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Five tips for snow park first timers

It doesn't matter if you ski or snowboard, the first time in a snow park is as daunting as it is exciting. The below tips will help you avoid both injury and getting on the wrong side of the local parkrats.  


Know your ability If you are still falling your way down the mountain it is too soon to start hitting the park. At the very least you want to be confidently linking turns down a red run, plus happy and in control when getting a bit of air. Even then you should start with the smallest and easiest feature. You don’t learn to ski on a black run so don’t start your park experience in the half pipe. Most snowparks are split into blue, red and black features - start with the easiest.  


Stop. Look around Whenever you enter a snowpark stop and look around. Are their groups of people waiting to hit certain jumps or rails? Better skiers and snowboarders will start from higher to carry more pace into features so be sure to look up slope. In many places if someone is about to ‘drop in’ they’ll signal by holding their arm up. So stand still and wait your turn, this will stop you getting in someone else’s way, and give you a chance to observe others.  


Observe others Waiting your turn means you will watch others hit features before you have a go. Not only can you look on in awe as they do a sweet trick, but you can see how much speed they take into the feature and how far they jump. Go too slow and you won’t make it up the ramp, go to fast and the consequences can be rather painful. Keep an eye on where other people point straight from and how much air they get. You can then adjust your speed according to your ability. The first time over any feature go slow.  


Leave a gap Never follow closely behind another skier or snowboarder in a snowpark. If they fall you will crash into them and fall yourself. Instead wait for them to clear the landing area before setting off, if there are a sequence of features wait until they clear the landing of the last one, as once you get started you’ll be unable to tell if they fell.  


Protection By playing in the park your risk of injury increases. Rails and boxes are hard, and landing a jump on anything but your skis or board hurts. Don’t be fooled by videos of the pros going huge in t-shirt and a beanie, these guys are professionals and will often have done their learning wearing protection. Most important is to protect is your head, so invest in a helmet. If you are a snowboarder then wrist guards are a good idea as it’s the most common injury. If you are starting to go big then back protector and crash pants are also a good idea. Hopefully the above tips will make your first trip to the snowpark safer and less daunting. Even if you are never going to be a parkrat, the odd run through a park is well worth it, not only is it fun but your skiing or snowboarding will improve.  

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