A Jerry’s Guide to the Terrain Park
Jerries and Jerettes—you’re reading this because you’ve had enough. You have skied one too many blue groomers. Your hands are cold. You’re slow, and your friends are even slower. All the while you ride the lift over the terrain park, watching, as the park rats spin, grind, flip, and slide over features with an effortlessness you cannot even comprehend. You hear the sonorous clang of rails as the park rats disaster the double kink. You hear the satisfying thud of the park rats landing their cork 5 blunts to bolts. What you are hearing is the calling—the calling to slide on metal, get corked, and look damn good doing it.
Know this, aspiring rat; there is no point in fighting this calling. Once you get a taste of the park, your skiing life will never be the same. And because you’re reading this, you already have—so there’s no turning back. And for your sake, my sake, and everyone else’s sake, it’s important that you know a thing or two before you huck your meat off the rail lip (to flat).
Mentally preparing for the Park
When beginning in park skiing it is important that you understand two things:
Number one: nobody cares about how good or bad you are;
Number two: anyone that does isn’t worth your time.
With these two rules you will immediately surpass roughly half of all park skiers in potential.
One of our largest hurdles as human beings is our need for acceptance. The best way to gain this acceptance is through being honest, genuine, and kind. You will not win the validation of honest, genuine, and kind people through your skiing ability, which is why you shouldn’t worry if you suck majorly. Everybody did at one point. Anyone calling you out for your major suckiness is loudly declaring insecurity in themselves. All you have to do in this situation is feel pity for them—then go catch your tips, taco the handrail, and laugh it off, like all good beginner parks skiers should do.
Believe it or not, a large amount of park skiers ski park not out of the raw enjoyment of air and metal, but out of the praise and validation they receive from their peers for doing so. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it is usually a very limiting mentality. If you truly desire to be able to flow through the park without effort, you need to be able to do it when nobody is watching. Of course, you should still flex your orbital re-entry into the Gucci plateau on the gram every now and then—but that should never be the object of your obsession.
There is also a third rule, which if correctly applied will vastly increase your park rat potential:
Number three: you are bad, and there are always better skiers than you.
This rule, when correctly applied effectively removes your skill ceiling (assuming you are able bodied). When you compare yourself to the best, you will never be fully satisfied; but in the same vein, this lack of satisfaction is what will push your skill and style to levels you never thought possible. You will reap the confidence boost of your ever-increasing freestyle skill, but never allow yourself to settle or plateau.
With these three rules internalized, you will go into the park for the first time and be absolutely garbage. But it will not dissuade you—your positive and determined attitude and will attract the skiers who will help you get better and make the whole “eating shit a thousand times” ordeal an enjoyable experience.
Entering the Park
Usually, before you cross the threshold into the beautiful man-made wonderland that is the terrain park, you will be greeted by a large sign. Most of this sign is a non-liability declaration from the resort and they can’t really care if you die. To be fair, given you’re into park skiing, neither do you.
However, there are some things of value to be taken from this posting. For one, it should tell you to “be aware”. This is a quite a broad statement. You do not need to be spiritually aware/awakened like B-dog. What you need to be aware of are the skiers (and, to a greater extent, snowboarders) around you who are trying to do the same thing as you.
This applies to all 360 degrees around you. If you need to cross a landing, look up to see if someone is about to hit the feature. If you want to hit a feature, look down to see if anyone in a place where you may hit them if you fall or lose control (and, sometimes, you will). Like driving on the interstate in heavy traffic, if you don’t want a dent in your car, you need to pay attention to everyone around you. Of course, there are the people that don’t use their turn signals—these are the same people that will snake you (cut you off) in the park, so watch out to make sure you’re not the victim of their obliviousness. Of course, ski with confidence. Go into there like you know what you’re doing—eventually you will know, so why are you worried?
On this sign, sometimes there is also the phrase “start small, work your way up”. This leads to the next point of importance:
Choosing your features
As a general rule, if it scares the shit out of you, leave it. The best time to push yourself is when you are confident and feel like you can handle it. Trust me, it is not an enjoyable experience to attempt to grind a 2 inch handrail when you can barely slide a flat tube consistently.
That being said, adrenaline is a powerful tool when harnessed correctly. Sometimes you have to be scared, and that’s part of the game. But not too scared. Not when it clouds your ability to envision the trick you are about to try.
Start the day with features and tricks in your comfort zone. Push yourself by feel as the day progresses. Only you will really know what tricks you can do. Sometimes you’ll lie to yourself, though, and that’s what your crew is for: to remind you that you’re better (or worse) than you think in that moment.
Outside the Park
Life outside the park is a mélange of interesting and mundane things, and it can usually hold your attention long enough between park sessions to keep you sane. But note that it is your sworn duty as a park skier to make sure that other park skiers can identify you in the non-park world. You may suddenly find yourself knee-deep in merch from ski companies and groups. Use these tools to find your brothers and sisters in the featureless, icy groomer that is real life. Of course, consult on Newschoolers.com to observe the nature of the wave, and adjust your consumption of ski media accordingly. Or watch TGR edits from 2009. Whatever floats your boat.
New park skier FAQ
What about my skis? Do not worry about your skis. Worry about skiing. When they break, get twin tips.
What about my boots? Refer to the Newschoolers.com forums for a unanimous boot recommendation.
Are my boots too big? I don't know, are they? Go to a bootfitter.
What if I want to make the whole mountain my playground? Refer to the Newschoolers.com forums for advice on mountain-to-playground conversion.
My shins hurt! Stop skiing backseat (butt far behind your heels). Apply forward pressure, push your shins against the front of your boots. You also gain more control of your skis like this.
They still hurt! Take an advil.
Should I wear a helmet? Yes.
How do I explain park skiing to my parents? Friends? Other non-park skiers? Good luck. Report back to us if you make a breakthrough.
Who is skierman? Skierman is an experience, not a person. The day he graces your post with his reply is the day your life changes forever. But tread lightly, for this change is usually not for the better.
Ultimately, the world you are about to enter is, by nature, quite a strange one. What is it that compels us to defy our survival instincts and fly off of cold mounds in all kinds of strange directions? I don’t think anybody really knows. Do we really stop to ask? Luckily for you there are no park-rat-philosophers. We ski the park because we like it, and because we don’t care about the rules. That’s about it.
If you like this article, I’ll do more guides on specific parts of park like feature types. Or maybe you dislike it—in that case I’ll do it anyways cause I like writing them and I don’t care what you think ;)