Man-Made Feature Philosophy

We recently got another "Terrain Park & 1/2-Pipe" comment/question.  I realized that a response from last year, from General Manager John Kircher, was buried in a "Comments" section post so I’m reposting it here because it explains Crystal’s philosophy about man-making terrain features. 

I am the General Manager at Crystal Mountain and I also oversee the daily operations of four ski areas across the West. Alas the true reason for the recently removed half pipe was due to the fact that it sat on the mountain in a spot that we don’t get enough snow early-season to keep it open consistently.

I have a philosophy that people come to the mountains to get away from the city. Bringing it, and its manufactured skate board parks to a place like Crystal just isn’t necessary. However, when we built one of the country’s first terrain parks in 1989 at Brighton, UT, we realized that in the future smaller mountains would need a helping human hand given the coming trend for urban hardware.

Crystal has one of the most modern lift systems in America. How one negotiates all that fantastic terrain is up to them.

7 thoughts on “Man-Made Feature Philosophy

  1. Phil

    None of us are looking to bring the city to Crystal Mountain,and certainly a terrain park jammed in the middle of O-meadows would be an affront. Yet it is hard to believe that placing a terrain park or half pipe or rails (or all of the above) on a lower lift within sight of lift towers, parking lots and lodges in any way diminishes the mountain experience.
    Having skied at Crystal (a lot)since the mid 70s, I have a pretty good idea of where every launchable rock, hidden chute and funky feature is; and I have played on many of those features. But there are days where the conditions make it unreasonable to pop off cliffs or dive into marginal chutes. I may be a 50 plus guy, but I still get a charge out of half pipe skiing; and jumps that are structured and groomed are a lot more forgiving to my old frame than many natural features in hard snow. Moreover, spins, twists and grabs have become the norm of “new school” air, and a man-made feature is a lot easier (and safer) place to learn or execute these moves than a natural feature.
    My kids love the big mountain experience, and Crystal is one of the best and most challenging around – especially considering our typical snow conditions. But if we are going to stick our heads in the sand (or snow) like an ostrich, and pretend that skiing has not evolved to include rails and parks, then we might as well become Luddites. – or maybe just fools …
    Consider… take our current ski equipment, add the conditioning that is typical of today’s youth, and a bit of attitude, and it is entirely possible on a decent snow day to ski anywhere on front side with turns optional! Where do you go from there?! Where I see many kids going to(including my own), is skiing stuff that is not just exhilarating – it is stupid! Stupid in that the lines and natural features that they choose to do are high risk and highly exposed. As an alternative, they would happily spend their time in a park – in a controlled environment – practicing their tricks, sliding rails and skiing a pipe if it were there. But it is not. And the excuse that we can’t have a park because it would interfere with our ability to “get away from the city” seems truly inane.
    Obviously there are risks and inherent liability issues to building a park, but having watched so many kids skiing and riding terrain that was way over their heads, and launching features with lousy outruns (that were also over their heads), I have to wonder if the liability would actually be diminished by shifting them to a properly designed and maintained park.
    Crystal is a great mountain – one of the best! It would be a better mountain with the addition of a quality park with features, jumps, a super-pipe and rails. And it would probably be a safer mountain.
    What say you? Let’s join the new millennium!
    Corey Responds:
    I’ve worked in recreation for a long time, so I’m familiar with people arguing ‘safety’ when things don’t happen the way they want. You seem to suggest that ski areas (or, at least Crystal) would be safer with Parks than without, and I’m not sure other areas’ statistics would support that. (Though I guess it would be hard to find a control group for that particular study, huh?)
    I have to question if people are drawn to parks because they’re looking for ‘safety’ versus simply looking for fun and excitement…which you also suggest. You present some interesting arguements and I appreciate the time & trouble you put into making your case and explaining where your-and-your-kids’ passions lie. (Take THAT, angry anonymous guy who’s comments I keep not publishing because you call me and my friends dorks!) As a ski patroller, I’m not aware of having any particular influence over whether or not Crystal has a terrain park, but this seems to be a valid part of the ongoing discussion, and I’ll mention to John that it’s here!
    (For more about “Luddites”, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite)

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  2. First I wish to applaud Kircher’s ethic to maintain, as much as possible, a mountain verses urban experience at Crystal. I still cringe thinking about the day I skied at Silver Mountain while they blared obnoxious music (“Yummy, Yummy Yummy, I’ve Go Love in My Tummy”) over the PA system from the terrain park. Seriously jammed my groove and incongruous with the mountain environment.
    Last year in the parking lot, as I listened to rap music booming from a couple parked cars (the bass so loud it was actually shaking my guts), sucking up the cigarette smoke coming from the group lacing their speech liberally with “F” bombs as they complained mightily that Crystal truly sucked when they realized there was no terrain park like Snoqualmie, I rejoiced that this was the case. For many of us, the mountains are a sacred place and this is not how one acts in the wilderness church!
    Yet, in some ways I feel unsafe with boarders doing their acrobatics thing on the groomers. In the 7 days I’ve been out this year, twice a snowboarder has collided into me from the back. There’s something to be said for concentrating their activities in a specific place.
    The idea of a “natural” features terrain park, similar to the one recently built at Northstar Tahoe (The Stash (http://thestash.com/) or Wild West Glade at Mt. Washington might be something to consider. The best of both worlds?

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  3. One of the reasons I love Crystal is for it’s lack of a terrain park. I realize there may come a point when management decides to add a park for cashflow reasons (assuming they’d make more than it costs), but for now, it really helps the Crystal vibe to specifically not have a terrain park. The mountain would lose some of it’s great personality if a park was added.

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  4. John

    The manager’s talking about 2 different things. The halfpipe was closed, he said, because there’s not enough snow down low to keep it operational in the early season.
    Then, the bias against a terrain park comes out.
    Personally, I don’t do much “jibbing” but I do have a lot of fun on the boardercross course at Whistler, it’s a blast. I see a lot of riders/skiers having a great time at every well designed park I’ve seen. Urban? Let’s just call it what is is – a way for people to have fun.
    A manager with an open mind and the ability to solve what’s really not that difficult a problem would be able to find a suitable place for a concentrated terrain/features park somewhere on this large mountain, no?
    Change is always difficult for some people to handle but that’s not a reason that progress can’t happen if it’s done well. It shouldn’t have to be about cash flow, it should be about providing an excellent customer experience. There’s no way a well done terrain park should “ruin” anyone’s mountain experience. You’re riding a loud, steel, machine up the hill every few minutes for pete’s sake, think about it.
    John

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  5. Allen

    YES! I COULDN’T AGREE MORE! I absolutely ABHOR mountains with those man-made features! Furthermore, Crystal really needs to eliminate grooming. There is nothing that screams “CITY!” more than those road-like runs, which are also a huge danger to skiers! I don’t know the exact statistics, but I would imagine that there are numerous collisions every year caused by skiers going at speeds that are only possible on groomed runs. If Crystal discontinued maintenance on the mountain, just think of how much more safe and natural our wilderness would be!
    People don’t go to the mountains to see more roads. And those aggressive juvenile delinquents that dare bring their disrespectful skate-boarding culture to the mountain under the guise of “snowboarding” would never be able to endanger the real snow enthusiasts with their aerial “tricks” if the groomed roads were gone. It just kills me that they are tolerated by Crystal Mountain staff and the workers at the Bullwheel who blast their obnoxious contemporary music over the loudspeakers. Want to know what’s bringing the urban vibe to the mountain? Jimi Hendrix blaring across the snow!
    I fully agree with Mr. Kircher’s philosophy, and it saddens me that Crystal has gone so far as to cut and groom trails into the mountain and allow snowboarders and “the youth” on the mountain. In a perfect world, Crystal Mountain would remove all groomers and ropes and poles, and if some skate-boarder crashes into an unmarked bare patch, it will teach him to go back to his gangster rap “friends” in the city.

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