Monday, March 9, 2015

Park Education: Loon Mt.

Day One: Loon Mountain

We left campus at 8:15 and drove north to Loon Mountain. Terrain Park Manager, Brian Norton, met us at the gondolas and our group rode up the mountain together. Brian has been working at Loon for nearly fifteen years. He originally began as a "lifty" in college and quickly showed initiative and interest in driving the groomers and shaping parks. He’s now the boss of the park, hires/manages all the park rangers (all currently snowboarders), organizes events, maintains relationships with sponsors, and oversees branding and promotion for the park.

We stopped as a group half way through Loon Mountain Park and Brian gave us an overview of the setup, and explained what a typical day for a Park Ranger entails. We then met as a group inside the Shaping Shack. This is a large shack at the top of the half pipe that was funded by the sponsors that Loon partners with. This is where the welding, construction, repairs, and maintenance happen. Brian answered several questions presented by the group that helped us to understand the relationships the park has with sponsors, the various events held at Loon throughout the year, and how to properly build a jump. He gave us some helpful advice for young riders and skiers as well.

Some knowledge gained throughout the day:
  • Hiring of park staff is done through recommendations; good people know good people.
  • Sponsors such as GNU, Red Bull, Volcom, Oakley, Thirtytwo, Neff, New Era, and High Cascade donate most of the features and equipment used by the park staff.
  • The majority of water used for snowmaking comes from a series of pipes located miles away in the village of Woodstock.
  • Holding a line/string up from the top of the take off, and gradually following it down to the floor/surface best determines the curvature of a jump.
  • A jump’s landing needs to be at least as long as the gap.
  • GNU made specialty snowboards for Loon’s park crew that double as a rake for maintaining the features.
  • Features are inspected daily for damage and safety purposes.

Reflections from students:
“Today at Loon the Mountain Mechanics group went up to talk to their park director and ask him questions. These questions included how he got into his line of work, what he thinks of Loon's reviews in snowboarding magazines, and how sponsors help them set up for building these features. I never really thought about how much time they spend on the mountain; they are first on and last off. Today was a great learning experience for me and I cannot wait for tomorrow.”
-Andy W

“Today we spent the day at Loon Mountain. It was a bluebird day with nice soft snow. We went to the building where the park crew builds their features and got to ask questions about making a terrain park.”
-Callum B

“I was interested in the loon/high cascade rail swap. He explained that they don't take it every year. It was weird hitting fresh corduroy because I haven't been up for a full day all year. It's good to be back on the mountain. As the day went on the weather got better. Solid day.”
-Connor C

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