Ski and Snowboard Tips for Wasatch Resort Parks
By Sean Zimmerman-Wall
When you mention Utah to most people, images of chest deep powder and sickeningly steep lines usually comes to mind. However, nestled in the Wasatch’s most popular resorts, is a microcosm of jibs, rails, boxes and pipes waiting to be shredded at the Wasatch resort parks.
In fact, riders from around the world come to Salt Lake and Park City every winter to immerse themselves in what these parks have to offer. Even Olympian Shaun White makes his presence felt when he soars above the 22-foot high walls of Park City Mountain Resort’s massive half-pipe. Don’t worry though; you don’t have to be a sponsored athlete to enjoy most features in Utah’s parks.
With a variety of venues to choose from, skiers and snowboarders from around the valley can make their way up the mountains to slide and huck to their heart’s content. Brighton, Park City Mountain Resort, The Canyons and Snowbasin all have ample freestyle terrain and each resort usually has several parks that cater to beginners and experts alike.
So now that you know where to go, let’s talk about how to get started. First off, the equipment most park riders use is a bit more specialized. For snowboarders, the decks are usually a bit shorter for more mobility and increased handling. Park boards vary in length from about 150–159 centimeters depending on the size of the rider. These boards are also softer and provide a “buttery” feel for adding that extra bit of steeze to your tricks. Burton and Lib Tech both make excellent park boards that have been tested and proven by top riders from around the world. Moving on to boots and bindings, park riders usually enjoy a lighter weight combination to reduce drag and increase hang time. In addition to less mass, extra padding and flex help you stomp those hard landings. For women’s specific riding gear, see the next page.
The story is virtually the same for skiers. Park sticks are shorter, lighter and almost always twin tipped. This allows the skier to whip them around faster and even land backwards or “switch.” Lengths for park skies fall between 155–170 centimeters and also provide an even sidecut, or a similar sized tip and tail with a relatively thin waist. However, the trend lately has been for some park riders to try fatter skis with reversed camber (picture riding on two bananas) for increased jibbiness and extra pop off those big jumps.
This is quite simply a matter of preference and you should take a lap through your mountain’s park to decide what is right for you. Armada and K2 both make great equipment for park riders and have been approved by riders like Tanner Hall and Pep Fujas. As far as boots and bindings go, a medium stiff ski boot with a good heel pocket to hold the foot firmly in place is very important. Bindings that are lightweight and have a higher din setting are preferable due to the forces generated on impact. Again, this is a personal decision, and you should consider what kinds of features you would be hitting. If you’re looking to pick up some new gear, check out Milo or Salty Peaks for snowboards and Level 9 for skis. You’ll find a great selection and will be supporting local shops in the process.
Now that you’ve got the gear issue sorted, it’s important to remember that hitting features, like rails and boxes, is not quite as easy as simply riding on the piste. Balance and patience are critical to honing your skills in the park. Be sure to take advantage of the advice other park riders have to offer, they usually provide unique insight and can help you build confidence. Simply asking to take a lap with someone more experienced is helpful and always eye opening.
Lastly, it’s essential that you keep practicing every chance you get if you want to improve. Most people find that riding the Wasatch resort parks is a lesson in getting your tail kicked. Don’t expect to throw a stylish Backside 9 on your first run through the pipe, or a sick 270˚ on to a five-kink rail. Keep at it and remember to have fun. After all, we’re just out there sliding around on snow.