What is terrain park etiquette? How to ride safely in the park.

If you’ve ever taken a lap in the park, or wondering how to get into it, you may want to know how to get around safely before you wind up somewhere sketchy. As parks become more accessible to the general mountain user, riders who aren’t in the know, are inadvertently finding themselves in the firing line of unwanted collisions and avoidable bad experiences for themselves and others. Whilst being a snowboarder (or skier) comes with certain responsibilities, much like driving a car, it's easy to assume we know the rules of road and place blame on others so lets sweep all the guesswork aside and look at an easy, industry wide accepted approach to riding safely in the park.

For the purpose of this article, let’s assume you can already make smooth turns of different shapes and sizes and make your way both to and from the park without any struggles.

Firstly, when you get to the park, check out any signage that you are not familiar with, particularly if you are visiting a new resort. If there’s any park crew around checking passes, they’re always happy to chat about the features and appreciate riders taking an interest in their own safety and the safety of others so if you have any random questions, they’ll be a great source of info.

If you’ve ridden any parks before, you may have signage which is consistent across resorts around the world for those that participate in the program. That is Park Smart.

park smart with focus snowboards at Lake Louise Ski Resort

This acronym stands for:

Start Small - work up to larger features

Make a Plan - know what it is you are about to attempt, never ride in with a “we’ll see what happens approach”

Always Look - inspect features you want to ride, know the features and if unsure, take another look

Respect - other park riders

Take it Easy - know your limits and equally when it’s ok to push them

These steps are fairly self explanatory and are a simple way to keep those around you safe and hopefully avoid any visits to patrol. With the above in mind, there’s a couple of extra bits to consider that can be really useful:

Wait Your Turn & Call Your Drop

Be respectful of riders in front of you. If they look like they are preparing to drop then wait your turn. If it’s a busy line up and no-one is getting ready then slide up front. If it is busy and you need to call your drop, all you need to do is get to the front of the line and when you’re ready, just raise one arm up so people know you’re next and say “drop” when you set off. You can usually get a good feel for how the line is moving and get involved without any issues.

Watch Others

Thinking of stepping to a new feature and not sure of the line or speed? Well, take a step back and allow other riders to roll through and pay attention to what they are doing. Where do they drop from? Are they starting from stationary or already sliding? Are they turning or straight lining? Are they a similar body size to you? These are important so pay attention. There’s no point dropping in from a stopped position from the same place as an obviously lighter weight rider compared to you, as you will gain a lot more speed than that rider and likely overshoot the feature. Equally, don’t start from somewhere that riders seem to be sliding through to maintain speed for a feature…you’ll undershoot it, not make the landing, or have to exit the feature early.

Clear Landings and Stop Where You Can be Seen

If you happen to fall in the landing zone of a feature, do your best to get back on your feet and slide off to the side or out of the way. From the drop in zones of larger features, usually you cannot see the landing so if you don’t see the rider in front of you ride away there’s a good chance they are stuck in the landing. Whilst it’s tempting not to miss out on hitting a feature, if you can’t be 100% sure the landing is clear then it’s not worth hitting it. If you do see a rider on the knuckle or take off with their arms held high over their head, crossed over making an “X” then this means the feature is closed. If they then signal with an “O” with their arms then it’s back open. Feel free to use these arm signals yourself as you get more comfortable in the park as it is an easy way to communicate with other riders. If you do choose to stop in the park between or around features then make sure you are clearly visible from the drop in and not in the way of anyone riding through.

Know Where to Start & Finish and Avoid Cutting Across Features

Have a clear picture of where you will pull over to stop when you exit the feature so you can focus on your trick when riding. Avoid cutting across any take offs or landings through this process to reduce the chances of being in the way, or crashed into.

So there you have it, some simple ways to ride in the park that will contribute to a much safer experience not just for you but for everyone around you too. Do yourself a favour and don’t end up on Jerry of the Day ;)

Let us know if you have any park related questions.

Kahli & Leo