How to plan a snow park? How to make it safe? What are the differences between Europe and America? What are your most favourite parks? Cody Ferris-Heath gives us insight into building snow parks and shwat shapers and cat drivers need to do. About selfies, transitions, office jokers, the love to snowboarding and why this current system is fucked. This is part 1 of the interview, have you already read part 2 and part 3?
Mogasi: How did you become a park designer?
Cody Ferris-Heath: It started off by riding a 100 days a year for 10 seasons. Meanwhile I would critique parks and talk with my shred buddies about what could be safer, more flowy, more fun. Eventually, it got to the point that when people asked you that classic question: „what do you plan to do when you’re done with college?“ I would answer: „I’m gonna move to Europe and build snowparks.“ So, 15 years later, here I am.
It comes back to an important life philosophy: Set goals and try to reach them, no matter how ridiculous they may seem. It goes to show, anything is possible! Try to live your dreams, don’t let anyone tell you different.
Mogasi: What does a detailed park plan look like?
Cody: In most cases, it starts with an evaluation of the previous setups. An analysis of what worked, what didn’t. I also ask the local riders and shapers for their input. Ultimately, the park designer and builders decide whether to implement changes or not. Then, I start to braimstorm and draw a few possible park layouts. I normally make about 4-5 drafts before I have a concrete plan. I get constant feedback from the riders and shapers.
Once we’ve decided on the best layout, it’s time to start designing individual features. Again, feedback is important for proper size/flow of the elements. Then the jump and jib plans are drawn up, based on their location and how much snow is available. Unfortunately, snow availability seems to be the biggest hurdle when building your dream park these days. If you’re unlucky, lack of snow can send you back to step one…. Fortunately, in a good park, the setup changes throughout the season. Therefore, you have the chance to make adjustments.
Mogasi: What inspires you?
Cody: Creative park setups that I see as a rider, or in films. I think every park designer should do their homework. By that I mean shredding different parks as much as possible and watching lots of park edits.
Mogasi: What do you do to ensure the safety of the riders?
Cody: Transitions everywhere! It’s simple physics, you will get less broke off if you crash on a slope instead of onto flat. Drop in points. Long landings. More table-top style jumps, rather than step-downs. Rail takeoffs that match the trajectory of the rail.
I think more snowparks should groom their landings in the morning, otherwise during the best riding hours of the day, you have rock-hard, icy conditions. And in the spring, it’s really tough for the machines to do a clean job in the slush, which results in a sketchy park.
Mogasi: What are your favourite parks in Tirol?
Cody: My favorites are the longer parks with a nice scene, the chance for step-by-step progression and good variety of obstacles!
Kaunertal is always rad in the spring. Steinplatte is doing a nice job. This year, Serfaus has done great work, with around 50 elements. Nordkette normally builds a creative setup, with a lot of options for the amount of space they have. Patscherkofel was dope when Sane! crew did the design. Kaltenbach always has the best jumps around, but it’s a classic Euro park that is wider than it is long, where everything is set up side by side, so you only get a few hits per run. I like Axams because of the transitions and variety of line choice.
Although extremely overrated, Penken Park is fun when they have the whole park built (including the jib/mini pipe). You can have some fun there because of the variety and number of obstacles. BUT, Penken still has potential to be much better, considering the massive park crew, thriving scene, and budget they have. Based on what I’ve seen, the crew is obviously lacking experience. The jumps are complete shit, half the stuff is set up totally wrong, and the cat driving is a mess. The best built park element in Mayerhofen this season was definitely the fun line.
Mogasi: What are your favourite parks in the wider ski world?
Cody: Mt. Bachelor in and out of the park, Laax, Northstar, Boreal and Mammoth are on the top of my list. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to ride much in the US over the past few seasons. There are a lot of amazing parks popping up all over the place!
Cody Ferris-Heath, Age 34, born in Portland, Oregon works as
Snowpark Designer and Manager as well as Biketrail Designer and Builder.
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