Sculptors using snowcats carved mini-mountains and valleys into Eaglecrest's Sourdough run this week, creating a new play spot for snowboarders and skiers.
Called a terrain park, the series of jumps and bumps opened for the first time today and was expected to draw younger boarders and skiers to the city-owned winter recreation area, said Eaglecrest Ski Area Manager Paul Swanson.
Roped off from the rest of the Sourdough run, the park is a series of eight hills in two groups, one for intermediate and one for advanced skiers and boarders.
"It's progressive," said terrain park designer Jim Mangan of Aspen, Colo., on Thursday. "The jumps get a little bit bigger as you ride down it."
Sourdough, accessible from the Hooter chair lift, was chosen for the park because of its width and constant pitch, said Mangan. Another reason was its visibility, said Eaglecrest Business Manager Gary Mendivil.
"The added benefit of its location on the mountain is people can watch them do it. That's part of the fun," Mendivil said. "It's a skate park on snow."
The $40,000 funding for the park and related expenses came from Proposition 3, a voter-
approved sales tax measure passed in 1998 that also funded Eaglecrest's tubing hill operation, said Mendivil. The park's operating budget is $9,200 a year, which includes pay for a terrain park supervisor, who hasn't been hired yet.
Eaglecrest widened the Sourdough run by about a third two summers ago, hoping to open the park last season. But snow was in short supply and plans were put off, Swanson said.
After enough snow fell this year, Mangan was brought up to start work, which began Sunday.
"When I arrived we dug into the base and we pushed around the snow," he said.
Mangan and Eaglecrest Operations Manager Rick Kaufman worked Thursday, using a snowcat called a Park Bully, a flexible grooming machine made for terrain parks.
Swanson said plans are to maintain the terrain park as designed. But changes are possible, depending on conditions and use.
"The only challenge is that you always have more snow," Mangan said. "Always, more snow is good."
Terrain parks attract those looking for more than a quick ride down the mountain.
"It's basically about youth. Most snowboarders and skiers using it are under the age of 25," Mangan said.
Winter recreation areas around the world are adding terrain parks to focus the energy of adventurous users, Mendivil said.
"We know people are going to try to jump on skis and snowboards," he said. "If they go off into the woods on their own, they could hurt themselves."
The park is designed for safety, Swanson said. Hills were carved for soft landings, warning signs will be posted and staff will watch for out-of-line use.
"It's important for people to check it out before they go through, though," Swanson said.
But there could be problems if skiers and boarders don't use common sense, Mangan said.
"There's no way to absolutely avoid injury," he said.
Eaglecrest's terrain park is less complex than some put together by Mangan Slope Designs.
One of Mangan's larger projects was Crazy T'rain a two-mile terrain park filled with jumps and half-tubes designed for the ESPN Winter X Games at Buttermilk, an Aspen ski resort. He also designed and consulted on The Wonder Park in New Zealand, which won the New Zealand Snowboard Association Award for Terrain Park of the Year-2000.
"We have an artist visiting us," said Eaglecrest's Kaufman. "This is the first time we've ever attempted to do a real terrain park, rather than a reasonable facsimile."