[Squaw Valley USA] In the beginning of the terrain

park phenomenon, Squaw Valley USA was at the forefront. Squaw Valley was quick

to embrace the new school terrain park regime and many “firsts,”

like CR Johnson’s 1440, were photographed on Squaw’s manmade

terrain. The terrain park trend spread quickly. Shortly after its inception,

it seemed like every ski resort, big and small, had a terrain park. Resorts

that lacked vertical and steeps found a niche in manufacturing state-of-the-art

manmade features and soon the newest trend in snow sports was also the most

accessible. As terrain parks grew in popularity, terrain park features grew in

size and variability and, in turn, so did the risk and the cost. For some

resorts, the benefit of terrain parks was palpable, but for Squaw Valley,

renowned for having the best lift-accessed (natural) terrain in the world, the

jury lingered on whether the commitment was worth the disbursement. After a

long period of deliberation, the verdict is in and the terrain park tides have

changed. Proof that Ski Corp is putting full fledged efforts toward terrain

parks, the mountain’s first-ever Terrain Park Director, Tom Richards, is officially

on board.


Tom comes to Squaw from across the

lake at Heavenly Mountain Resort. A fixture in Heavenly’s terrain park

operations for over ten years, Tom Richards helped their program grow from the

ground up, literally, and is attuned to what works and what doesn’t. His

vision drew successful events to Heavenly, notably, the iconic South Shore

Soldiers Snowboard Camp, to which he served as the camp’s lead park

builder since its inaugural session four years ago. Richards’ expertise

in building perfectly sculpted jumps and immaculate transitions made him a

reputable force in the progressive world of terrain park building. During Squaw

Valley’s search for a Terrain Park Director, his industry peers could not

say enough good things about him. Day Franzen of Rail Builders and the

Kingvale terrain project told Squaw, “Tom Richards is one

of the great unsung heroes of park building and is going to bring Squaw’s

park program into the future.” From early on, it was clear that Tom

Richards could resurrect Squaw Valley’s terrain parks, he was the man for

the job.


Richards’ ability to look at a terrain park and

ask “how can we make it better?” is reminiscent of Squaw

Valley’s trademark vision, set forth by ski pioneer and Squaw Valley USA

Founder, Alex Cushing. A legacy in industry leadership was part of what

attracted Richards to Squaw Valley. “Squaw made terrain parks the standard--Squaw

was the reason people started cutting half pipes,” Richard remarks.

“I have faith that we can reclaim that influencer status.” From

building rails to designing custom features, Tom Richards’ seasoned

technique and years of snow cat experience make for a promising future for

Squaw Valley’s terrain parks. One area, in particular, where he sees unbounded

potential is Central Park at Riviera, a.k.a “Riv.” He plans to

ignite the vibe at this night-accessed park and pipe with a new layout, new

sound system (4 new amps have already been purchased), and of course, new



Tom Richards represents Squaw Valley’s overall

heightened devotion to terrain parks. In his first month working at Squaw, Tom

worked tirelessly to repair Squaw Valley’s existing box/rail features and

to produce the first of many new features, including a wall ride and a box/rail

stair-set feature. As for jumps, a brand new Park Bully means Tom and the

other park builders will be more equipped than ever. “Squaw Valley is

famous for natural terrain,” says Richards. “My goal is to bring

that same esteem to the mountain’s man-made terrain.” The season

has yet to start and Tom Richards has already made a tangible mark on Squaw

Valley’s terrain parks. Stay tuned.