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Getting to grips with snow parks

10 December 2013
Whether you choose to ski or snowboard on your next winter sports holiday, it's always worth trying out new things and discovering new disciplines when you're in the Alps. That may mean making the step-up to finally tackling those scary-sounding black runs, or it might entail working on elements of your technique in order to pick up more speed. One way to really increase the kicks you get out of a skiing holiday is to spend some time in a snow park, and you'll find these dotted throughout Europe's top resorts.

Initially, this can be a little daunting as the idea of your skis parting company with the snow as you soar through the air is understandably a scary one for those who have never done this before, and watching the experts pulling off 360-degree spins several metres above the ground is enough to give some people goosebumps. However, while there is no obligation to try this for yourself and many skiers are happier sticking to the slopes, learning to freestyle in a snow park can be very rewarding. As with anything, this requires some hard work and courage, although by starting off on the beginner courses you should find that it isn't so scary after all.

What sort of obstacles will you find in a snow park?

There are all sorts of obstacles that you're likely to come across in a snow park, with kickers, rails, boxes and pipes being the most common. Kickers are basically just ramps, and come in all shapes and sizes. Freestylers use these to get off the ground in order to perform tricks and manoeuvres as they fly through the air, and the bigger the kicker, the more air-time they will have to pull off their moves.

Rails are used for grinding, and are typically referred to as either high or low, depending on how far they are above the ground. Most snow parks contain a combination of single and double rails, with different tricks being possible on each type.

Pipes are perhaps the most classic obstacle of all, and enable freestylers to perform a continuous series of moves by skiing or boarding up the sides. These can be found as quarter or half pipes, and often allow participants to leap into the air as they reach the top of the wall.

Getting started

As with most things, it's better to start off slow than to throw yourself in at the deep end, and beginners will be relieved to hear that snow parks are laid out in courses that are colour-coded according to their difficulty, just like the slopes are. Sticking to the green courses is the most sensible option if this is your first time in a snow park, as these will feature the smallest and easiest obstacles.

Naturally, it will take a great deal of practice before you're ready to move up to the red and black courses, but once you see how intense these are you'll agree that it really is better not to rush.

Where to find snow parks

Many of Europe's top ski resorts feature excellent snow parks, with one of the best being located in Tignes. Sponsored by Swatch, this park features the Shoot My Ride system, whereby all skiers and boarders are filmed as they make their way through the course, and can then access the video online, with the option to share on social media.

Another excellent facility can be found in Saas Fee, with a freestyle snow park located on the glacier. Being a high altitude resort (and because of the glacier), this is open throughout the summer, and is where many of the pros come to practise during the warmer months. The park features a number of excellent obstacles, including a 120-metre-long super pipe.ADNFCR-1958-ID-801670646-ADNFCR

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