Lake Tahoe has long been at the forefront of the slopestyle scene, and together the Ski Lake Tahoe resorts continue to push the progression of the sport through innovative terrain park designs, collaborations with industry leaders and involvement of their high-profile athletes. A major factor behind this renewed emphasis on enhancing terrain park offerings and specialized teaching methods is the longstanding relationships between the Ski Lake Tahoe resorts and both Tahoe-based Snow Park Technologies (SPT) and industry innovator Burton Snowboards. Both companies have helped the resort develop cutting edge terrain parks and pipes, as well as create learning programs designed to groom the next generation of skiers and snowboarders.
Tahoe offers the perfect blend of consistent snow, sunshine, and a laidback California vibe ideal for sessioning the terrain park scene. This explains why world-class caliber athletes such as Shaun White, Jamie Anderson, Torstein Horgmo, Hannah Teter, Elena Hight, Chas Guldemond and Maddie Bowman choose to actively train here! In fact, both the current male and female ESPN Action Sport Athletes of the Year call the region home, and Lake Tahoe athletes brought back four gold and two silver medals from the recent Winter X Games in Aspen. Next time you’re at Lake Tahoe, don’t be surprised to find yourself sharing a chairlift with a U.S. Olympic Team member headed to the upcoming 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
So where are all these features? On North shore, Alpine Meadows has introduced a mile-long terrain park that incorporates both natural and man-made features throughout the resort. Officially dubbed The Firing Line, this top-to-bottom run takes advantage of the mountain's rolling terrain to create a perfect flow between both medium and large features. It offers a number of "start parks" that include dedicated teaching terrain, micro-features, gentle transitions, soft pitches and clear signage to help introduce newcomers to the terrain park scene. The resort is also home to a newly opened Burton LTR (Learn To Ride) Center which uses the introductory features found in the resort's four terrain parks to help prepare you to show off your latest tricks in the Barracks Jib Arena visible from the base area.
Northstar California, the home mountain of two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and Winter X Games Champion Shaun White, is a longstanding partner of SPT. Together they have constructed a custom-built 22-Foot Superpipe that is open to the public when Shaun is not actively training. This newest feature is in addition to the resort's existing 18-Foot Superpipe and 6 separate terrain parks including The Stash, an all-natural terrain park designed by Jake Burton himself, one of only 6 such parks in the world! Northstar is also home to the one-of-a-kind Burton Snowboard Academy that uses highly trained coaches, specially designed snow features and proven teaching methodologies to create a fun, full-immersion learning environment.
Squaw Valley also worked with SPT on the cutting-edge "cubed halfpipe" project designed for Red Bull sponsored rider Simon Dumont. Squaw and SPT revamped the layout of the resort's terrain parks to better incorporate the natural flow of the mountain. The resort has built four terrain parks for skiers and riders of all ability levels including two "start parks" for beginners, a fun 13-foot halfpipe and a family cross course. Looking to go big? Check out the expanded Gold Coast Terrain Park, with large features.
And if rail jams are your thing, don’t miss Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe’s monthly rail jam series called "Saturday in the Park" which highlights the features found in its Double Down and Badlands terrain parks.
On the South shore, Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort has collaborated with LucasFilms and Burton Snowboards to create the first-of-its-kind Yoda's Riglet Park. This unique park combines sculpted learning terrain with life-sized chainsaw carvings of Chewbacca, R2D2, C3PO and our favorite, the Ewoks. Sierra-at-Tahoe also boasts a superpipe with a dedicated chairlift for easy access along with five additional terrain parks and a permanent Skier/Boarder X Course.
After a five year hiatus, Heavenly opened an 18-foot high, 450 foot long halfpipe to complement the resort's existing High Roller terrain parks. It’s perfectly situated on a north-facing slope with breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe (hint: photo ops), and has been designed for a wide variety of ability levels. Heavenly’s other 3 terrain parks are great options for less experienced skiers and riders looking to step up their game. In addition, the resort just announced it's partnering with SPT and Shaun White to host High Roller Hold ’Em, a high-energy, innovative big air competition on April 6th.
You can find both a Burton LTR (Learn To Ride) Center and a Burton Women's LTR Center, which offers equipment and lessons specifically designed for women, at Kirkwood. If you’re looking to improve your slopestyle skills, be sure to check out the gradual progression of difficulty found in the resort's three terrain parks.
So many options - which resort will you hit first?
Photo: Matt Palmer, Alpine Meadows