Monday, March 3, 2014

Mt Lax Missing an Opportunity?, by Bryan Hall

2014 is the first year that slopestyle skiing and snowboarding events are in the Winter Olympics. In slopestyle, riders navigate a course to slide multiple rails and land tricks on large jumps. The sport, however, has been extremely common on ski areas for the last 10-15 years. Mt La Crosse has taken a minimal approach in building courses.

Its freestyle terrain features three small jumps and ten rails. These features are rarely maintained and as a result can be quite dangerous. Last year’s commemorative rail jam was the first event of its kind at Mt Lax, but the state championship for ski racing is held there each year.

While Midwest ski areas lack the elevation and snowfall of major resorts on the West Coast, a slopestyle course, or terrain park requires a minimal amount of snow. As a result, most Midwest resorts invest a lot of time and energy into building a fun and safe course for their riders.

Voted Transworld Snowboard magazine’s number one resort in the Midwest, Granite Peak in Wausau, Wisconsin has taken great steps in catering to the freestyle snowboarders and skiers in the area. The parks feature over 20 jumps ranging up to 65’, and more than 40 rail features. Each year the resort sets up rail jams, big air competitions, and sponsored events from major industry brands. People from all over the Midwest pour in to ride their features, and participate.

“We have two staffed employees that run the groomer for the park,” says Granite Peak employee Kelsey Basylnd. “They’re out there every day to make sure everything is maintained and safe.”

While adoption of these features isn’t required for a resort to be successful, looking at the local population causes some to question if Mt La Crosse is missing an opportunity. Skiing and snowboarding is very popular among college aged men and women, and effectively built terrain can be a deciding factor for these riders, especially when they are struggling to afford lift tickets.