Whether you’re a park rat or avoid metal rails and corrugated pipes like the plague, you have to appreciate the innovative and resourceful craftsmanship that goes into building a terrain park.
A recent visit to the Vail Mountain shop at the base of Golden Peak revealed a mad-scientist-like scene: terrain park foreman Scottie Boyle and manager Shawn Carney were hunched over their latest project, a pyramid. Sparks flew as they welded each metal support to the thick pipe that will eventually sport sheets of UHMW (aka thick plastic) slanting down on each side.
Features are built from a mix of new and recycled materials: square metal tubes, irrigation coping, milled logs, empty propane tanks and oil barrels, cast-off statues and even old lift towers. The old materials are inspected for safety, cleaned up, given a fresh coat of paint and emerge anew both as stand-alone features or elements of larger pieces.
Vail environmental manager Adam Bybliw plays a large role in finding interesting pieces that would otherwise be recycled or thrown away. An avid snowboarder since the age of 13 and a Vail Mountain employee of 10 years, Adam joins his love of riding with his passion for environmental responsibility.
“One of my main jobs is to repurpose items on the mountain,” he says, and when he sees a piece that he thinks would make a cool feature he gives Scottie a call. “It’s a hunt to find ways to urbanize the park but still keep it safe”, he says. Though using recycled materials is eco-friendly, it’s also a core element of freestyle skiing and riding. Before any mountain designated a specific terrain park, progressive skiers and riders were building their own jumps and jibs from whatever material they could get their hands on. This kind of resourcefulness is an integral part of a sport that is constantly pushing the limits.
Terrain parks foreman Scottie Boyle says that the recycled features are often the most popular amongst riders. From the huge tires of heavy equipment vehicles to the miner statue that’s become something of a mascot in the Bwana Terrain Park, these pieces continue the legacy of innovation that is intrinsic to terrain park culture.
What Vail’s Terrain Parks look like in action: