Why are there so few halfpipes? What are the trend in park design? How do you keep a park in shape? Cody Ferris-Heath gives insight in building a snow park and what shaper and cat drivers have to do. About halfpipes, “shape” and bicycles. This is part 3 of the interview. Have you read part 1 and part 2 already?
Mogasi: Why are there so few halfpipes?
Cody: Basically, it all boils down to cost vs. benefit. A resort can’t make any direct profit from a pipe unless they have big events. You can’t host a big event if the pipe is not built to the most modern specifications. These days, a ski area can make more money with rails, so that’s why halfpipes are the do-do bird of the snowpark business.
“Even a great pipe doesn’t attract enough riders compared to the operating costs.” Cody Ferris-Heath
A Halfpipe requires too much snow and too many cat hours to build and maintain. It’s extremely difficult and time consuming to keep in great shape. Pipe dimensions are always changing. When a resort invests in earthworks and a pipecutter, the investment will be outdated in 5 years. Even a great pipe doesn’t attract enough riders compared to the operating costs.
How do you know that your features work? How do you perfect them?
Cody: I’ll admit, it started off with trial and error. Now it has evolved into a science. Jumps are now built to certain specifications and dimensions and there are set rules that need to be followed.
It’s important to measure and maintain your kickers so they remain consistent and don’t change every damn day. This also makes it easier to reproduce something that works year after year.
An important thing for jibs is that they are well spaced, and the correct obstacle is matched up with the speed of the rider. If that’s not done, you get moguls between features, or have to skip obstacles because the speed just isn’t there. The takeoff trajectory also needs to match the sliding surface, which is often overlooked.
Mogasi: Are you active within the freestyle-scene?
Cody: With very few exceptions, if a park designer doesn’t love riding park, he should find a different job. I don’t know if I’m “active in the freestyle scene”, but I ride a lot of park. I may not care to attend every industry party or shop opening, but I still really enjoy all disciplines of freestyle snowboarding.
Like life itself, my snowboarding goes through phases. For instance, 10-15 years ago, I used to simply not accept anything less than the biggest, gnarliest features in the park. If there is a jump with a small side and a big side, the small side was not even an option. Now, as an “old guy” with a kid and other business pursuits my priorities have changed. I find my happiness in style and creativity instead of risky maneuvers or counting how many whirlybirds I can do at one time. Every season I loose tricks, but I manage to learn others… and that’s why I will always love snowboarding.
Mogasi: What can not be missing in a fun park?
Cody: Every park needs a few stock elements; and these should be the obstacles that get set up first. Including but not limited to: down rail, flat box, user-friendly medium jumps.
Mogasi: How do you keep the ‘shape’ of a park?
Cody: The most important, and often overlooked factors are regular rebuilds, safety checks, and a dedicated crew. The cat driver must use his blade to maintain transitions and fill holes, not just groom the park. He also has to be allowed that time to do his job without stress from his boss. His personality also has to allow him to take feedback from the crew without taking criticism personally.
It’s an important job of the park manager to explain to the cat driver and shapers HOW to keep your obstacles in shape. Square and even takeoffs, a board length of flat at the top of the jumps, checking angles, taking periodic measurements of the bigger jumps, etc… All these strategies are super important to communicate!
Park building can and should be more of an “open source” business where we, as experienced builders, share knowledge and experience for the better of the sport. It’s the same as when an talented older rider coaches the younger generation of riders on their park skills.
Sharing is caring, and if you really care about freestyle, share your experience. That knowledge could create a healthier, more fun, and less dangerous park scene. This philosophy gets more people involved in park riding and will benefit everybody in the ski and snowboard industry.
Mogasi: Which direction are park construction trends going in?
Cody: Unfortunately, in Europe, the traditional snowpark is dying. Boxes that make noise, selfie sticks, tunnels, timed slopes, automatic photo stations, luxury car sponsors and murmelebahns are the future, because of the profitability of these sorts of park features.
Mogasi: Can elements of bike trails and snow parks be reused?
Cody: Very difficult….. Bikeparks and snowparks are intrinsically different from each other. For instance, a 10-15 m bike jump is for pros, on snow that’s nothing. Skis and boards need gravity to gain speed, bikes have pedals and roll faster in the flat. Even the flattest ski slope would develop massive brake-bump problems if it was used for biking. Just look at halfpipes, a bike halfpipe is built on a level surface and a snow pipe is not.
The biggest similarity I see in trail construction and snowpark construction is in funslopes. Here the goal is to control the speed of the user by incorporating different elements. However, even in a funslope, the whole thing is built differently. The shape of the curves, the slope grade, and the size of the elements are all completely different.
Mogasi: Which parks have you built and which ones would you still like to build?
Cody: I can’t take credit for any parks because it’s always been a team effort. I’m looking forward to working with any motivated crew who has a creative attitude toward park building. I hope to have the chance to share my experience and continue to learn from other quality park builders.
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