California Sessions: Surf, Skate, Snow
California dreaming. Surf in the morning, shred during the day, skate all night. This ambitious lineup might sound a little crazy to some, but to Northern Californians, it’s a daily reality given the close proximity of the coast, mountains, and urban city centers. There is a palpable stoke that can be felt on the slopes of Lake Tahoe as the culture of surfing, the creativity of skateboarding and soul of skiing and snowboarding come together in the region’s cutting-edge terrain park scenes.
In fact, the terrain park scene has even managed to bridge a multi-generational gap on the slopes: Generation X’ers hit the massive terrain park features, GoPro-clad Millennials film it (and instantly share it) while Baby Boomers cheer from the chairlifts! All kidding aside, Lake Tahoe has long been at the forefront of the slopestyle scene and collectively the 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 player behind the region’s renewed emphasis on terrain parks is Snow Park Technologies, the brains, and brawn behind the Winter X Games. The Tahoe-based company has grown to become the industry leader in terrain park design and construction with over 250 competition courses to their credit including the Winter Dew Tour, the Burton Open, and the Vans Triple Crown. The company was even the focus of “Mountain Movers,” a reality TV show that aired on the National Geographic Channel showcasing their work in the Lake Tahoe region.
Lake Tahoe also offers the perfect blend of reliable snow, predictably sunny skies and a laidback California vibe ideal for sessioning the terrain park scene which explains why world-class caliber athletes such as Shaun White, Jamie Anderson, David Wise and Maddie Bowman have all chosen to actively train at Tahoe resorts over the years. Don’t be surprised to find yourself sharing a chairlift with a Winter X Games Champion or an Olympic Gold Medalist while visiting the Lake Tahoe region. This season’s healthy snowpack has allowed the resorts to build even bigger and bolder features while at the same time being certain to offer options for every ability level so that skiers and riders can gradually progress from never-ever to never-better. Lake Tahoe resorts have partnered with industry innovator Burton Snowboards to groom the next generation of riders through proven teaching methodologies and specialized equipment designed to drastically shorten the learning curve. Read on to learn more about the steezy park and pipe scene in Tahoe including some of our favorite over-the-top stunts pulled off by the biggest names in action sports.
Perennially recognized for its award-winning terrain parks, Sierra-at-Tahoe boasts a superpipe with a dedicated chairlift for easy access along with five additional terrain parks and a permanent Skier/Boarder X Course. Sierra has also collaborated with LucasFilms and Burton Snowboards to create the Burton Star Wars Experience, an immersive snowboard learning experience that combines sculpted learning terrain with life-sized chainsaw carvings of Chewbacca, R2D2, C3PO, Anikan Skywalker and the ever-adorable Ewoks.
WOW FACTOR: In 2013, Jamie Anderson set a world record for the largest road gap ever landed by a female snowboarder after she cleared a 65-foot expanse over Sierra-at-Tahoe’s access road.
Another mainstay atop the Terrain Park Top Ten lists is Northstar California. The resort has eight custom terrain parks and an 18-foot superpipe with the Burton Stash Park being designed by Jake Burton himself incorporating all-natural terrain features such as log rides, tree arches and wind lips. Northstar is also home to the Burton Snowboard Academy, a one-of-its-kind instructional program that utilizes highly trained coaches, specially designed snow features and proven teaching methodologies to guarantee students will be linking turns by the end of their first day.
WOW FACTOR: The resort built a 22-foot custom halfpipe for two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White to train in leading up to Sochi complete with an inflatable airbag to practice new tricks. The mind-blowing lake views at Heavenly Mountain Resort serve as the perfect backdrop for its High Roller terrain parks, ideally situated on a north-facing slope easy access from two separate high-speed chairlifts. with breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe. The resort’s other terrain parks, Progression, Groove and Ante Up, offer a seamless transition for less experienced skiers and riders looking to step up their game.
WOW FACTOR: Heavenly combines the thrill of a high-flying big air competition with the cunning strategy of Texas Hold ‘Em poker as part of its High Roller Hold ‘Em events showcasing the biggest names in snowboarding and a spectator-friendly party scene.
Squaw Valley has built four terrain parks to accommodate skiers and riders of all ability levels including two “start parks” for beginners, a fun 13-foot halfpipe, and a family cross course. For those looking to go big, the Mainline Park and expanded Gold Coast Terrain Park offer large features and the resort typically constructs a 22-foot superpipe in spring. The resort is also home to a Burton LTR (Learn To Ride Center) and offers “Jibs & Jumps” specialty clinics on select dates throughout the season.
WOW FACTOR: Squaw Valley worked with Snow Park Technologies on the cutting-edge “cubed halfpipe” project designed for Red Bull sponsored rider Simon Dumont during which he pulled monster airs and inverted airs over dozens of 20-foot plus gaps as huge sections of the halfpipe were removed to film this segment.
Situated atop Donner Pass, Boreal Mountain Resort has long been known for its shred-friendly layout and night riding options, perfect for sessioning the resort’s Neff Land, Shred Park, Wave Pool and Halfpipe. Now, with the addition of neighboring Woodward Tahoe, skiers and snowboarders can sneak in some dryland training by taking advantage of their indoor skate ramps, trampoline zones, pump tracks and revolutionary new Burton Parkboard indoor snowboarding slopes.
WOW FACTOR: Skateboarding big air legend Bob Burnquist built a floating skate park on the waters of Lake Tahoe to showcase his latest tricks in one of the most photogenic locations on the planet.