Dec. 21, 2011 - Issue #844: The Artist
Do it for the kids
Catching some air while StepChild's in town
"There are way, way more kids than I expected riding the park," says Sean Keating, of Vancouver-based StepChild Snowboards, which hit up Rabbit Hill as the first stop on their 2011/12 rail jam tour. Being early season, the initial terrain park is only temporary, to be replaced by the permanent park later in the season once enough snow has accumulated. But in a fluke of timing, the condensed temporary park offers a perfect venue for Stepchild's December 11 tour stop.
While there's a common perception that bigger is better when it comes to hills and parks, Rabbit Hill's park scene defies that logic.
"We like the smaller atmosphere, everyone is hanging out instead of a big long chair and every once in a while you'll see a kid go by and you're like, 'Oh, hey, hey, hey,'" says Keating, likening it to his home hill of Mount Seymour in Vancouver. "[Seymour] is a bit of a bigger hill but it's the same vibe: little chair, park's right under it, everybody hiking and stuff. All the spots we picked for the jams this year embrace that same mentality."
Even when the park moves over to its permanent location over on Thunder Bowl, that vibe will remain.
"We rebuilt the deck this year so it's greatly improved, there's the fire pit, so it is a bit more of a social community," says Rich Parie, Rabbit Hill general manager. "These guys will continually loop the park ... they'll just hang out there all day long, every day."
Park manager Pat Bockman gives a lot of the credit to his crew for Rabbit Hill's park development prowess. "I think it's the way we set everything up. Everything's very rider friendly, like gap-ons, good lips ... a lot of it is put in by riders. I run the cat but the whole park staff comes up with the ideas," enthuses Bockman. "We all put it to each other and that's kind of how it happens."
This is Bockman's fourth winter at Rabbit Hill and first as park manager, after trading in a 15-year seismic career for the ski industry.
"I used to come out here as a kid and I always thought it would be really cool to work at Rabbit Hill," he recalls. "I've always wanted to be in the industry. Now [that I'm here], I love it."
When it comes to park design, creativity and progression are key, Bockman explains, as well as setting the right tone. "We're trying to portray a really positive attitude," he says. "Sometimes people think the park guys are a little harsh or something, but I've found the last few years it's been a really good, really helpful environment."
For StepChild, the community vibe is paramount. Getting the broader exposure in the Whistlers of the world might be nice, but for Keating's part he says, "I'd rather hang out with the kids."
From the top of the Rabbit Hill terrain park, where snowboarders and skiers assemble to step into bindings, watch their friends and wait their turn, it's clear he's come to the right place.
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