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Changing the Terrain

Bogus and Brundage revamp terrain parks

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Jake White and Dylan Metz call themselves a "freestyle-based trail crew."

"We're five people with chainsaws, hiking our asses up the mountain," Metz said.

White and Metz work for Brundage Mountain Resort, and they have spent the past two months building a terrain park like nothing Brundage has seen before. The park is appropriately called Deadwood: It is constructed entirely out of logs and fallen trees from the resort's slopes, with jumps made of stacked logs, rails made of thick tree trunks, platforms, a battleship, a quarter pipe and a wall ride made from dead trees.

"We're pretty much Abe Lincoln building a log cabin out here, you know?" Metz said.

Before White joined Brundage's crew in 2012, he built log homes, so he understands working with timber. He is inspired by the backcountry.

"I've always been a backcountry skier, so in my eyes, I'm always looking for natural features like that," White said.

Building the feature-filled project, called a "stash park," had its struggles, though.

"The challenges? I could talk about that all day," White said with a laugh.

First: Constructing the wooden features.

"We couldn't just build the features right where our trees fell. We had to look around the area and manually move the trees to where we needed them," White said. His five-person crew manually dragged trees 20-feet long and 12 inches in diameter all over the mountain. Once the features were built, the experimentation began. White and his team had to work with the amount of snow the mountain receives. If they built the features too small, the snow could cover them up like they didn't exist. If they built too big, the features might become hazardous. And not all snow is good snow. If the snow is too firm, features will have to be closed for safety. Then, they realized the extent of the maintenance the park needs.

"Well, we start the day off by taking a swig of malt liquor," Metz joked. "But in all seriousness, we're going in with a rake and a shovel and doing it by hand."

"Conventionally, with a terrain park, you remove the snow," White added. "You have grooming apparatuses that are plowing the snow and sculpting. This park is different. We have no mechanical vehicles in there. We're constantly in there making sure it's raked out, making sure there aren't mogul fields going into the damn rails. It's pretty tough actually. In a lot of ways, it's a lot more maintenance than a regular terrain park."

White and Metz said they were "very surprised" by all the challenges in the Deadwood Terrain Park but are confident they'll have the park figured out by the end of this season or next. What they're doing is pretty cutting edge.

"For a Northwest ski area, especially one in Idaho, to do something like this with a natural park is a pretty big step," Metz said. "If you proposed this 15 years ago, they would have looked at you with a dead-behind-the-eyes stare."

Closer to Boise, Corey McDonald is more than familiar with that stare. He's considered the No. 1 terrain-park guy in the Northwest and now, he has taken his skills to Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area. But it took some convincing.

McDonald started working for Bogus in 1991 as a 16-year-old snowboard instructor looking to score a season pass. He left Boise to become a pro boarder (which didn't work out) and came back to build one of Bogus' first terrain parks in 1996.

"We'd build it and then Bogus would not help us with it and we'd have to do it by hand. It was a nightmare," McDonald said.

He sent around a petition to places like Water Ski Pro Shop and Newt and Harold's, trying to convince the resort it needed a terrain park.

"It was more like us just begging them for cat time and tricking them into letting us build stuff, so it didn't last too long, and I could tell it wasn't really going anywhere," McDonald said.

McDonald tried for the next several years to get Bogus in on the terrain park scene with little success, and he finally left to built major terrain parks across the United States and Canada at major resorts like Stratton Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont and Mammoth Mountain in California.

When the offer came from Bogus again last spring, McDonald was not interested.

"I had already gone down that road with Bogus," he said, but took the job on the conditionthat he could bring his assistant, Preston Woods. Together, they opened the park this season.

While the Brundage crew wrestles with heavy snowfall, McDonald could use more. He has built 40-foot jumps out of snow, but he said it took "scouring" the whole drainage under the Deer Point Quad to make it work.

"I was super nervous because everything I've built from Vermont to Michigan, it's all like, bottomless snow," McDonald said. "At Bogus, you have to build it in the right spot where you can farm up snow."

Now that the rollers and kickers are in place, though, McDonald's nerves have eased.

"Once you have a good thing built, you don't need snow all the time," McDonald said. "Today was pretty icy and we need some new snow, but a terrain park, if it's built correctly and groomed correctly and maintained, it's amazing."

Bogus has three terrain parks: Stewart's Bowl for beginners, intermediate Mambo Meadows and more advanced jumps on Claim Jumper. McDonald is waiting for more snow to put another park off the Bitterroot Chairlift as well.

Crews at both Bogus Basin and Brundage will continue to work out the kinks in their new terrain parks, but the innovation and skill level of the designers have no doubt earned the ski resorts a spot on the map.