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Terrain park evolution

William Ferchland
Photos by Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Taylor Chatwin, 9, of South Lake Tahoe competes in a rail jam at Heavenly Mountain Resort. Chatwin has been boarding terrain park features for three years.
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When Tyson Terpering joined the terrain park crew at Sierra-at-Tahoe in 1992 there was only one park, two paid employees, and Terpering, a volunteer at the time.

Now Terpering designs the five parks at the resort and is among a dozen employees dedicated to implementing and manicuring the jibs, jumps, rails, boxes, kickers, halfpipes and other adrenaline-inducing features.

The evolution of terrain parks at Sierra-at-Tahoe is a microcosm of the industry as more appear on mountains catered to different experience levels with more creativity than ever before.

Terpering, 32, began volunteering at Sierra soon after he graduated high school. He was given shovels and often used his hands to help shape the only park at the resort. After three years he began building them.

Like an artist about to mark a blank canvas, Terpering has a picture of what he wants to do before implementing the image. He must take into account the slope of the mountain, the spacing of features, the flow of a rider.

“Just knowing what you want done before you see it,” he said. “The biggest part of building a terrain park is knowing where to put stuff.”

Ideas strike at different times. He sometimes uses a bar napkin to draw a new design. In summer, when he works as a mason, he uses the dirt to help plan.

“I’ll draw on anything,” he said.

Evolution comes often at terrain parks, with one of the five parks at Sierra getting some sort of makeover each night, Terpering said.

Parks at Heavenly Mountain Resort are also under constant change, usually on a weekly basis, said Rob Giustina, terrain park manager.

Giustina has an impressive resume in building parks. While he was with Terpering in the early days at Sierra-at-Tahoe, Giustina left to make designs for heavyweights such as ESPN’s X Games and Vans Triple Crown.

Tired of traveling, Giustina returned to South Shore to work this winter at Heavenly Mountain Resort. In the summer, he builds courses for dirt and mountain bikes.

Heavenly Mountain Resort has two terrain parks, but Giustina is hoping to add a halfpipe and two more terrain parks, including the one available at night on World Cup Run, which will open by the end of next week.

Far from gap jumps, which were placed in terrain parks but removed for liability reasons a decade or so ago, the popular features nowadays are rails and boxes, Giustina and Terpering said.

Nowadays resorts often have multiple parks with at least one made for novices unaccustomed to rail glides and bumping boxes.

But for the advanced riders the jumps are getting bigger and the landings softer.

“Jumps to me make a park,” Terpering said. “People are always going to enjoy hitting a jump. It’s just an accomplishment.”

Another consideration is placing the terrain park below a chairlift, for entertainment reasons, of course.

“If you got a place to build a park where a chair is right there and the chair is going to feed the park, that’s the coolest thing to have,” Terpering said. “Then you have the show.”

Kirkwood Mountain Resort employs that philosophy, with at least three parks next to chairlifts as well as the Mountain Dew Super Pipe in full view of various seating areas.

Last year Kirkwood partnered with DC Shoes on a few of its parks, said Chris Eckert events and promotions manager and freeride team manager.

During the summer a week was spent redoing rails and other improvements in an attempt to improve the parks.

“What if we had a park that matched our mountain?” Eckert said. “That’s what we’re going for.”


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