Spring terrain parks at Woodward Copper, Keystone A51 and Breckenridge Freeway | SummitDaily.com

Spring terrain parks at Woodward Copper, Keystone A51 and Breckenridge Freeway

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on spring terrain parks. Click here for an overview of the beginner and progression parks at Keystone, Breckenridge and Copper.

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-down jump at Keystone or the football uprights 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 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.

Woodward Copper

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 uprights in the lower park.

This season, terrain park supervisor Shane Nay says his crew has made 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 this season: the combo 22-foot, 13-foot and 8-foot multi-transition hybrid quarterpipe at the base of the Central Park jump line. It’s been there all season in one form or another, but the crew continues to carve new elements into the snowy monster. It’s the sort of feature 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 lasted until September.

Comps: USASA Junior Nationals from April 1-13, Red Bull Slope Soakers on April 16

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

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

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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 (This year, it was No. 3, just ahead of Copper at No. 4) 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 year is lower Main Street, where park supervisor Walker Lutz and crew typically put all of their big, burly, nasty rails. This year, the team was more interested in creative snow features — and it shows. Reigning supreme over all is 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.

“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 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. (Found right next to the multi-use step-down are the Danny Davis-inspired rollers.)

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.

Comps: No comps this spring.

A51 highlights: Huge rainbow rail in lower Park Lane; lower Main Street snow features

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

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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 is similar to last year, with 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 will close at 1 p.m. daily beginning this week to avoid wear and tear in the dog days of spring.

Comps: Tons of open contests, including Spring Fever Park Jam series (April 1, 8 and 15) and brand-new Mtn Dew Spring Open (April 2) for skiers and riders 13 years and older.

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)

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