for everyone.”
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.
Melilli said his crew gets roughly 30 features ready for opening day each season in the temporary Spring Dipper park, 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 until the area is fully operational.
“It takes a lot of snow to build one jump so we have to use it wisely and learn to be flexible when it comes to design with out compromising quality,” he said.
It’s a fluid process, Melilli explained, as there is not a single permanent feature anywhere in the park.
Everything can be adjusted, he said, “whether we are working on Freda’s (Incubator) to make it better suited to the beginner level skier or snowboarder or redoing the entire jump line because we need to take up another level.”
Melilli and his crew spend countless hours in the offseason repairing and building features.
“I am big on aesthetics,” he said. “A well maintained park is a happy park.”
And Melilli knows to keep all levels of skiers and boarders happy, he has to stay ahead of the curve.
“We test features daily and brainstorm on ways of improvement,” he said. “As a team we come up with the most innovative features we can think of.
“Honestly the biggest motivation to push the limit and set the bar is looking at the year before and stepping back as a team and saying, ‘How the heck are we going to top that?'”
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