Ten of the Best Terrain ParksHere are ten of the best ski resorts to head to for terrain parks – these resorts all offer epic freestyle and boarding in substantial terrain parks, and they’re not bad for everything else either.
For many snowboarders and freestyle skiers throwing yourself off jumps and 50-50ing down rails has become the norm on many winter holidays. Skiers and boarders flock to terrain parks to practice their latest tricks, chill with their mates and learn the latest moves.
For freestyle aficionados ski resorts aren’t chosen for the extent of their ski area or the amount of slopeside accommodation, decisions are made purely on whether a ski resort has a terrain park (or four) and whether that park measures up or not.
Avoriaz (and its neighbour Morzine) is a veteran freestyle destination where you might find the Vans team riders sessioning the superpipe or the Westbeach crew jibbing among the trees in the Stash – Avoriaz’s Burton-sponsored jib-fest of tree trunks and natural obstacles. Second only to Les Deux Alpes in freestyle friendliness in France, Avoriaz was the first French ski resort to build a terrain park, way back in 1993, and was one of the first resorts to introduce snowboarder-only areas. While we’re all for a mutual love in on the slopes, it ain’t half handy to have a spot to yourself to practice your mute grab on.
Breckenridge, Colorado, USA
Five terrain parks and two halfpipes have cemented Breckenridge’s reputation as one of the places in the world for freestyle skiing and snowboarding. With its chilly climate, Breckenridge receives plenty of dry cold snow, which makes good hard pack and is fortunately ideal for park riding. Riders, seasoned pros and rookies alike, flock to Breck, as it’s affectionately known, and session the trick-filled parks, from the novice-friendly Trygves with its unintimidating rollers and boxes to Eldorado, the place to progress to, through to the Freeway Super Park, training ground and home to many a pro rider, including X Games gold medallist Bobby Brown and the UK’s Nate Kern. Stop by for the Breckenridge leg of the Dew Tour in mid-December to see this park and the new 22ft superpipe in all its glory.
Home to Italy’s best terrain park, the Indian, Cervinia is slopes ahead of the rest for freestyle riding in Italy. Its 400-metre long park has an easy and an intermediate line, plus an epic expert line that ends with a 20-metre table top. For maximum time in the park, a fast four-seater chairlift serves the jumps, rails and bonk posts, and for maximum encouragement to let loose and go for it, a potent sound system blares out tunes. As if that wasn’t enough, the resort sells a daily terrain park-only lift pass instead of the full pass.
Echo Mountain Park, Colorado, USA
Fancy a ski resort that’s 70 per cent terrain park? Not that you can really call Echo Mountain a resort, it’s pretty much just a park, but that’s no bad thing. Located 35 miles from Denver, with 70 acres of terrain and the park usually floodlit until 9pm it’s an ideal stopover en route to the bigger and badder resorts further up the I-70. As you’d expect at a dedicated freestyle resort, specific programmes and training camps are on offer, plus a series of events and competitions open to all run through the season.
If you want to up your chances of making the cover of a snowboarding magazine, head to Hemsedal – it is the most photographed resort by the snowboarding press, which isn’t something you hear said about Courchevel or Val d’Isere every day. Hang out long enough and you might just make the shot. When the Alps have pretty much shut for the season, Hemsedal keeps on going, thanks to its height and location. The five terrain parks (including the best in Scandinavia) offer something for everyone, luring beginners and, for example, the Nike 6.0 pro team alike.
Quite possibly the best resort for freestyle in Switzerland if not Europe is Laax, home to the Burton European Open, the Brits and the European Freeski Open by Swatch. Four terrain parks (from beginner to expert) and two halfpipes, one of which is Europe’s largest, serve Laax ski resort’s legion of die-hard fans. As if there were not enough tricks ‘n’ things to do in Laax on snow, opening this season is the Laax Freestyle Academy, an indoor centre with jumps, rails and ramps covered in snowflex for practice sessions. Why you’d want to be indoors in a ski resort however, is beyond us.
Les Deux Alpes, France
With its glacier reaching an ear-popping 3,600 metres, Les Deux Alpes is a safe bet for good snow. Add to that an extensive terrain park and pipe, wide cruising pistes and the most welcoming boarder-friendly village in France and you’re onto a winner. The park has everything from rails and ramps for newbies to slopestyle lines for ambitious advanced riders, and is maintained by a highly regarded crew who’ve been shaping the slopes for 13 years. In the summer, the park moves up to the wide Soreiller green run with massive pro jumps, smaller kickers, rails and plenty of freestyle training camps. It’s the perfect spot for some fine summer riding in T-shirts.
The Vans Penken Park is the place to head to for rubbing shoulders with every freestyler from Austrian pros to rookie Brits. Consistently voted one of the best terrain parks in Europe, the Vans Penken Park is a south-facing suntrap and many a late-season afternoon has been whiled away here either on the starter jumps or the more challenging kickers running parallel. For optimum park time, and the best views, a chairlift serves the park and runs directly over the action below. Great for show-offs but not so for the nervous, play to the crowd if you can and it’ll do wonders for your style. To see the Vans Penken Park and the action at its best, visit Mayrhofen for the Oakley Jib Vid or the Wangl Tangl competitions throughout the season.
Saas-Fee is a pretty nifty resort in the winter but it’s in summer that the place really comes into its own for terrain park fans. The glacier, easily accessed by a powerful gondola then funicular, is awash with obstacles and freestyle training camps, all staffed and run by pros or aspiring pros, with the express aim of helping you improve your pop, amplitude and aptitude. Off the glacial slopes there are plenty of distractions, including trampolines for practicing your rotations and airtime on, plus a skateboard park. Après action focuses on the resort’s epicentre of low-slung pants and oversized tees style, the Popcorn bar.
Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
With its laidback vibe and epic snowfall, Whistler is a freestyler’s nirvana. Not only is the 8,171-acre ski area littered with natural obstacles to jib and nicely spaced trees to ride through, Whistler boasts five terrain parks and a superpipe. If you’re starting out in these things, head to the Terrain Garden on Blackcomb, but if you’re more accomplished, try the Nintendo on Blackcomb or the Habitat on Whistler Mountain. While the Olympic freestyle action may have taken place a couple of hours down the road in Cypress Mountain, on the outskirts of Vancouver, Whistler is the real draw. Its exceptionally long season – from November to May – means you’ve got plenty of time to perfect that double cork.