This is my second season working in the terrain park. I love it. I also briefly worked in the terrain park at AZ snowbowl back in the late 90’s before there were rakes!
So if you are thinking of working in the terrain park at a ski area then this is for you. You’ve got options for lots of different jobs, but is the terrain park for you?
Who is this job not for?
If you don’t ride the terrain park and you don’t think you’d like building features and taking care of them then it’s not for you. If you just want a job to get a pass well there are a lot of other jobs you could do like: rentals, waiting on tables, instructing, grooming, mechanics, janitor, hr, lifty, etc.
I’ve done instructing, rentals (2-3 seasons) and waiting on tables. All of them provided time where I could usually ride daily. If you got a night job you could ride all day.
At the beginning of last season at Cannon I had a job in rentals and my boss told me I wouldn’t be able to ride as much as the previous year because of school camps or whatever and in my mind I was like no way. I do this because I love to ride and no ride break sounds lame.
So I quit and moved out west and found a job working in the terrain park where I wanted to be anyways.
If you don’t ride the terrain park then don’t work there.
If you are not stoked on it then don’t work there.
If you don’t ride the terrain park then you won’t care about the work that you do because you are not a user. If you hit these jumps and features then you will care and want them to be smooth.
I am surprised that where I currently work some of the guys are not that stoked on the work or riding the park.
They seem a bit jaded and lazy. I don’t get it. You work at a great mountain that’s totally beautiful with a good park too and you don’t like it? Probably not for you. Fortunately this year I got a boss that knows what’s up and does good work. We’ve got groomers that focus just on the park.
Last year that wasn’t the case. At Lookout not one of the groomers cared about the park. None of them rode it and getting them to do anything other than groom around all the features was difficult. They would cut out the sides of the landings when passing through and never actually groomed the landings.
You need a dedicated crew for that someone who cares.
This year is a different story we got a good guy in charge, but some folks (rakers) that have been here a long time hanging around that just don’t care that much.
Duties working in the terrain park:
Open and close the park
Open and close ropes
Set up fencing
Carry tools sometimes when riding
Raking features (this a big part of the job)
Block off jumps and call patrol when needed
Teach people common sense like clear the landing when you fall and don’t put your ski’s on on top of the jump
Radio when needed
Set rails and boxes
Set brushes or whiskers or paint edges of jumps
Rake! Keep jumps and features smooth
I like making jumps
Even when I am not working in the terrain park I tend to find myself building jumps. A few seasons back I built a little park with some shovels on the hillside in the farmcountry. It was fun.
This past winter I worked at Lookout Pass ski area in Idaho. I worked in the terrain park and it was one of the better jobs I’ve had. Digging in the snow and making jumps is something that I would do even if I wasn’t working like I made this earlier post called Cannon Kicker.
So getting paid to do it was even better. Lookout pass is an area in northern Idaho that get some of the most snow in Idaho. Somewhere around 400 inches a season. The snow was on the wetter side kind of like the PNW. The weather was kind of mild. It didn’t usually get that cold.
But enough with the weather. That’s boring. You can look those things up. Here’s a video I made with some clips from the season.
So last season 2021 was my first season having a pass since 2002. Yeah a long time. And in between 2002 and 2021 I might have done some snowboarding in my parents backyard hiking up some old logging trails and a few times elsewhere.
But it’s coming back. I feel like my riding has improved since starting up last season. And it’s been fun too. I can’t believe I stopped for so long. COVID came along. I was living in Japan and that wasn’t going so good so I came back to the States and started up working at the ski area which was fun.
But the west is the best as far as snow goes in the USA. So I went to Idaho where I wanted to go. In fact I lived in the small town of Wallace just down the road.
These are some side hits and jumps that I made at Cannon Mt. ski area in NH in 2021 and a few backcountry farmcountry ones near where I live in Monroe, NH.
Sometimes you just see a spot like ohh, there’s a jump there if you dig it out or pile up some snow. And sometimes the snowcats will take them out when they widen trails. Of course side hits aren’t in the middle of trails like terrain park hits, but normally on the sides and out of the way.
But by the time you go looking for these or even find this post they could be long gone because conditions change everyday.
Tuckerbrook side hit
Here’s me hitting a side hit I built.
Last season I made a few side hits in Tuckerbrook. This one which was off the side and near the top of Fox tail was one of the better ones while it lasted.
Like another mentioned here it started off as a snowmaking whale on the side of the trail. But I chiseled out a take off one day when the snow was soft and enjoyed it for a few days before it turned to ice.
Tuckerbrook is rad.
It’s the beginner area, the lift is slow and the runs are short. But there are a few fun blue runs, some rollers, banks and the snow tends to stay nicer here than the upper mt probably cause it is less steep, less windy and gets less traffic.
I worked on a few hits on Turkey trot, Bear Paw, Fox Tail and Deer run in early 2021.
I even sort of made a cool gap between Fox tail and Bear paw late season. There’s an area there that with enough speed you can jump from Fox tail over some pipes (hopefully covered in snow) and land on the side of Bear Paw. I had to shovel some snow in the landing to make it smoother and you have to ollie hard off the side off Fox tail. I was a little sketched out but knew I could do it. And I actually recorded it but when I went to play it back the camera phone had shifted while recording and I lost it ;-/.
This one is on Spookie. It’s a snowmaking whale that seems to be sitting there and it originally had a straight wall of ice on it carved out by the snowcat which made it not hittable but I saw the potential and cleaned it up.
Snowcats up there often leave these icy walls on the sides of some trails and that is kind of dangerous and ruins any jumps or wall riding on the side of the trail – at least at Cannon. You can hire me to go in and smooth them outˆˆ.
It was/is a big block of ice and I first went in there with a shovel and tried chipping away at it to smooth it out and no way. Then the next day it heated up softened (when I took the pic) and I went back.
I was debating carving out a groove to hit it like a hip but just ran out of time. I smoothed out the wall and transition to make it more approachable. It has more potential to work on it. At the moment the best way to hit is like the line you see above if you look closely.
But it’s often very icy so beware.
Started making a hit above it too so you could hit it along the tree line pointed towards middle ravine, but that needs more snow.
Taft slalom hits
Taft slalom is my default choice trail off the top of Cannon. Upper ravine is nice too especially when the snow if good because you can carve those fun turns like a bordercross trail.
But I tend to stay on the sides of Taft. And you can hike out to the Saddle when the snow is good.
Here’s a fun hit especially when the snow is soft.
You got to zoom in on this one to see it.
It’s on the left before the second snow gun. I saw the spot and was like oohhh. Took my shovel there and piled a little more snow and tried to carve it out better but there’s a lot of ice in there and my plastic shovel couldn’t do much. So I kept hitting it and eventually carved out a take off.
One surprising day I went up there to find 3-4 inches up there and some wind drifts along the left side there and it was good and had a nice soft landing. It was sketchy though because if you zoom in there was a branch sticking out into the trail and you had to point it between the stick and snow gun to land right.
But luckily someone cut that stick out and fortunately did not take the jump out so it’s safer and better.
Farther down on the left of this trail is another sidehit that’s fun but I didn’t make except dig out a rut and some ice in the take off. I didn’t take a pic of that one though. It’s just past this one to the left on that last roller before Taft flattens out towards the saddle.
This one to the left already lost it’s glory as it hardly exists anymore. The snowcats had built up an icy pile of snow on the side of a little roller there and I thought that would be a good place. Then it snowed and I went in with my shovel and made a nice smooth take off on the day of the pic. It’s between the 1st and second tram tower.
This one is also on Tramway below the other but near the 2nd tower shown in the previous pic. There’s a bank there on the side and you can drop off it and into this gully and shoot back on the trail.
It was kinda there but I went in with a shovel and chiseled it out and made the take off cleaner although last time I saw it it wasn’t looking very good.
Imagine a new kind of “park”
It’s my dream.
Normally a terrain park is on a separate part of the mountain.
But what if the park was all over the mt?
I mean it kind of is already, but what if you built a sidehit here, a berm there and a hip over there? What if you just enhanced some of the natural features already there?
But someone might say that’s dangerous. Well, it depends on the feature and where you put them skiing is dangerous already and if you mark the hits off with signs and put them out of the average skiers way then you’re probably okay.
Some people like to ride the whole mt. and in safe areas on the sides of trails or where there is space you could hire me to build side hits with a shovel and basic tools;-).
It could be a new kind of park. You could be first to the marketplace with this kind of park^^. You could put some signs there next to features to warn people and hire me to make them (with my degree in fine art I could guarantee that they will stand outˆˆ!).
If you want to see some awesome non-terrain park sidehit jumping check out Arthur Longo’s side hits series… I recommend #3.
Of course most of us including myself don’t ride anywhere near his level. But here are a few more side hit jumps I made.
Frontside 360 melon grab (tap, lol) off a side hit I made 0:07
Frontside 180 tail grab off a side hit I made 0:22
Indy straight air 0:37
Mute straight air 0:32
Backside 180 mute off a big park hit at Cannon 0:42
Switch frontside 180 stalefish off a little kicker I made in the farm country 0:57
Backside 180 mute off a little kicker I made in the farm country 1:05
A neighbor and family friend down the rode let me build some jumps on his hill. Some you can see a bit in the video above towards the end. They were melting down and this was one of the last days there. I would go there on days off and hike them.
This hill actually had a rope tow on it way back in the 60’s. There is also some steeper terrain up in the trees you could do if it ever snowed enough. You could get 500 vertical ft here with a rope tow up into the trees.
So I was obsessed with researching bindings and was primarily focused on getting the Strata, but then I saw the 5 pack Force binding and it caught my eye.
I decided to buy both the red 2022 Union Strata and the 2021 limited edition “5 pack” Union Force binding. Ohh and before I get into it I will mention changes for 2023 and there will be links on the bottom of the page for more info on those.
Union Force snowboard binding review (vs. the Strata)
This is a review of the Union Force snowboard binding compared to the Strata. This is actually a limited edition “5 pack” model from 2021.
Of course you must be wondering…
How does this 2021 model compare to the 2023?
The highback and baseplate appear to be the same except for a different colorway. The ankle straps have been updated to the Exoframe 4.0 Ankle Strap. And the toe strap to the TS 2.0 Rhombus Toe Strap.
Learn more about the 2023 Union Force or the 2023 Union Force pro with Exoframe 5.0 ankle straps, TS 4.0+ toe straps, and the all new Magnesium S1 ratchets.
2022 Union Strata snowboard binding review
This is a review of the 2022 Union Strata snowboard binding. I rode this binding first.
The 2022 model did not appear to be any different from the 2021. The only visible difference I could see was that the word “Strata” was not on the highback.
The 2023 Strata also does not appear any different than the 2022 except for a different color way (acid green, black, white, orange).
The straps, highback (no holes in 2023), baseplate and buckles appear to be the same as 2022.
The one I got in the video above was the team highback.
What did I think?
I tried the Strata first. And it was definitely different feeling at first and a bit painful underfoot at first. Perhaps it was the mini-disk or my boots or whatever. It did feel more loose.
The footbed is wider and there was some extra space between my boot and the interior sides of the front part of the binding.
The Force was tighter fitting.
The Strata feels a little lower to the board and little more flexy. The Force feels a little more stiff underfoot (standard baseplate?) and responsive.
It’s a little more powerful and aggressive feeling to me.
The Strata looser. More casual. More barefoot feeling.
What I didn’t like
One of the toe straps on the Force (despite being the same on the Strata) would slip off occasionally and had a funny sort of warp to it. A random imperfection.
They are painted bindings and that stuff chips and scratches off easily. But perhaps most metal bindings are like that.
The extra space in the Strata (the footbed is wide).
The Strata’s a little less adjustable. There is no adjustable toe ramp and the heel area is less adjustable. The Force is more adjustable.
If you like lots of forward lean then the Strata has less cause you can only adjust it so far (3 settings I believe), but it’s more of a “freestyle” focused binding as they say so many may not want much.
And the Strata forward lean adjustment isn’t as easy to adjust but most people don’t fiddle with that much so it doesn’t really matter.
The Force is more of an all mountain binding. But whatever binding you get you can ride it anywhere, don’t feel too limited by the labels.
I suspect the Strata would feel better for jibs, but I personally don’t jib much.
As far as shock absorption goes I think they are both good. The Force has a thicker softer area underfoot. The Strata’s isn’t as high and the material is more rubbery.
Both bindings are available with holy highbacks;-) if you like them – I don’t. But the holy highbacks were discontinued with the Strata in 2023.
According to one of the Union reps I was emailing the highbacks with holes are a “tad bit softer”.
The Strata highback doesn’t really have any padding whereas the Force has a lot.
The Strata is a bit more minimalist. I like the asym shape though.
Other snowboard bindings I was thinking about
Other bindings I was considering/comparing were several Salomon shadow fit bindings and the Bent Metal Transfer. In the end I went with these two. Salomon’s kind of looked cool, I was tempted to try out their shadow fit, but being a ski company kind of turned me off a little;-).
The Bent Metals are cool. I like Mervin’s stuff (currently ride a Lib board (Banana Magic), but I went with the Union’s. Maybe they felt a little heavier to me or liked the design of Union’s better.
Older bindings I had were old Burton Missions. I’ve had a few Burton bindings and wanted to try something new.
Who gets the most snow in the Northeast? If you are looking for a new snowboarding mountain to call home or some good places to go snowboarding/skiing in New England then this is for you.
The biggest mountains or ski areas in the Northeast lie in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
The tallest mountains in the Northeast lie in New Hampshire (Mt. Washington), but is that where the most snow is?
Yeah, possibly due to its’ higher elevation, but there is no ski area up there and areas to the west tend to get more snow so they say.
Who gets the most snow in New England?
This is kind of general but interesting. The most snow (annual snowfall average) unfortunately in New England is in a portion of New York known for its’ lake effect snow but there aren’t any tall ski areas there. Big NY ski areas like Whiteface and Gore are to the east.
Then in VT you have Jay towards the top leftish, Stowe and Smugglers. Then going south you have Sugarbush, Killington, etc.
Then the deepest places in NH are in the very north, around Mt. Washington, Wildcat, Cannon, Bretton Woods and Loon ski area.
The deepest snows there are maybe 200″ a year in Wildcat and the rest being closer to 160″ like Cannon was where I worked.
Cannon has a similar or higher elevation than some places in VT but it’s icy as hell.
Highest snowfall in Vermont and the Northeast so they say:
Jay Peak (350+)
Smugglers notch (300+)
I was skeptical and dug a little deeper and found city snowfall totals. They did kind of vary depending on the site, but I did find usa.com and New York gets the most snow. But like I said there are no big ski mountains in those areas that you will see below.
Well, it’s further north and colder so when it might be raining in other places it could be snowing at Jay.
But I can’t imagine much more snow because of that.
Yet, another thing is that to the west of Jay there are fewer mountains to absorb the moisture that hits Jay. It seems like many of the storms come from the west.
And that could explain more snow and why NH and Maine get less.
Do they get as much as they say?
IDK, maybe, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they inflate their totals.
This last season they claimed around 300″ of snow but only had a base of like 18-48″ or so?
Cannon where I worked this last season only claimed like 130″ for the season and for a while their base total was similar. I went to Jay in the early season December and they had a little bit more snow then.
A few months later I went to Smuggs and Stowe and there wasn’t a significant difference.
I’ve done most of my riding out west and areas that claimed they got similar amounts of snow usually had deeper bases.
But you got to ask where are they measuring this snow?
Is it in the sun or shade?
Is it on a groomed trail?
Did they blow snow on that trail? If so how much?
A visible place where everyone could see would be best.
Should yo you get a size bigger than your normal street shoes?
Usually people size down if anything.
Why? Because you definitely don’t want any play.
But it depends on you.
Do you want a “comfort” fit, a “normal” fit or a “performance fit”?
A “comfort fit” might be for the person who snowboards twice a year or maybe 3 times if they are lucky. A “normal fit” is kinda like what we do at Cannon in the rental dept.
Normally we tell people if your toes touch the front it’s okay.
Then kick your heel back, lace up or buckle up your boot then bend your knees and flex and if your toes come back a bit then your probably good.
You don’t want your foot to move around in the boot.
Now a “performance fit” isn’t for someone renting gear.
Rented boots are usually all packed out so they aren’t going to feel like a new boot.
One of the things we do in rentals is we size their foot using a Brannock device. Those are one of the things you might have used before in the shoe store.
You might be surprised what your foot actually measures.
Here I am measuring my left foot.
Ever use one of those?
This is a good place to start.
Forget your current shoe size and start with one of these.
It measures my left foot at 27.5 which translates to a 9.5 US mens and my right at about 27 which is a 9.
So that’s a good place to start, but keep in mind all boots don’t necessarily follow that.
My old boots were 9.5 Burtons then I recently got a size 9 in Thirtytwo boots which felt very tight when I first tried them.
I was questioning if they were too small, but after heat molding and 2 days I decided they were two big because my foot got loose in the boot.
DON’T GET HUNG UP ON A NUMBER (a certain size).
People come into rentals to get boots often saying, “I wear a size ___ (fill in the blank)”.
That’s their street shoe size. Some have it in their head that they are a certain size and their ski boots should be the same.
Sometimes they are and often they aren’t.
But we pretty much always start with the Brannock scale.
Here’s a little story…
Recently I had pretty much narrowed my choice of new boots online down to a 9.5 TM 3 Thirtytwo boot.
I thought 9.5 because my old Burton’s were a 9.5 and my larger foot measures 9.5 and I almost bought them online, but I decided to go back to this shop to try them on.
The 9.5’s felt like sort of comfy, but I could tell they were going to pack out and be too roomy. So I tried the 9 on and I felt pretty tight in those and after about 10 minutes I got some pain in one pinky toe.
I couldn’t imagine going any smaller.
It didn’t even cross my mind. Hesitantly I went back the next day, bought them and did heat molding. I put a little soft foam toe cap over my toes, stood and sat in them for 10 minutes+.
It was actually a little painful.
After the heat molding I took the caps off and put my foot back in and noticed they were a little more spacious although it felt like the foot bed on one foot was bunched up in the toes.
I sort of shrugged it off and figured it would fix itself.
Later I read the sign below in the boot box, examined the messed up insole and figured it was either defective or damaged from heat molding.
At the end of my first day riding in them I noticed one of my feet (actually the longer one) was sliding a little bit.
Then I did one more day noticed further play in the boot then I decided I would sell them because the boot was only going to break in more.
Depends on what you are going for. And it’s hard to see and no one wants to feel pain, but will that boot feel the same after you use it 2, 5, 10 or 20 days later?
No, it won’t.
Because it’s going to break in and pack out.
More comfort now might be more pain later (and less control) when your foot is sliding around in the boot. But it depends what you are going for. If you are someone who just rides less than ten days a year then yeah, maybe you want to stay away from pain.
It’s kinda like buying athletic shoes but different.
Have you ever played B-ball or soccer and needed some sneakers or cleats? You don’t want to play with your foot moving around in those right?
If your foot is sliding around in the boot or sneaker then your game is going to be off and that’s the same with boarding, but sneakers and snowboard boots are different in that a snowboard boot contains a lot more soft material.
That will pack out.
To some extent.
How much will a snowboard boot pack out?
Well, that probably depends a bit on the construction of the boot and liner and you.
…at least 15 hours of wear before they break in and pack out to half a size bigger.
Is pain and “curled” toes a bad sign?
Most every place you look will say “yes” but is that necessarily so?
In the rental shop this is usually a bad sign and we will give people larger boots if their toes are curled.
But what’s different about rental boots and the people who rent them?
A rental boot is usually a packed out boot.
They’re not new boots and these people are just going for a day. Most of them are newcomers and don’t want to be uncomfortable at all.
They want a comfort fit or…
If they are a little more experienced then they are probably going to want a normal fit.
A normal fit is how we try to get them and that’s toes touching the front, heels back, and when they squat their toes should come back.
Then there’s the performance fit.
I don’t think anyone comes into rentals looking for a performance fit. That’s for people who ride a lot and are buying a new boot.
A new boot is not a packed out boot.
How that boot feels in the shop when you try it on won’t be how it feels 10 days later.
So it’s tough because a little short term pain now is a better fit later. And if the inside of a boot expands in width and length anywhere from a 1/4 to 3/4 of an inch then just maybe toes curling a little bit isn’t bad.
But don’t get my wrong you could go too small.
So how small is too small?
Do a shell fit
This makes sense when I saw it. So take the liner out of the boot and put your foot inside the shell. Does it make contact with anything when centered in the boot? If so then it’s obviously too small.
Then slide your foot forward till your toes touch and see if you can stick at least a finger behind your heel.
The liner will flatten out to a pretty ridiculous degree, but the shell isn’t going to change much at all. So check your shell fit:
Take the liner out, put your foot in, if your forefoot touches the sides of the shell, you definitely want out. If you push your foot all the way forward so your toes touch the end of the shell, and have less than one finger’s width of space behind your heel, you definitely want out.
If your foot does neither of those things with just the shell, then your liner will most likely pack out enough to accommodate your foot. Most liners will lose just about a whole shoe size worth in space after 5-10 days of riding.
Start with the Brannock scale, but don’t assume that’s set in stone as each company and each boot is going to be a little different in terms of size and fit.
Do a shell fit.
I like to be in the smallest boots I can manage. At first, my toes are definitely curled up a bit. There’s some mods you can make to ease that pressure until the liners pack out, and some mods you can do to speed that process along. It’s important to really seat your heel into the heel pocket by kicking your heel on the ground before you lace the boots up. Maybe settling that heel pocket issue will be as important as making more space in the toe box.
Snowboard boots are made to snowboard in not to walk in. So walking around in them isn’t the best test. A better test is simply mimicking your riding stance.
I think doing a shell fit (above) is one of your best tests for a how a boot will feel in the long run.
Bonus: How to fix a new boot that’s too tight
Do heat molding (maybe wear a toe cap), but make sure the guy takes the footbed (insole) out of the boot 1st or it might deform it.
Wear it: around the house or just snowboard in it and possibly alternate it with an old boot till it breaks in.
Kick your heels into the floor.
Kick your toes into the floor, ouch.
Get a foot bed with less volume (a thinner insole).
Put a foot bed with a higher arch in the liner. A higher arch will pull your toes back more.
Wear a thinner sock or no sock.
Bonus: How to fix an old boot that’s too loose
Put a flat insole or some sort of dense foam in the boot between the shell and liner. Make sure it’s sized right.
Use a thicker insole.
Put some foam behind the tongue of the boot.
Buy a new liner.
Buy a new boot.
What sources say for choosing a ‘ski boot’ size
Of course you are a snowboarder, but how do skiers think when it comes to sizing boots? I took this bit from EVO.com:
Beginner/Intermediate Skiers should generally choose a boot close to their indicated Mondopoint length or slightly longer, even if it feels small. Keep in mind that the liner of the boot will compress after you ski in it a few times, and you’ll generate more space fairly quickly.
Intermediate/Advanced Skiers should also choose a boot close to their indicated size or slightly shorter, but in a stiffer flex. Pay attention to the width of the boot as well, and choose one that offers a snug fit if possible.
Advanced/Expert Skiers normally choose a shell size 1/2 to a full size smaller than their indicated size for a super precise and responsive fit, and a stiff or very stiff flex. Downsizing in ski boots may call for a collaboration with a skilled bootfitter to make the boots comfortable enough for skiing.
Any differences compared to snowboarding?
The sizing above sounds kind of like the different fits mentioned before like: comfort fit, normal fit and performance fit.
It’s like most beginners want a comfort fit because they don’t understand the difference and snowboarding is painful enough to begin with.
An intermediate rider wants a normal fit because they’ve learned.
Your average advanced rider has probably had a number of boots and knows boots break in and they want that glove like fit when it does because they want a performance fit.
Boot stiffness=rider ability???
I’ve heard skiers say that and I think it partially applies for snowboarding.
Beginners do tend to use snowboard boots that are softer and more advanced riders tend to use boots that are stiffer.
Some advanced riders prefer softer boots. For example, lots of guys (some of them professional) who ride a lot of park and do jibbing use softer boots.
They may like the flexibility for tweaking their tricks and setting tricks up at slower speeds.
Yet, then there are even pro riders who do lots of jibbing that wear stiffer boots.
People who ride a lot of steep terrain and like to go super fast also tend to like stiffer boots as they offer more stability, support and control at higher speeds.
And some people ride lots of different terrain and want an all around boot so they look for a medium stiffness boot.
The flex is part preference and not just ability.
ThanXs for reading!
There you go I hope this helps you decide on the right snowboard boot size for you. Let me know how it goes.