When I started snowboarding, I never thought I’d want to ride park. Which is to say, I’m a wimp, I value my dental work, and I have always associated terrain parks with 14-year-old boys who look like wealthy hobos and would consider me on a social par with their grandmothers. So the fact that I was brimming with excitement about my lesson at Carinthia, Mount Snow’s dedicated terrain peak, came somewhat as a surprise to me.
Carinthia, the resort’s showpiece, opened in 2008 to rave reviews from shredders of all disciplines and boasts 125 freestyle features in eight parks. The names of the parks read like an “American Gladiators” roster: Titanium, Nitro, Inferno. Clearly, this was not a place for someone like me. But I liked the challenge.
My Carinthia instructor/lifeguard for the day was Tommy Burke, Mount Snow’s youth snowboard team coach. Burke spends his days teaching little grommets how to go big, while not busting their bits on an up-down rail or a cannon box.
Luckily for me, Burke is a gentle, polite 25-year-old who smiles often. He is not a snowboard brah who only cares about his own stoke. I might be blowing up his buttery spot here, but Burke is a nice guy (even though he’s from New Jersey).
As we rode up the Nitro Express for our sweet jib sesh, Burke pointed out noteworthy structures of Carinthia. In addition to its many custom-made rails and boxes, the terrain park features natural obstacles — rainbow trees, wall rides and rock jibs — as well as recycled pieces such as propane tanks and giant tires. The more I gazed at these features, the more I liked the looks of the sides of the trail, which were devoid of things that might break me in two.
We disembarked from the lift and into a cloud of flashy shred heads. Predictably, I was the only one wearing my pants around my waist. Burke headed down Nitro, the small/medium park under the lift, and I followed. All the parks at Carinthia are categorized by size. The Grommet park, where we were headed, is about a 3T — toddler sized.
As we carved our way down Nitro toward Lower Titanium, Burke occasionally stopped to show me a feature. On one such stop, he encouraged me to do an ollie off a little roller in the middle of the trail, “just to get a feel for getting off the ground.” I am embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what he was talking about.
Before we got to Grommet, Burke put on the brakes right above a flat box — a rectangular steel frame with a top made of slick plastic, so skis and snowboards just slide along it. He told me I was going to try this feature. Eek.
Burke, who is self-taught, laid out the technique step by step: Make a couple of setup turns before the box, square up to the entry, bend your knees, ride onto the box and slide right off. If I got wobbly or I felt like I wasn’t going to make it to the end, Burke said, I should just ride through it.
Burke’s lesson left me feeling confident. I mounted the box and slid off, just like my coach told me to do. He high-fived me and told me I’d just done a 50/50 grind. I was beaming. I slayed that box. But we had more to learn, so it was off to Grommet.
This park is a basic practice area with some rails, boxes and small jumps, where the consequences of screwing up are low. Before I attempted any more sick-nasty tricks, Burke showed me how to ollie. Since my board has all the flex of a steel girder, it was a little tricky to get the pop needed to leave the ground. But I figured it out.
Burke showed me how to hit jumps and work a progression. His demonstration tricks looked effortless as he sailed through the air.
Then it was my turn. I grinded the box and ollied one jump, then another. Burke was smiling. So was I. Hannah Teter and Kelly Clark felt me breathing down their necks. Nine down, 11 to go.
If you want to show Lauren Ober around your local slopes, contact her at email@example.com.
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