New terrain park raises objections
Some locals protest loss of front-side cruiser

The view from the top of Paradise marks the future entrance to the Paradise Freestyle Arena. Durango Mountain Resort expects to have sections of the half-mile long, expert-level park open by Christmas./Photo by Ben Eng.

While Durango Mountain Resort moves forward with a new terrain park on the mountain’s front side, some local skiers are lamenting the loss of what they say is one of the mountain’s premier groomers.

“I love skiing the front side of the mountain,” said Gunnar Conrad, a lifelong Purgatory skier and regular season-pass holder. “But what they’re doing is changing the whole character of that part of the mountain.”

Billed as a double-black terrain park, the Paradise Freestyle Arena will run more than half a mile and 600 vertical feet down Paradise and feature a 450-foot halfpipe with 15-foot walls, boxes, hits, spines, tabletops and “more rail than the Durango & Silverton Historic Railroad,” according to the DMR website. The park will start adjacent to the Paradise Race Arena, just below the top of Chair 1, the Six-Pack. The halfpipe will be near the bottom of Paradise, next to major snowmaking equipment, allowing for a possible opening of sections of the park by the holidays for anxious riders, according to DMR Communications Director Matt Skinner.

But Conrad is one local who is not looking forward to the opening. He initiated a letter and e-mail writing campaign among friends and fellow skiers, asking DMR to rethink the terrain park, citing a number of reasons.

“Paradise is a cruising run,” he said. “There’s really only three cruisers over there, and with the terrain park, now there’s only two.”

Conrad also said that for many locals, skiing the front side of the mountain is the only option on a work day.

“I know a lot of locals, including myself, who go up to get in six to eight runs on the front side and then go to work,” he said.

He also said that the mellow cruising of Paradise allows for a nice warm-up before hitting up the mountain’s steeper, lower pitches.

“I like nothing better than cruising Upper Hades to Paradise before dropping into the bumps,” he said, adding that breaking up the run also will impede the flow on other runs. “With this terrain park, you’re changing more than just one run.”

And while he acknowledges the safety issues surrounding the decision to relocate the terrain park from Pitchfork, namely to move traffic out of the congested Demon area, he feels they don’t justify blocking off the entire mid-section of Paradise.

“It’s too big a price to pay to correct the problem,” he said, adding that for some longtime locals, Paradise also holds sentimental value. “Paradise was one of the first runs on the mountain. To have that taken away is particularly heinous.”

Skinner, who said the resort has received about 10 e-mails opposing the Paradise terrain park, said several factors were involved in deciding to put the new park there.

“The layout for Paradise itself is perfect for a park,” he said. “It allows skiers and riders to lap the park using the Six-Pack. At the same time, it reduces traffic in Demon.”

He also said that the new, expert-level park is in response to a changing demographic, one that increasingly seeks out features where it can test its trick-riding skills.

“Terrain parks have been increasing in popularity in the last few years,” he said. “They provide an area for skiers and riders to have fun, learn new tricks and push the envelope of the sport in an area out of mainstream traffic.”

And while skiers may be losing a wide-open run in Paradise, they will regain a cruiser in Limbo, a run that was the site of a former terrain park and will be returned to groomer status.

“Limbo will be returned to a cruising run again,” he said.

He also said the terrain park on Pitchfork, below the Powder House, will be downsized to a “terrain garden,” featuring a training park for beginners with smaller-sized features.

And while the Paradise park will close off the entire middle length of the run, Skinner noted that the flanks of the run will remain open, and access to lower runs will remain unfettered.

“There will still be cruising on skier’s left and right, and there will still be easy access to Catharsis and Lower Hades.”

Although Conrad said he is skeptical that the edges will allow for a true cruising experience, he said he is hoping for the best.

“I guess I’ll have to wait and see what it’s like,” he said. “At this point, my best hope is that we’ll only have to live with it one year.”








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