'More people are doing these different tricks and making it look easy'
BEND, Ore. (AP) The sport of freestyle skiing and snowboarding evolves at a breakneck pace. A maneuver considered impossible last season is suddenly the trick that everybody is trying to perfect this season.
"That's the crazy thing, you're always like, 'That's it, we've topped out,'" said Coggin Hill, free-ride director for the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation. "But then the next year somebody comes out with something else that blows you away. With social media and YouTube now, people are now seeing what's possible and what can be done, and that's really pushing the level of riding."
It can be intimidating to watch young skiers and riders fly through the air off monstrous jumps, twisting and contorting their bodies in unimaginable ways. Even more intimidating can be the prospect of launching off a jump for the first time yourself.
But man-made terrain parks like those at Mt. Bachelor ski area, which include jumps, rails and other freestyle features, are designed with the idea of progression, allowing snowriders to start small and work up to something bigger. And terrain parks can be popular places on the mountain when new snow is scarce.
For those beginner freestyle skiers and boarders at Bachelor, the Short Sands terrain park near the Sunrise chairlift is the place to start.
The low-level features of the park have low-consequence and are low-risk, according to Hill.
"Terrain parks are a good place for people to go have fun on a day when nothing else is really that great and there's no fresh snow," Hill said.
New snowfall has been sparse at Bachelor since late December, so with a lack of powder for patrons to ride, the terrain parks have become more attractive.
Parker Bohon, Bachelor's first-year terrain parks manager, is hard at work revamping the resort's parks to make them safer and more in line with the current ideas of style, flow and progression. Bohon who has worked in the past with Jeremy Cooper, the terrain park manager at Park City Mountain Resort in Utah wants to make Bachelor's terrain parks accessible to those new to free-riding.
"I would just like to create a product that is safe for everybody, not necessarily gnarly or intimidating," Bohon said. "Anybody is capable of progressing up the ladder."
Bohon, who leads a terrain-park staff of 12 at Bachelor, calls this season "a transition year" for the terrain parks at the resort. The focus is quality over quantity, he explained, but not being overly concerned with any one single feature.
"(We are) basically trying to have a park that's structured around flow, and then thinking about the layout in general, with respect to progression," Bohon said. "It doesn't really matter what one feature looks like, it matters what all of them look like, and how they ride. So if we have one great jump, who cares? I'm really concerned about what everything looks like."
The terrain park staff includes workers who operate snowcats during the night to build and shape features, and others who work during the day monitoring and maintaining the parks.
Short Sands includes five 10- to 15-foot jumps and several flat boxes. From there, skiers and snowboarders can progress to parks near the Skyliner lift, which include Pacific City, Seaside, Cannon Beach and The Point. These terrain parks include jumps ranging from 20 to 25 feet in Pacific City and from 45 to 60 feet in The Point, as well as more technical boxes and rails.
Other freestyle areas on the mountain include the 22-foot halfpipe and the Events Arena, both located near the Pine Marten chairlift.
Hill says that confidence is a crucial part of starting out in terrain parks.
"Realistically, hitting a box is just like riding flat snow," he said. "It's not much more challenging . it's the mental aspect of it. A lot of times people are scared of a feature and regardless of how good of a skier or snowboarder they are, they go into it (lacking confidence). A big thing is being confident in what you're doing."
Hill says that many kids in the MBSEF program start riding freestyle when they are as young as 6. But uninitiated adults can start at any time and work their way up to bigger and bigger features. Part of Bohon's emphasis this season is making for a smoother transition from smaller features to larger features for skiers and snowboarders.
"When you move from Short Sands to Pacific City, it's not a huge jump," Hill explained. "In the past, there's been a big gap in the level of features. You're either hitting 10-foot jumps or 40-foot jumps. (Bohon) has worked a lot this year so that people can go into that Short Sands, try features at that level and progress there, and then work their way up to riding a different park."
Hill advises those who are new to terrain-park riding to start out small, and to not try jumps or rails that are beyond their skill level. By doing so, he notes, they could be setting themselves up for injury.
Bohon says he is focused on making the terrain-park jumps safer by raising the landing areas on many jumps. This eliminates what he calls the "falling-out-of-the-sky effect." The skier or boarder can still get lots of air time but does not have to soar as far down to the landing.
"It's all about trajectory," Bohon said. "The landing isn't as harsh or as steep. We're giving them the air time but raising the landing up."
Hill says that, as with most sports, practice is key to finding success in riding freestyle terrain. More practice leads to more confidence, which can allow snowriders to develop skills in a safe manner. This way, when a skier or snowboarder sees a new trick on YouTube, he or she just might have the ability to go try it.
"Ten or 12 years ago, people were a lot more scared about doing these (challenging) tricks because people had never done them before," Hill said. "And now as more and more people are doing these different tricks and making it look easy, it gives the kids a lot of confidence."
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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press