Mount A's terrain park takes a Center Stage bow

Not so long ago, just getting down a steep, snow-covered slope upright and in one piece was enough for your average skier or snowboarder.

Anymore, that's boring. Young skiers and boarders who grew up watching X-Games and extreme sports on TV want to fly, twirl and spin like their heroes. The Mount Ashland ski area is giving them what they want this winter at what some are calling the best terrain park the mountain has ever built.

Ski area managers hired several groomers with experience building terrain parks, and ample snow in January gave them the raw material to do the job. The Center Stage terrain park, just off the Comer chairlift, has three distinct lines, each with its own degree of difficulty, giving freestylers a space to build their skills without breaking their necks.

"This is what we like to do," said Alex Falkenstein, one of the groomers, who was cruising the park on twin-tipped freestyle skis Monday.

Falkenstein helped build the park along with Griffin Loop and T. J. Miller.

"In my opinion, this is the best park this area has ever had," Falkenstein said. "The staff building it care about it. They're out here working even when they're not being paid."

Falkenstein said the word about this year's park is spreading around Southern Oregon and Northern California, and some freestylers who used to drive to the Mount Shasta Board & Ski Park for its ramps and jumps are coming to Mount Ashland.

"I've been talking to people from Shasta," Falkenstein said. "They recognize it's better this year."

Taylor Quigley of Central Point is one of those who's stopping at Mount A instead of driving another hour to Shasta.

"You could say it's about 100 times better than it used to be," said Quigley, who's been shredding Mount Ashland terrain for nine seasons. "The setups are nicer. The jumps are cleaner. Everything's better."

Quigley said the three separate lines at Center Stage allow freestylers with a wide range of ability to share the space without getting in each other's way.

Praise like that makes Kim Clark smile. Mount Ashland's general manager recruited Loop from Jackson, Wyo., where he had been building terrain parks. Loop has a strong local connection, however. His family operates Outback Construction, the Ashland-based outfit that builds chairlifts across the country.

Clark said the ski area spent about $13,000 in labor time to build this year's park. Mountain managers decided to abandon the terrain park they'd built in previous years on the Dream run and focus all their terrain park energy on Center Stage and the smaller Schoolyard park, a learners' park just off the Sonnet chair on the bunny slope.

"Just concentrating on two parks allows us to have two good parks," he said.

Clark said the grooming crew meets weekly to talk about what they can do to make the parks more challenging or improve what's already there.

"It's all about having the right people to do the job," he said.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 541-776-4492, or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com.

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