Snowboarding--It's a Right, Not a Privilege

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Travel Guide, Winter 1995-1996

Snowboarding--It's a Right, Not a Privilege

Accept no flak from those hostile two-plankers: seven resorts that want you
By Eric Blehm

During the mid-to-late eighties, if a ski resort allowed snowboarding at all, it was automatically considered friendly. Not now: Riders want more than just the right to ride a chairlift. They want snowboard parks with things to play on--handrails to slide down, jumps and half-pipes to huck themselves off. They want patrollers who ride boards themselves and understand their needs. They want benches at the top of lifts to streamline the buckling-in process. And, in a politically correct world, they want signage that addresses both skiers and snowboarders with a neutral term like "mountain users."

Wait, there's more: Does the resort sponsor snowboard programs, contests, and races? Are instructors certified by the Professional Snowboard Instructors of America? Are the parks and pipes maintained and lift-served? Finally, has the resort integrated snowboarders into its staff (for example, is there a snowboard director)? This may sound like a long list of requirements, but some resorts are making serious strides.

Breckenridge, Colorado

One of the first destination resorts to allow snowboarding, Breckenridge has sponsored dozens of major snowboard competitions, including last season's inaugural FIS-sponsored Snowboard World Cup. Its 20- to 30-acre snowboard terrain garden, on the lower half of Peak 9, is one of Colorado's largest, as is the meticulously groomed half-pipe, which has no shortage of handrails, logs, and jumps. Some 20 PSIA-certified instructors are on hand; this year's new Catch the Wave Snowboarding Clinic for adults only (January 27-28, March 2-3; $140) will include instruction, videotape analysis, and lift tickets. For Breckenridge information, call 303-453-5000.

Big Bear, California

About a mile apart in the San Bernardino mountains, these ski areas each ace the snowboarder-friendly test with full-time snowboard directors, a Snowboard Patrol, PSIA-certified instructors, and scrupulously maintained parks and pipes served by their own lifts. This year, Snow Summit plans to add more snow-made jumps, serpentines, and bank slaloms in its park. Bear Mountain, for its part, will use wider, more stable boards for instruction. New lesson prices: $99 for three days of classes, rentals, and lift tickets, with the fourth day's lift ticket free. Call 909-866-5766 for Snow Summit, 909-585-2519 for Bear Mountain.

Mammoth Lakes/ June Lake, California

Mammoth's sister peak, June Mountain, maintains a 400-foot-long half-pipe that's open till Easter and has mountain hosts on snowboards. Mammoth's snowboard park, new this season, could stay open as late as July. If you're into hard-boot carving (a focus on turns rather than tricks), hit Mammoth's Chair 2 early for corduroy heaven, groomed each night. Mammoth provides special racks for snowboards on the gondola. Lessons are $71 per person, including rental and lift ticket. For more information, call 619-934-2571.

Whistler, British Columbia

Blackcomb is one of the friendliest resorts for boarders anywhere. Last season, the mountain hired a full-time snowboard coordinator and instructors certified by CASI (Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors) and added a host of services, including buckle-in and tool benches. Also new is the Kokanee snowboard park, with two maintained half-pipes and a park featuring a tobogganlike snake run with hairpin turns and berms that let you catch all the g-force you'd ever care to experience. Blackcomb runs adult snowboard camps, instructor courses, a Kids Kamp, and classes for all levels. Call 604-932-3141.

Waterville Valley, New Hampshire

To provide for this strange new breed of slope animal, Waterville Valley hired Stimilon International Snowboard Consulting Ltd. to help integrate its mountain. The result is one of the East's premier snowboarding resorts: Its snowboard park, the Boneyard on Mount Tecumseh, includes a bus buried up to its roof in the snow and a monster tabletop jump with 25 feet of flat surface for riders to land on. New this season, snowboarders will have Ride-On!, their own rental and gear shop at the base, as well as their own mountain. The resort's beginner hill, Snow's Mountain, will be open on weekends and holidays for snowboarding exclusively. Call 603-236-8311.

Summit County, Colorado

This resort is so determined to dispel any animosity toward snowboarders that a few years ago it established an ambassador program, in which local snowboarders patrol the slopes, offering assistance and watching for reckless mountain users. (There's also a full-time snowboard patroller on the mountain's pro patrol staff.) Try to hook up with a local to access one of Copper's homegrown, through-the-trees park lines, where log slides and stump jumps abound, or be there February 3 for an intensive day of snowboarding classes ($68 with lift ticket). Throughout the rest of the winter, amateur races take place every other weekend. Call 303-968-2882.

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Just Don't Call Us Shredders

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