Mike Bettera, director of operations at terrain-park powerhouse SPT, built his first backyard halfpipe at age 12. It was, unfortunately, a total flop—he built it like a skateboarding halfpipe without any pitch, so he was unable to generate speed—but he’s learned a lot since then.
Over the years, Bettera and SPT have designed courses for dozens of high-profile events across the country, including the ESPN Winter X Games and the Burton U.S. Open. Here are six of his tips for making your own kickass miniature terrain park.
Get the Tools
While you won’t have access to the chainsaws and snowcats Bettera uses, you can still move some serious snow with the right tools and some dedication. Shovels are key: Bettera suggests plastic-molded ones like the models from Tuffy. Trash cans and kick sleds work well when it comes to moving snow, while a snowboard or plywood plank can shape features. Lights are key, as you’ll likely do a majority of your backyard shredding after work, says Bettera.
Plan Around Your Snow
“Deal with it where it lands,” Beterra says. The 36-year-old’s first halfpipe was the result of the bounty from both a heavy snowstorm and a snowplow. The small mountain, pushed off the highway near his backyard, gave Beterra enough material to build the halfpipe. Place jumps strategically near the heaviest snow to limit the moving work later. If you don’t have much snow, use PVC pipe to make it a jib park.
The best features are worthless if you can’t generate enough speed to hit them. While some backyard riders build ingenious rope-tow systems to solve this problem, make sure you use every bit of vert on your property. Consider starting your park by dropping in from a deck, roof, or other high point in your yard. No vert? Go with the jib park, which can be fun even if it’s flat.
Use What’s Already There
Build jumps off an existing foundation like a woodpile. This will reduce the amount of snow you need to move and can make the features more stable.
Give Yourself Time
“If you don’t have a snowcat and an experienced team, you’re going to put some blood and sweat into building this,” says Beterra. While a number of factors could change this time frame, Beterra recommends setting aside an entire weekend to building your backyard terrain.
It’s a good idea to draw a plan for your park before work starts, but you have to be willing to change that plan once the realities (such as amount of snow, vertical feet, and existing features) kick in. Beterra suggests building the park one feature at a time: The spacing and flow will come more naturally if jumps are built off each other, rather than during a single heroic effort.