This is a story about snowboarding in its simplest form. It isn’t about being sponsed, traveling the world or getting covers. It’s just about getting up into the mountains, working with what you’ve got, looking at your environment creatively, hanging out with your homies and pushing each other. And like most stories about snowboarding it’s punctuated by passion, dedication and a shared desire to have fun in the mountains.
This is the story of the Kingvale Terrain Project. Kingvale is a 255-acre plot off I-80 about eighteen miles west of Truckee. But it could be any slope anywhere in the West because really the story isn’t as much about the place as it is about the people.
Meet Day Franzen. Day is one of the co-owners of Kingvale and has been in the business of building terrain parks since 1996. He’s the founder of Railbuilders and has been supplying resorts across the West with rails, boxes, wallrides and all things bonkable for five years. One of his crew’s most notable creations was the C-box, which is now a stock feature in almost any park in the world.
Day realizes that, as a park builder, pushing the sport is his responsibility. A couple winters ago he got fed up of working for resorts, says he felt too limited.
“Every resort I worked at, I always ended up running into the same walls,” says Franzen about the perpetual hoop jumping that park building often entails. “It was impossible to do what I wanted. We couldn’t progress our features and in turn I saw that it was hindering the progression of riding.”
So Day and co-owners Corey Ayer, Jay Rydd, and Shawn and Michael Durst decided to buy their own mountain and go into business for themselves, be their own bosses. And although their plot of land might be modest in size, it’s a sixteen-degree pitch top to bottom, which is the perfect slope angle for a snowboard park. Last winter was the first full season that Day and crew were on hill and although the park wasn’t open to the public, the guys spent all winter in the woods building whatever the hell they wanted.
Lane Knaack was among the many shreds that cycled through Kingvale last winter. He hung out every chance he had.
“We would just go out and look for spots to build,” says Knaack. “We’d find places where trees had fallen over or where we could knock them down and then we’d just build whatever seemed like it would fit in with the terrain.”
Adds Day, “It’s pretty much just a private playground. It’s kind of weird to say, but we were basically a VIP terrain park for all these crews coming through.”
Day was stoked to play host to any and all. That’s why he bought the hill in the first place; all he wants is to be able to build features without restrictions and offer snowboarders something different. Last season Kingvale saw some 40 pros roll through.
“They wanted to come ride here because they know there won’t be any hassles,” says Day. “We can build all the stuff that a lot of other resorts won’t built for them. We’re pretty much open to anything.”
TransWorld senior photographer Ian Ruhter spent a couple days with the dudes last winter and came back with a crazy cache of shots. And as hyped as he was on the photos and all the features, it was the crew’s DIY approach to snowboarding that impressed Ruhter most.
“Not too long ago-before snowboarders were flying first class to Finland to go hit rails-we’d all just load up in a car, road trip and see what we could find to ride,” says Ruhter. “And what these guys are doing reminds me of that. They’re just taking what’s right there in front of them and riding it.”
Ian went on to say the guys’ style reminds him of his own crew back in the day. “They’re just a bunch of dirtball kids,” says Ruhter. “They’re really the outcasts of snowboarding right now, but that’s how snowboarding was started, by outcasts.”
Resources are limited for the Kingvale Terrain Project. Last winter they operated a Tubing Hill oon site during the weekends to “pay the bills” (i.e. fund their shred exploits during the week). They also traded firewood with the guys at Little Johns Auto Salvage in Carson City for scrapped cars, propane tanks and all other types of jibable junk.
“Yeah we do things a little bit different,” says Franzen. “It’s definitely a little more grassroots than a lot of places.”
But, industry types are starting to recognize the crews unique approach and confirming they’re down for the cause. Ride, 51/50, Celtek and Vans signed on as sponsors and will have signature features installed next season.
And next winter Kingvale will be yours to shred too.
“We’re planning on being open to the public and having 25 to 30 features serviced by a handle-tow,” says Franzen. “And our hope is to eventually install a lift and have five parks top to bottom.”
Anyone who’s met the Kingvale crew, or seen how the project has already unfolded, will tell you these guys are destined to do good.
“It’s going to grow,” Ruhter says. “It’s going to be a really good place to snowboard and a place with a really good vibe.”
Which is just what these guys have in mind. They’re just a bunch of snowboarders who love what they do and are simply trying to do what they love for the rest of their days.
“We’re just kind of searching for the fun factor again,” says Day. “We just want to make sure everyone’s having as much fun as possible.”
That’s snowboarding, plain and simple.