Getting on Board

Ski resorts around the West ramping up efforts to accommodate snowboarders

Mammoth Mountain has seven terrain parks, and features two AcroBags to practice tricks.

Much like getting a tattoo or riding a Harley, snowboarding has lost its rebel image.

What was once considered a winter sport for the skateboarding and surfing culture has long since reached mainstream status, beginning with its inclusion as an Olympic sport in 1998. And ski resorts in the West, many of which used to forbid snowboarders, have now tailored their slopes to accommodate the pursuit.

“With Shaun White and the half-pipe, and all the hype that was built around it, it’s brought a lot more people in the sport and created a lot of awareness,” says Josh Chauvet, action sports brand manager for California’s Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. “Even my grandma knows who Shaun White is.”

From 1999 to 2009, snowboarding had the biggest rise among those who participated in a sport at least once, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, jumping from 3.3 million people to 6.2 million.

The average age of men who tried snowboarding at least once climbed from 19 years old in 2003 to 23 in 2009; for women the average age climbed over the same time period from 20 to 26 years. And while teens and twenty-somethings still largely dominate the sport, the number of people between the ages of 45 and 54 who tried it jumped 34 percent from 1998 to 2007, rising from 109,000 participants to 146,000.

“While there’s been a definite shift toward younger people wanting to snowboard more than ski, we’re into our second generation of snowboarders at this point,” says Curt Sheffield, director of business administration for Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort, who estimates his clientele is a 60-40 split favoring snowboarders.

Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard has stepped up its efforts in recent years to attract snowboarders with the Darkside Terrain Park, which sits underneath the lift on Chair 2 and has 10 terrain features, including rails, jumps and jibs, which are obstacles for boarders to jump upon or over.

Besides offering the terrain features on one of its 11 runs, the resort also caters to those who like to engage in off-piste skiing, which is traveling over ungroomed and unmarked trails and slopes.

“We’ve got just amazing runs out in the backcountry,” Sheffield says. “You’re not just stuck to the runs or the terrain park on our mountain. That’s one of the beauties of what we have going on.”

For snowboarders, especially those looking to get extreme, Mammoth might have the best offerings at its Stomping Grounds terrain park with two large air bags—called AcroBags—in place on jumps so those looking to learn new tricks can practice without having to worry about sticking the landing, cutting down on the risk of serious injury.

“We offer real big jumps and high-end terrain for those more advanced people who are diehards,” Chauvet says. “And for those on the weekend warrior side, we offer terrain that’s small and helps them learn, and is more on par with their abilities.”

Mountain Informaiton

Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort

Driving time: 45 minutes (30 miles from downtown)
Snow conditions: base of 38 inches
Lifts: all three are open; eight of 11 runs are open
Rates (all day): adults $50 ($60 holidays); children and seniors $35 ($40 holidays)
Snowboarding: 10 terrain features, including rails, jumps and jibs
Contact info: SkiLasVegas.com, 385-2754

Brian Head Resort (Utah)

Driving time: 3½ hours (200 miles)
Snow conditions: base of 33 inches
Lifts: all eight are open
Rates: adults $45 ($52 holidays); children and seniors $32 ($37 holidays)
Snowboarding: three terrain parks
Contact info: BrianHead.com, 866-930-1010

Eagle Point (Utah)

Opening date: Dec. 15 (conditions permitting)
Driving time: 3½ hours (244 miles)
Snow conditions: TBA
Lifts: none are open
Rates: adults $45; children and seniors $32
Snowboarding: first phase of terrain-park expansion, including a half-pipe
Contact info: SkiEaglePoint.com, 435-554-8887

Bear Mountain Resort (Calif.)

Driving time: 3½ hours (215 miles)
Snow conditions: base of 18 inches
Lifts: six of 12 are open, 14 of 27 trails are open
Rates: adults $56 ($69 holidays), children $25 ($32 holidays), seniors $46 ($59 holidays)
Snowboarding: freestyle park including more than 150 jumps, 80 jibs, superpipe, half-pipe
Contact info: BearMountain.com, 909-866-5766

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (Calif.)

Driving time: 5½ hours (300 miles)
Snow conditions: base of 4-7½ feet
Lifts: all 28 are open
Rates: adults $92, youth $69, children and seniors $46
Snowboarding: seven terrain parks spread across 90 acres, including three half-pipes
Contact info: MammothMountain.com, 760-934-2571

Mountain High (Calif.)

Driving time: 3½ hours (215 miles)
Snow conditions: base of 12-24 inches
Lifts: eight of 16 are open; 17 trails are open
Rates: adults $55 (holidays $65), children $25 ($30 holidays)
Snowboarding: Faultline Terrain Park
Contact info: MtHigh.com, 888-754-7878

Arizona Snowbowl

Opening date: TBA
Driving time: 4 hours (260 miles)
Snow conditions: base of 4-8 inches
Lifts: none are open
Rates: adults $49 (holidays $57), children and seniors $26
Snowboarding: Sunset Terrain Park
Contact info: ArizonaSnowbowl.com, 928-779-1951

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