Ski areas, especially the small, commuter-oriented areas that dot the midwest, should have at least a handful of features arranged to some semblance of terrain park flow on the very first day of winter operations, if not sooner. Many are already embracing this concept because kids will come out and shred no matter what. Yet in other places, terrain parks are neglected, and sometimes among the last of the trails to open.
Here’s why ski areas should put terrain parks first:
Yes, building your triple line or shaping the mini-pipe takes TONS of snow, but setting up a simple jib park does not. And since kids will hike you don’t even need to spin a lift so an early-season park is not particularly resource-intensive, and allows the ski area to bring in revenue while the other 98% of the terrain remains closed for blowing & grooming, in preparation of the full open.
I know that skier dad with his family of kids taking lessons and eating pizza from the cafeteria, and high school ski teams and ski clubs are your bread & butter, but they’re not coming out yet because frankly they’re not core enough to not care about how bad the conditions are.
Meanwhile, while you’re busy not making money trying to prep the mountain for people who won’t show up for two more weeks anyways, you’re leaving money on the table.
Park kids are chomping at the bit to get out and ride on any measly base you can lay down after 3 nights of snowmaking temps. Conditions can be horrible — they will tail press your dirt patches and jib your rocks and bonk the exposed stumps and branches — as long as there’s a few features they will be out there HAVING FUN and telling others about it, taking pictures and making video edits and posting them for all their friends to see on facepintwitagram.
So it doesn’t cost much and you get revenue from it and you can possibly leverage some social out of it, too. Looks like win, all the way around.
Here’s a recent edit out of Trollhaugen, WI. Does it look like any of them care in the least bit that the resort is barely open?
And here’s Tyrol Basin, also in Wisconsin, from like 3 weeks ago. Kids ain’t as good as the House of 1817 crew, but I bet they’re still having fun.