How Summit County’s terrain parks balance accessibility and progress

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Jibs, jumps and vertical features are all part of a well-rounded terrain park. Summit County’s ski areas not only have diverse terrain parks with those features, and then some, but they happen to be some of the best in the West.

Every season, it is because of the terrain park managers and designers that places like Copper Mountain Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort are able to provide challenges that excite skiers and riders. They have teaching areas to help sculpt a beginner’s progression as well as huge jumps for park regulars and professional athletes alike.

Guests can explore Breckenridge’s trio of Eldorado, Highway 9 and Park Lane parks throughout the season. Meanwhile, Copper’s Woodward team provides 10 different parks spread out across the mountain.

Both Breckenridge’s Brendan Treffinger and Copper’s Noah Schwander spend their time cultivating a terrain park environment that is safe, while still pushing the boundaries of creativity and winter sports as a whole. 

Treffinger has been with Breckenridge since 2018. He started his career as a snowcat operator before becoming the terrain park supervisor. 

Schwander, on the other hand, has been at Copper for the last seven years, serving as the director of Woodward Copper. Schwander was inspired to get into terrain park design because of his involvement in the sport. 

“I was trying to compete in freeskiing and needed places to train while being from Michigan,” Schwander said. “There were not a lot of good options and (I) basically got into it out of necessity. One thing led to another, and here I am.”

Breaking Down Breckenridge’s Terrain Parks

Park Lane — Take 5-Chair to find the largest park with the most difficult rails, boxes and jibs.

Highway 9 — Expect moderate difficulty in this medium-size park on Peak 9.

Eldorado — This smallest park has the easiest difficulty and is also found on Peak 9.

Over the years, Treffinger and Schwander have worked to continually progress the offerings at their respective resorts. Each has a wide range of offerings for those wanting to explore the terrain parks at all skill levels, from easy box jumps with slight slopes to massive jumps that will send riders hurtling into the air.

“The beginner areas are super important because those are really the areas that are feeding the future of the industry,” Schwander said. “The larger parks need a lot more variety because people get bored and they are doing a lot of different things. Terrain parks are progressing at such a high level that we need to constantly keep up with it.”

Treffinger and Schwander have spent the better part of the summer repairing, painting and thinking about new layouts for the resort’s terrain parks for the 2022-23 season. New this year, Red’s Backyard at Copper will move from the base area further up on-mountain in order to enhance the user experience.

“When we get to Park Lane is where we get to have the most creativity in the design of the parks,” Treffinger said. “It is the steepest, most off-camber trail that we work with. It allows us to really position the snow where we want it and work with the terrain that we have.”

Breckenridge Ski Resort Terrain Park Supervisor Brendan Treffinger welds two rails together in preparation for the 2022-23 winter season. Treffinger worked over the summer to maintain and create new features for the parks.
Sarah McLear/Breckenridge Ski Resort

Treffinger said that though the snow tends to stay in the same place, terrain park designers work to switch up the rail offerings at least every four to six weeks throughout the season. 

“On our side, it is a big team effort to keep up with the trends while coming up with new ideas,” Schwander said. “We really have the freedom to try something and push the envelope. We get the team together to come up with ideas and decide how the flow is going to go. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

By The Numbers

10 — Number of terrain parks at Copper Mountain

250 — The approximate number of terrain park features offered throughout the mountain catering to first-time skiers and snowboarders as well as professionals.

9 — Number of months crews maintain terrain parks out of the year.

22 feet — The height of Copper’s superpipe

14,000 square feet — Size of the Woodward Barn, which features Olympic-grade trampolines, skate, bike, scooter zones, ramps to foam and more — a sports paradise built for progression.

Beyond the creativity of the job, both terrain parks aim to provide an experience for those who may be a little uneasy about exploring a terrain park for the first time. Both Schwander and Treffinger recognize the fears of breaking an arm or injuring oneself when entering a terrain park.

“The best way to start for a new park rider is definitely in Eldorado,” Treffinger said. “It is a great area to learn how to hit smaller features and slowly progress. You don’t have that intimidation factor. The trail is a lot flatter, and the boxes are a lot closer to the ground.”

Schwander also recommends starting slow.

“Start small, go small and scope out the features,” Schwander said. “Things like our Peace Park are great areas because you can go with your friends. Most of those features are meant for a wide range of people. I take my kids through there all the time.”

Treffinger and Schwander hope to elevate the terrain park offerings in Summit County by building upon the established parks and continuing to offer fun, flowy features for guests to explore.

This story was originally published in the Winter 2022-23 edition of Explore Summit magazine.