SECRET STEEPS: Hidden Parks, Forest Features

Word and pictures by Dave Scoppa
Published February 2007

No terrain park? No worries. Dave Scoppa goes deep into the snowy forests of America to build his own private park.

park planning at the board meeting

In today's snowboarding world, every resort has a super park and a super pipe and everything else to entertain the masses. Bigger parks result in more pros which result in more publicity in videos and magazines which result in, you guessed it, more cash. Today it is in a resort's best interest to provide perfect parks to distinguish themselves from their competitors. And remember, film crews will pay big bucks for exclusive rights to a whole park.

However, all this terrain park pushing is a fairly new phenomenon. Just under five years ago, things in some North American resorts were a little backward. With injuries on the rise, resorts found themselves paying out big dollars to kids who took on more than they could chew. Serious injuries meant serious dollars in court cases and lawsuits. The result at one particular resort was that they would not have a terrain park - at all.

Early in the 2001/2002 season, one particular resort in America (let's call it Resort X) decided that due to an increase in their insurance premiums, they would not build a terrain park that would be accessible to the general public. In the previous season, a rider had sued another resort in the area for becoming a quadriplegic after hitting a large kicker that apparently "did not have the correct warning signage" around it. 

Management, fearing the worst, decided that the best plan of action would be to have no park. With locked chains wrapped around the rails (only for freestyle camps) and jumps roped off completely, the season was looking grim. With snowfalls below average, things began to look even worse. However, a few enterprising locals got together and headed into the woods to find the perfect area to build their own park.

Misson: To create a jib park to entertain a select few locals in response to having no features provided by the mountain itself.

Location: Well-hidden from the public and weekend warriors but still easily accessible to maximise enjoyment.

Equipment: Three snowboards, a hacksaw, a tomahawk and a whole lot of stealth.

Timeframe: ASAP! The season is getting boring and sliding rails with chains over them is not good for your snowboard.

natural rail riding in the woods of resort X

With the snow ceasing to fall and backcountry booters becoming less of an option we headed into the trees to begin the mission of creating our own fun for the rest of the season.

The trees became our instant friends. Here we had no crowds to compete with and were free to create whatever we wanted with whatever nature could provide. Soon we found the perfect run. It had logs, bumps, banks, little hits and with a bit of effort we had our own small-scale slope-style course, unknown to anyone else on the hill.

We ended up spending more time on that one run than on the rest of the mountain. Although the hill was small, we generally could disappear with nobody knowing where we had been riding. There was only one rule at Hidden Park Club: we do not talk about Hidden Park Club. It became an honour for those who entered it, and a illusive, mythical place for those who were not privileged with our local knowledge.

log jibbing deep in the forest

Once the course was built, the challenges were set; switch runs, spins over features, and then came the boardercross style racing. A run through our Hidden Park went something like this:

  • -50-50 over the first log slide
  • -Backside 180 through the trees
  • -Nosepress over a fallen tree - this is the first hit in the secret course.
  • -Switch through the fallen trees. This part of the course was the most technical.
  • -Reward of hot chocolate after hard's days riding!

Many hills have secret log jibs scattered around the mountain. However, I am yet to find a hill that competes with the setup of our own, private Hidden Park. So, next time you're in the trees, keep an eye out for secret jibs - every resort has them, it's just a matter of finding them, because no matter how big the park or pipe set up is, one day that resort, like Resort X, might have nothing.

Dave Scoppa is a snowboard instructor and SnowSphere columnist from Australia. He has spent countless seasons in both hemispheres and this season finds himself in the Italian Alps.