WB launches 'The Schoolyard' terrain park

New space targets young riders; huge investment made in building and repairing features

Whistler Blackcomb (WB) has some of its youngest riders in mind this year as it prepares to open the terrain parks on both mountains.

But with a major capital investment being made over the summer to build new features and repair old ones, skiers and snowboarders who frequent the parks will be well taken care of this winter as well.

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WB terrain park manager Brian Finestone said the launch of a new park designed for beginners and young jibbers - to be known as The Schoolyard - will ultimately be a benefit for riders of all ages and experience levels.

"It's going to have tiny to extra-tiny features for people to get their feet wet for the first time," said Finestone. "What that will do is relieve some of the pressure off the smallest features in the park, and then give (newcomers) a less-intimidating atmosphere to start their park journey."

The Schoolyard is being constructed near the bottom of the Emerald Express lift on Whistler Mountain. Finestone said the new park also fits in with WB's overall initiative to be as family-friendly as possible for guests this winter.

"One of the things that families are (telling us) is that, once kids can turn left, turn right and stop, they generally want to start doing jumps and trying some freestyle features," he said. "We thought we would provide them with a good, safe, segregated opportunity to do that."

Finestone said WB "more than doubled" its yearly investment in rail features for this winter, meaning visitors can expect some spiffy features in terrain parks this season.

"We basically looked at all of our features, and if they were over a certain age or required (extensive repair), we recycled them and used the material to build entirely new features," he said. "So, it's going to be a very large, new fleet of equipment out there."

Social media remains a key tool in catering to park users' wishes, said Finestone, and there's a small team of people in place to specifically monitor feedback about WB's terrain parks.

"It's become part of our bread and butter," Finestone said of online interaction with skiers and snowboarders. "We can react to what the crowd wants."

Finestone said that those headed up next week - be it for Saturday's (Nov. 17) early opening or the official opening day on Nov. 22 - won't be disappointed, as there will be features in place to welcome riders back to the mountains.

"Every year, we always want to start out with one jump for our official opening day," he said. "For the 22nd on Blackcomb, we're trying to make it so that one, if not two, jumps are ready to go, and a fleet of rails ranging from small to large.

"In the event of an early opening, we try to get something out there so there's stuff to hit when the kids come up."

Finestone noted that WB remains committed to safety in the terrain parks and will encourage riders to take a couple of laps through the park before starting to lay down tricks. Called 'Pre-Ride, Re-Ride, Freeride,' Finestone said taking that approach will allow park users to get familiar with any changes to any features or park layout, as well as the conditions on any particular day, before safely enjoying the rest of their day up the hill.

"All it takes is two runs and you can prevent injury by knowing what you're going to ride, knowing how your equipment and how your body feels. Then have a good time all day long," he said.

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