Interview by Andew Koblitz
Photos courtesy of Tom Wyant
What’s going on man?
Oh just in the buildin’
For those of you who don't know you, tell me a little about yourself and what you do?
Tom Wyant, 24, been skiing since I was four, and have been working terrain parks for the past six years. Summers are still a mess, I wish I could keep the park gig for then as well.
Most of us ride through the terrain park on a regular basis and don't really understand what it takes to actually make a terrain park. With the Dew Tour coming up I bet you guys are busy. What's the current park setup in Breck right now?
We are going to be extremely busy here in a day or two. All we have had at Breck is a box line (down, flat, down-flatdown) and a rail line (flat-down, down, down-flat, down) going into either a log jib or a jersey barrier/wall ride. We haven't had as much as the other places, but we have been working and blowing snow non-stop to get Freeway & the pipe ready for the Dew Tour which is here this weekend. Things have been coming along well thanks to the temperatures and we should have a good course going.
What's it going to look like for the Dew Tour?
We will most likely have the start deck, followed by a choice of two rails, into the infamous triple line, followed by two more sets of rails. A pretty similar setup to what we had at NAO. Pipe is perfect as always.
Tell me about the work that really goes into the preparation of an event such as the Dew Tour?
We got a lot of help from SPT (Snow Park Technologies) this year, and things have been quite hectic on the building side. These past two days we've had about five snowcats going to town on Freeway, so as fast as the weather lets us blow snow (or drops it on us) we can build bigger jumps right away. Aside from cats, we’ve got a fair amount to do shaping everything out and making stuff look its best at all times. There is also a crapload of work for the events crew, such as setting up tents, building scaffolding, generators, the whole shibang. It’s a super busy time for everyone, but we are really stoked to have the event here and hope we can make it an annual occurrance.
How does setting up for an event differ from what you do on a regular basis?
Our setup usually has a much more unique single line flow for a comp than it would for regular park purposes. Hitting a rail before dropping into a jump is something I really love but we probably will only have that around for the comp. As for during the comp, we usually will have a crew dedicated to just the comp, so we can buff out a full top-bottom rake run in-between heats to keep everything absolutely perfect. We will also probably have a cat or two on site during the comp if the landings need some smoothing and re-grooming, which I’m sure they will with all this new soft natural snow we've been getting, which is good.
Since you've worked in the park for quite a few years and have seen what goes on before everyone gets there and after everyone leaves, what can you tell me about what really happens in the terrain park in order for the public to be able to enjoy their playground?
On a standard days, most people wouldn’t really expect there to be too much, but it’s the same routine every morning. We don’t just go out there and stick a bunch of wind flags on the decks and lips. Every single feature is given a good eye to make sure the groom from the night before came out smooth. Whether it’s just one lip to a rail, or the transitions in one of our triple lines, we basically make sure everything is perfect. If something isn’t so hot, we'll do our best to fix it. If it’s something that isn’t easily fixed by hand, it will probably be closed for the day. It’s pretty much all or nothing, we don’t really half-ass things around here. Powder days are the most fun, as many will result in six to eight hours of raking in one day. It doesn’t always take that long, but if you see park is still closed around 10-11am, you probably just missed out on a bunch of pow elsewhere.
What's the one big thing you can tell me about the pre-construction of a park?
Practice (laughs). It’s all super dependant on experience. Our cats here at Breck know their stuff, and I can totally have faith in the fact the features they build will be pretty money. When I used to work for Steamboat, it was hit or miss with our cat driver on whether shit was built right, or whether or not a jump was "safe." Now, it’s a completely different story and I’m totally comfortable with it. Mad props to our cat crew.
What's the main thing you see most people do in the park that they shouldn’t?
Gapers will be a problem everywhere and anywhere. They are always a constant nuisance, so anything I could say about them is pretty much a given at any resort. So the one thing that annoys me the most? People who have no respect for closures, whether it’s for safety reasons or us working. If it’s really that difficult for someone to wait an extra minute or two to hit a feature, you shouldn’t be around the park. We're out there doing it for your benefit. If something is closed for the day, there’s a reason behind it so please respect it.
What do you think is a big factor/necessity in having one of the best terrain parks in the world?
I honestly don’t think its something that’s hard for any resort to attain. The biggest part of it is that everyone is on the same page, from the snowmakers, to the cats, to the crew. We're all in this together, so we try to make the most of it, cause the end result will be that much better. Our cats know their stuff and so does our crew. Provided that everyone does their share and works together, you can have a super legit park without having to bust your ass 24/7. It kinda helps too when you have a mountain that will support the park.
Here are some rapid fire questions: What, like machine gun or mini-gun?
Hardest feature to maintain: Pre-season jibs, with everyone and their mother on them. Ruts/bomb holes happen regardless of what you do, and everyone expects miracle fixes. Sorry, but sometimes it just isn’t possible…
Easiest feature to maintain: Pipe.
Biggest gaper attraction: Hitting rail lips as jumps.
Park crew: Makes rock band look like grade school.
Gnarliest feature you've setup: Well, I don’t find too much stuff gnarly. I would have to say jump three in Freeway last year (thanks Jon!). That has to be one of the most epic jumps I have ever hit, and was my responsibility to rake a lot of the time too, because the riders on our crew couldn’t stand on the lip to rake it because it was so steep. Often we would joke about it being a quarterpipe.
Hardest thing to setup: Jumps. They take the most tuning and precision to get perfect. Rail lips are usually pretty cake.
Easiest thing to setup: Butter parks. When you’ve got small features and a crew of three to four people, you can re-arrange boxes/tires etc to however you can imagine. Maybe some will remember the butter park we had in Freeway in front of the shack. That thing was always a good time, and all done by hand.
Best thing about Breck's park: Breck's parks......Freeway.
Dew Tour is: Exciting.
Things you'd like to see in the park: Nothing but rails in Freeway. Oh and an 85-foot table would be epic as well.
Things you'd like to see go away in the park: Please no overdose of boxes. They are cool and all, but there were way too many of them last year.
Breck is: Epic.
Best terrain park in the world: Breck.
Worst terrain park in the world: Steamboat, even Echo shows you guys up.
How many days a year are you on the snow: Pulled off 160 last year.
Best thing about your job: Testing.
Worst thing about your job: Testing.
Ski patrol is: Helpful.
Ski instructors are: Tools.
Texas: Send your women to me.
Starter coats are: Sick.
Feature you'd like to setup: 60-foot gap to down box.
Monkeys are: Covered in shit.
Powder is: For retired people.
Rain is: What I make it do.
Wind is: Breckenridge.
Sunny days are: Epic.
I'm sure most people out there take what you do for granted. What can people do to make your job easier, which in return makes their riding experience more enjoyable?
Like I said above in regards to what people shouldn't do in the park. We are out there raking stuff for you're benefit, wait an extra minute, and you will be able to hit a fresh jump/lip. Don’t wait, and it just shows disrespect for us, and why we shouldn't do a good job if no one cares to wait for it.
What’s the hardest thing about your job?
Pow days. Not so much cause I want to ride the pow, but because we will spend six to eight hours raking the entire day. After that, your arms feel like they are going to fall off.
You’re in the park all the time working, do you actually get time to ride the park?
It all varies on the day. On a pow days? Probably not. On an epic sunny day? For sure. As long as we keep everything wrapped up tight and smooth all day, we will get time for a few laps here and there.
How many people make up the park crew? Do you all end up working on the same things or do some people have special positions or specialties?
We have nine full time crew members, which works out to about five to six per day. It all depends on the day and what needs to be done before we will decide who goes where. Obviously there are some people who are designated as testers for freeway, others for park lane, etc. Shaping lips is something pretty much something most can handle, but tweaking a jump to the slightest with a spork is usually left for our more experienced crew.
What advice would you have for someone that wants to be on the park crew?
Be a park skier/rider, and be a hard worker.
You guys have bullies, zauggs, (can you name the rest I don't know all the machine names). How are these all used?
To my knowledge, we only have zauggs. We have a 18-foot, a 12-foot, and an 8-foot. Our cats are mainly Bombardier 350’s, as well as one with a custom set of adjustable forks for moving all our rails & boxes around. They all come together to form one giant construction! Well ok, not really. (laughs)
Tell me about the average workday for you?
Wake up at 6:30am, try to eat some breakfast at home but decide to sleep in till the last minute. Show up for work at 7, get out there and set up the parks making sure everything is perfect, then retreat for some Kroger pancakes with free honey stolen from the cafeteria. Afterwards, it’s time for a rake run or two through the parks before lunch, where we then eat craptacular food at one of Breck’s many fine eateries, then more rake runs, maybe a lap, then it’s time to close. A lot of people don’t understand why we close the parks and rake at the end of the day, but that’s usually because they aren’t there first thing in the morning. By doing that at the end of the day, things will groom out to almost pure perfection, and pack down that way as well in the morning, so its better for everyone.
Big shout out to you for taking the time with this interview… your shout outs:
Big time to Eric Armfield, our park manager, Greg, Mark, our other groomers as well as Nick Symon with the pipe, you guys absolutely kill it. Big one to the entire crew as well, Brian, Pete, Darren, Demello, Murphy and KG, and the entire Breck team, there’s no one I see there more often just killin shit.