A walk in the park

Modern mountain food. Not pie and beans.

Once upon a time, ski resorts were considered to have made more than adequate provision for their clients if they could offer a few drag lifts, some more or less pisted runs and possibly a hut selling on-mountain pie and beans. (All right, that menu is a bit Cairngorm-oriented, but you get the idea.) These days you can’t hold your head up as a wintersports venue unless you’ve built multiple restaurants offering three-course lunches and table service, dug out your drag lifts and replaced them with heated chairs complete with plastic covers, travel rugs and DVD players, and invested in an army of piste bashing machines whose operators spend every night moving snow all over the mountain in order to make sure no-one ever has to ski anything other than flat corduroy. And people wonder why lift tickets are expensive these days.

The other big must-have in these modern times is a snowpark, without which you might as well give up and go home, as for some reason anyone with aspirations to be any good at it at all seems to feel the need to be able to whizz along backwards while occasionally hurling themselves off things the size of a three storey building. Preferably while wearing a T-shirt big enough to host a wedding reception.

Park rat in rare feet-on-floor mode

The snowpark is home to creatures known as ‘park rats’ who spend all their time either airborne or sitting down. These individuals pay just the same amount as you do for their lift passes and get royally ripped off as they only ever use three lifts – the telecabin which gets them to midstation, the 50m drag which goes to the top of the park and the chair which gives them access to the halfpipe. They are easily identifiable by their enormous clothing, odd habit of wearing a beanie under their helmets and the fact that they invariably have a wet arse.

Parks are generally designed to give the impression that they are reserved for cool people, which is why they are so arranged that all you can see from the nearest piste is a series of what look like small buildings (or occasionally quite large buildings) covered in snow and interspersed with the odd lethal-looking fence arrangement, possibly sporting some baggy-looking individual sliding along it sideways on skis with both ends turned up. There are obviously some small manageable-looking jumps and other features, reserved for small children and people with normal risk assessment skills, but these are generally hidden behind some terrifying halfpipe arrangement with vertical walls six metres high.

The exclusivity factor is maintained by the fact that there’s a whole new vocabulary to learn (though if you catch anyone saying either ‘sick’ or ‘gnarly’ and taking themselves seriously you are definitely within your rights to take the piss). If you want to sound as though you ought to be in there you need to be able to make casual use of terms like kicker (a jump), step-up (another jump), big air (a bloody enormous great jump), rail (a bit of fencing) and box (a wider bit of fencing). Got it? Oh, and bear in mind that what you are doing is not skiing or snowboarding but ‘riding’.

Flying fox. You can skip the hanging upside down part.

Once you’ve got the hang of all that you are ready to sneak past the coolness police into the kiddy area, where you can start in on activities probably more suited to a flying fox than a middle-aged once a year skier who has a proper job to go home to and can’t afford to spend the next six months in an all-body plaster cast. But assuming you avoid serious injury you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that within a couple of days you’re happily flying through the air along with the mobs of kamikaze six-year-olds who usually inhabit that particular part of the park.

All of which means you are now ready for Stage II, which involves learning to appreciate a musical experience broadly similar to being clubbed to death with a lump hammer while a load of American criminals shout at you about drugs, ‘bitches’ and being shot.

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About misplacedperson

Camping and snowboarding for a living. It may not be a career, but it's certainly a life.
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12 Responses to A walk in the park

  1. Evan S says:

    Right on the money, again. Particularly about the t-shirts and the comfortably modern and very green recycling of surfing terms from the 70s. Which of course are so far back in time that they didn’t actually happen and, all evidence to the contrary, even if they did there was no sex or coolness.

  2. Come on, we all know old people never had sex. Eeeeewww.

  3. Sarah says:

    I enjoy reading your posts for the simple pleasure of being thankful I’m not at a ski resort. 🙂

  4. snoman says:

    been there, tried it, laughed out of the park…
    … t-shirt too small, school-boy error…
    Went home feeling gnarly and sick

  5. Jack says:

    exactly! you made some good points, especially about pricing, however you failed to miss the point of our own language and the cool police, we do that for a damn good reason, to stop punters cutting us up, going off the side of rail kickers, causing a danger to people using the snowpark correctly by not following or understanding park etiquette, and hurting themselves on slopestyle where they need blood wagoned off and close the whole thing off for a hour or 2 because theyre not competent enough to judge speed!
    If you dont agree with a park rat, ask a park shaper…

    • If you don’t let anyone new near the sport it will die out in short order. Noobs might be annoying now and then, but they keep us all in a job.

      • jack says:

        theres a difference between being a ‘noob’ and a punter, noobs i’m going to take as someone with a genuine desire to learn boxes rails jumps ect.. and by all means should be encouraged, and will most likely pick up park etiquette ect.. very quickly. Punters have no real understanding of how a park works and just want to ‘jump off things’ and ‘go fast’, and will never understand park etiquette or consideration for others, and will probably fail to learn even after serious injury of themselves, one of there friends or a ‘noob’ who is just trying to learn.

      • So all the people who rode straight past JC without stopping while he lay on the ground with a broken back the other week did so because they were ‘punters’? I put it to you that rudeness and a breathtaking lack of consideration are as endemic amongst park riders as they are everywhere else. Unfortunately.

  6. jack says:

    no, and it sucks what happened to jc, i think moose had the same problem with that this year too, but i think this is a different problem entirely with our own park etiquette amongst our community which is yes unfortunatly due to our arragence and partly abit of a genovese complex where the responsibility for someone down seems to get passed to easily. Especially when it involves sacrificing a run through the slopestyle for example, where people would only sacrifice the drop in for a close friend or a particularly serious injury. As apposed to punters who don’t understand park etiquette and that if they drop in from the wrong point or don’t understand the park or features they cause a real danger

  7. Anyone who even comes close to thinking it’s OK to leave someone lying on the ground because they would otherwise miss a run through the slopestyle needs a serious slapping.

    I agree you see thoughtless behaviour in the park (same as you do on the pistes) but you also see unnecessary rudeness from people who ride park a lot towards less experienced riders there to give it a try. There’s room for everyone.

  8. jack says:

    I kind of see this as going back to the inner circle park etiquette problem mentioned earlier and the ‘noob’ / punter debate i thought we cleared up, but still. And it’s more of a case of waiting a few minutes to see if the person picks themselves up of their own accord, which of the park rats, shapers and all instructors (esf, ski-ecole and evolution) i know, around 95% would wait a good 2/3 minutes if someone fell on the first slopestyle to see if they got up of their own accord and are just picking up lost poles, goggles ect.. unless of course it was a particularly bad fall which most can judge as we all know which falls people are in serious trouble with and need help as it has happend to almost all of us.

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