Ski and snowboard season is here and, if you’re a lover of snow sports, that news could not be sweeter. You’ll gather your gear, sharpen your edges and set out for the local trails you know so well. No matter how skilled you are, it always takes a run or two to get your groove back. After a couple quick passes on some blues and greens, you’ll have gotten back your snow legs and no doubt have moved on to the more challenging black diamonds.
Then, sometime around run number ten, you’ll want to add some stunts into the mix. For that, you need a top-flight terrain park to keep you occupied for the rest of the season. If you’re willing to dust off your passport when you do your winter gear inventory, Austria or France might be just the ticket. Otherwise, the West coast is calling.
Here are the world’s best terrain parks.
Vans Penken Park – Mayrhofen, Austria
Shredding in Europe sounds awesome, but how will you know which park to choose? There are so many fantastic mountains across the Atlantic. You need a guide… and our sources at the SnowboardSecrectsBlog say that starting in Mayrhofen, Austria, at Vans Penken Park, may be the right move. Voted by MySnowparks.com as one of Europe’s best, Vans Penken Park is frequented by pros from inside Austria and out because of its incredible gamut of newly constructed obstacles. Some of the four-year-old park’s highlights include an impressive jib line containing a 12m rainbow box and a 7m wall ride. If you’re a freestyler looking for some serious international action, Vans Penken is a great place to start.
Avoriaz Terrain Park – Avoriaz, France
Unfamiliarity can make traveling abroad as intimidating as it is exciting, and signs of home can aid us in the sometimes tough transition out of our comfort zones. The fact that Vans team pro riders frequent the French Alps’ Avoriaz terrain park and that Burton sponsors an annual jib-fest on the grounds, featuring a variety of tree trunks and other natural obstacles, will make any group of homesick Americans feel like they’re right at home. Completed in 1993, Avoriaz was reportedly the first terrain park built in France. It was also one of the first to section off snowboarder-only trails. This place loves innovation, so go tricking and show off some creativity of your own.
Buttermilk Mountain – Aspen, Colorado
If you’re looking for some awesome parks right here in the old US of A, why not begin with the very best? Considering Colorado’s Buttermilk parks routinely host X Games events, they have to be pretty incredible. You don’t have to be a pro to ride here, but you do need to be able to enjoy a 2,000-foot-long run replete with uniquely designed jibs and precision kickers, gaps and step-downs. If you can’t quite make it on the high-octane X Games course, Buttermilk’s experienced park developers have installed other industry-leading attractions on other sections of the mountain, including a small park on West Buttermilk called S3, which is perfect for beginners.
Vail Resort – Vail, Colorado
Like Buttermilk’s, Vail’s terrain parks range in difficulty from ultra-intense to family-friendly and feature some of the most well-groomed grounds and best conditions in the country, if not the world. Adrenalists will be able to experience every obstacle just the way they were meant to be enjoyed. Vail has three different terrain parks, one called Golden Peak for the more advanced and two for intermediates and beginners with a smorgasbord of trick surfaces including a superpipe, a small halfpipe, two medium-large jump lines with three jumps in each, a small jump line for beginners and close to 50 different rails, jibs, and bonks. The coolest feature of all may be Golden Peak’s jumbo, air-filled landing pad, placed ahead of one of the grounds’ most difficult jumps. If you have trouble landing that 360 iron cross, you won’t have to worry about it.
Mammoth Mountain – Mammoth Lakes, California
Colorado’s slopes are indisputably sensational, but if you find yourself wanting to travel a bit farther west, Mammoth Mountain, California is a fantastic option. Not surprisingly, Mammoth is huge and it’s terrain parks live up to the grandiosity for which the resort has become internationally known. Seven parks reach over 90 acres and feature hips, step-ups, step-downs, spines, 75-plus jibs including flat and kinked rails, bars and boxes, recycled lift towers, barrels and wall rides. Beginner and intermediate courses also don’t disappoint. Mammoth just may be host to the most comprehensive and varied collection of terrain parks in the world.
Cover Photo Credit: Squaw Valley – flickr.com