SolVista groomer builds terrain parks in China
Terrain Park Manager Teal Anders sits at the controls of a 2008 Prinoth Bison snowcat, pushing snow toward a new rail he and assistant Jesse Allen have installed on the mountain.
With a steady hand at the driver’s seat – while pushing snow the machine shakes like one is sitting on top of a wash machine on spin cycle – Anders shapes a pile of snow evenly, then Allen uses a shovel to manually perfect the mini ramp.
The new feature they are completing is nicknamed “The Beast,” made out of snow-making pipe the men had salvaged, then welded and painted red for use in one of SolVista Ski Basin’s six terrain parks.
Anders and Allen are now sculpting the “lips” that lead up to this feature and four other new ones in the Roughstock Park, the largest of SolVista’s parks with a 45-foot jump as a finale to the run.
Anders, 25, has worked for SolVista, Granby, seven years – from the lifts to the ski school to terrain parks. The avid snowboarder, who grew up in Winter Park, showed early-on his knack for transforming a run into a rider’s playground, with jumps, rails, tire-stacked “bonks” and anything else that can fine-tune or challenge one’s skills.
Terrain parks are “constantly changing out” throughout the season at SolVista, Anders said, with a new feature somewhere on the mountain each Friday.
“When I was growing up, the terrain parks were nothing like they are nowadays, so the generation that is growing up now has such a better facility to practice in,” Anders said. “The terrain parks nowadays are world-class around here.”
He can now say that with confidence, having just returned from the terrain park scene on the other side of the globe.
The SolVista manager recently spent two weeks on a working trip to a ski resort just three hours from Beijing, China, where he sculpted terrain park features for the fledgling snowboard scene there.
It was the first time Anders had jumped continents, having been out of the country to visit only Mexico in the past, he said.
“From the minute I walked off the airplane, to the minute I got back, I was in a completely different world,” he said.
The ski resort at which Anders worked is called Yunju Ski, about one-quarter of the size of SolVista. There, snowboard shop owners in Beijing contracted Anders to build an exclusive snowboarding terrain park on one run of the mountain, as a way to promote the sport.
“The snowboard scene is not very big over there,” Anders said. “It’s not like we would think it is from seeing Chinese people in the X-Games and Olympics. It’s nothing compared to what we would think it is. They’re far behind on the park scene from what we are in the states.”
For example, Anders said the jumps they made for skiers were made of dirt, covered with manmade snow. In the Rocky Mountain West, jumps are formed from snow, since snow conditions change so much throughout the year.
Using an unfamiliar snowcat, Anders crafted a beginner park with four jumps and seven rails out of the Yunju resort’s man-made snow. While he worked, he usually had an audience of about 20 people watching.
“They were pretty amazed to see a terrain park like they’d seen on TV and in magazines being built right in front of them,” Anders said.
In that part of China, the ski season is much shorter than ours. It spans from the beginning of December to the beginning of February, a reason the snowboard scene appears to trail behind in that part of the world, Anders speculated.
But the resort never lacked its downhill enthusiasts.
“I don’t know where all the people came from, probably Beijing, but on a weekday, there were probably 2,500 people skiing,” Anders said.
There were few English-speaking employees at the resort, and one thing Anders found interesting were the faulty translations from Chinese characters to English on the Yunju resort signage. For example, one sign near the base said: “Please deposit in snow plank. Save the plank at the time.”
Anders stayed in a hotel near the base of the mountain, and he tried to get used to the closet-sized bathroom where one could shower while standing at the sink.
He fell into the opportunity to go abroad through a friend of another groomer who wasn’t able to make the trip this year. If given the chance, Anders said he would love to go again.
But he would also love to see another groomer from Grand County go, he added, to share expertise and also gain the unique experiences that come along with helping to grow the snowboard terrain-park scene in the great country of China.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603
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