Blowing up, killing it, and going off–simultaneously.
By Jennifer Sherowski
Like 90s-era Snow Summit, riding at Snowpark is the equivalent to shredding in a video game on the terrain-park setting. Here’s how you do it: Get off the chair, go left for beginner boxes, rainbow rails, gap-tos, double kinks, and the C-rails. Go right for the big kicker, the Superpipes, and an assortment of smaller jumps. Bonus points for hitting up the quarterpipe/wallride at the bottom or straight-lining a 30-foot dirt ride on rider’s left (like Jeremy Jones did on a Burton shoot last fall).
“So what’s the big deal?” you ask. “My local resort has a terrain park, too.” Not like this one. The park is the resort, so the mountain puts optimum resources into building and maintaining everything. Frank Wells, longtime shaper for Mt. Hood Snowboard Camps and builder of things like the X-Games and Vans Triple Crown courses, leads the Snow Park staff in tuning up the jumps, jibs, and pipes in an expert fashion–every single night. The result is a park-rider playground that keeps every freestyler on the island plenty busy in between snowstorms.
It’s important to realize that Snow Park is completely groundbreaking and unique within New Zealand borders. This is a country known for the dramatic New Zealand Southern Alps that drop thousands of feet from frozen, craggy peaks to sweeping valley floors just above sea level. It’s famous for an extraordinarily high sheep population, a grassy plant called tussock, and extreme activities like heli-boarding and jet-boating that flourish in the country’s non-lawsuit-filing environment. To recap, NZ is not known for all-mountain terrain parks–until now.
A major part of Snow Park culture is the camps that run throughout August and September. Drawing on a coaching roster of local and worldwide shreds (including particularly high Canadian numbers), the camps have their own riding facilities–and it’s easy to imagine that after a week’s worth of coached snowboarding on this controlled, progressive terrain, you could murderize any jib or jump in your way.
At the end of a big day at Snow Park, you’d probably pack up your gear and head the thousands of vertical down the winding access road to Wanaka for the night. Wanaka is sleepier than Queenstown–which is a half hour further in the other direction from Snow Park, but both foster a young, international mix of snow-lovin’ people. As far as Wanaka goes, the food is good–great cheap falafel, amazing Indian food, and a wicked little dinner place on the natural tip called Relishes. There’s a concrete skatepark that’s usually snow-free and shred-ready. Hit up Paddy’s Bar downtown to see where Romain De Marchi got arrested for a run-in with the bouncer. And don’t worry about not being able to find anything–there’s only one little main street in town.
Now, you probably know that the New Zealand winter is during our Northern hemisphere summer, but you might not realize that a ton of snowboard companies and crews pass through the country every year for catalogue, video, and photo shoots. The existence of Snow Park has made these missions a lot more appealing to North American pros, too–because the resort is down for the cause. This is where Travis Rice’s 30-foot acid drop in Standard Films’ Notice To Appear went down. This year we heard rumors in the office a hundred-foot kicker built for the Burton team, and when Team Manager Dean “Blotto” Gray heard I was headed to NZ, he told me specifically, “Definitely check out Snow Park.” I mean, what more do you need to hear? Snow Park is going off.
“Snowpark is the best all-round park I’ve ever ridden. It has it all–a Superpipe, aany rail you can imagine, 100-foot tables, you name it. The owners of the place are rad–they’ll push up anything you want to make it all happen. We don’t have a Disneyland in New Zealand, but we have Snow Park!”–Anthony Leffelaar
Average annual snowfall: Three feet naturally with extensive snowmaking.
Summit elevation: 5,000 feet
Vertical drop: 400 feet
Number of lifts: 1
Shreddable acres: 60
Snowskate park: Yes
Local shop: Cheapskates in Queenstown
Ticket price: 55 New Zealand dollars
Web site: snowparknz.com
Local shred Antz Leffelaar with the glory of Snow Park behind him. Photo: Scott Serfas
Anthony Leffelaar, somehow finding time between watching Eminim concert DVDs to spin big of the big kicker. Photo: Scott Serfas