Get Familiar With Terrain Parks

Terrain parks have come a long way
Across the state, terrain parks have special designations based on size and difficulty level.
Photo courtesy of Cole Martin

Terrain parks have come a long way. Once the renegade playgrounds of against-the-grain snowboarders, they started largely as afterthoughts, pieced together by dedicated bands of riders armed with shovels and ideas. The idea was to hit or jib off anything buried in the snow, and they did from picnic tables to vans that had seen better days.

But attitudes and equipment change over time. Terrain parks and snowboarding eventually entered the mainstream as audiences grew through movies and events like the X Games and now the Olympics, which for the first time saw skiers and snowboarders on a terrain park course called slopestyle. Also, snowboarders made way for skiers. Now all are welcome in parks with their manmade features sculpted from the snow with machines made just for creating them. Now there are jumps, rails, logs, sculptures, berms, rollers, walls and more for terrain park junkies to use. Parks got bigger, but they also got smaller and more progressive.

Now nearly every ski area in New Hampshire has one, with the lion’s share having  a handful. You’ll find some under the lights, some with music rocking skiers and riders, and even a few with their own surface lift. Those features are either made on site by ski area employees or farmed out to manufacturers.

Just like ski trails that are graded green for beginner, blue for intermediate and black for experts, terrain parks are also rated based on difficulty. There are entry level parks with smaller features that aren’t as high off the ground. Some parks take little kids into mind, while others make way for adult learners.

And there are lessons, lots of them, for those looking to march into a terrain park this spring.

“Start small,” advises Loon Mountain terrain park instructor Eric Wright. “Get a lesson to get started. Just because some people make it look easy doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a lot of skill.

Safety is paramount in a park. There is etiquette. Some terrain parks require users to first take a small course, like watching a video or answering some questions online before being issued a park pass.

So take a look at what’s offered at your favorite area and then take a careful leap into a new-school terrain park.

Gear Box

Seventy percent of skiers and riders wear helmets nowadays; 80 percent of minors do too. So put a lid on it first. The Anon Talon ($109.95) helmet looks sharp, has a fleece liner for warmth and is audio compatible for tunes once you’ve developed that skill set.

The Black Diamond Dirt Bag glove ($40) is a no-frills piece of gear that’s also got fleece for warmth and lots of flex in the fingers so that, if you like those terrain park features, you can build your backyard at home whether for you or the kids.

Eye protection is another good idea, especially if you wear glasses. The wide Oakley O2 XL ($70) goggle has a larger lens that makes it a fine selection to cover your glasses.


In a terrain park, you’ll find young skiers and riders called groms, rectangular or square fun boxes for jumping over or sliding across and rails similar to those used with stairs that are straight and others as wavy as the ocean.

Expert Advice From Eric Wright

Eric Wright is a snowboard instructor at Loon Mountain in Lincoln. Snowboarding since the age of 14, the 30-year-old Wright has been teaching new terrain park users the ins and outs of slopestyle for 10 years. As far as teachers go, Wright knows his stuff: he’s the guy who certifies other snowboard instructors in terrain park instruction. Wright also helped develop lessons for Loon’s Burton Riglet Park, a mini terrain park where snowboarders as young as 3 years old can learn to shred rollers, a micropipe and other basic terrain features.

What’s in an entry-level terrain park? Small features that are close to the ground with low consequence: rollers, berms and other terrain-based learning elements.

Are there lessons for terrain parks and are they for all ages? Definitely. Loon has certified park instructors and terrain park lessons for all ages. With the Burton Riglet Park, kids as young as 3 years old can start having fun in terrain parks.

Is there some basic jargon I need to know before going into a terrain park? Smart Style: Make a plan, look before you leap, easy style it and respect gets respect. Also, the acronym ATML is a basic way to break down any feature. It stands for: Approach, Takeoff, Maneuver and Landing.

What about etiquette? That’s what Smart Style is about.

Is it easier to ski or snowboard in a park? It’s about the same. Some features are easier for certain disciplines.

Let’s talk safety. What kind of protective gear do I need? A helmet is absolutely key, and one of your most important pieces of protective gear is common sense. Remember to use good decision making: use your head, don’t abuse your head.

And seriously, I’m going to fall right? And catch an edge, right? And maybe have a black and blue reminder somewhere? Maybe, but that’s where lessons come into play. With proper skill development, we try to set students up for success.

What roles do balance and anticipation play in navigating the features? All park elements require good balance and active movements rather than reactive.

Anything else? Parks are meant to increase fun for those with the proper skill set, so don’t give into peer pressure and push yourself beyond your current skill level. You won’t be any cooler if you’re broken. Good decisions are really key.

Categories: Outsider, Winter Sports