This handbook/blog is a mix of what we’ve learned with our friends from various park crews. Plenty of managers are stuck with a small quiver of rusty junk and don’t have the time, help, or money to build anything new, much less buy an entire feature.
If you have input, or if I goofed, leave a comment or email [email protected]. We’re trying to help park crews make better rails so people have more fun, more safe.
Don’t get stressed trying to build wildly crazy looking rails. Every park should have a few straight rails – set them up flat, down, up, or put two in a row. Without these basics the park will actually be worse off so build the easy ones first. In reality, you’re going to build based off what material you have. Big pipe, little pipe, square tubing, etc all have their own “best uses” and limits.
How much material do you have?
Anything can be a flat feature or a bonk. Beginner parks can get away with a 6-foot rail to learn on, but a full park rail should be at least 20 feet long or it’s going to be ignored. If you only have a little, aim for a flat bar, maybe with a donkey (short up section at the end), or any variation of angle/drop/step-down in the middle – again, try to hit 20 feet minimum for any shaped rail.
What shape is the material?
Square tubing should only be used for up/down changes, not to the sides like an elbow. Think battleships, flat-downs, A-frames. They’re easy to balance on, so they’re better off in beginner parks. To bump it up to a higher skill level, you could make it a drop rail or just a 30-40 foot long flat bar.
Round pipe is very trickable. Bigger than 10″ is called a tube, which are more like a grippable box than a rail. We don’t need to get crazy with tube shapes, I don’t know a single person who’s upset by having a straight 30′ tube in their park at all times, and you can even have a lot of fun with a 10′ tube.
The most versatile pipe is 4″ to 6″ schedule 40. You can get it rolled, bent, easily cut and weld it into angles, etc. Any direction change works well, any length. Recall that our preferred minimum is 2″ tubing.
Picking Length, Angles and Curves
How big should it be?
It’s better to have a too-easy rail than an unusable one. Here’s a rule you can live by:
“It always looks bigger in the shop.”-some guy online
It also looks way easier in the shop! Standing next to a new feature, it’s going to seem way too long and way too mellow. Then once it’s planted, all those angles and feet of pipe are super aggressive.
Your favorite features are probably 25-30 feet long (it doesn’t feel long until you’re closer to 40 feet). Also notice the individual lengths of each flat or down on a kink. If it’s 3 feet long, it’s more of a bump than a ride-able pipe. The last quad kink we made at Mt Ski Gull was 12′ down sections with 4′ flats (12-4-12-4-12), giving us an overall length of something like 42 feet.
Use 15 degrees as your maximum angle change. We’re often between 10-12. Ski Gull’s quad (above) is 12 degree, Elm Creek’s Flat-Down (see below) is a 15 degree change. Here’s a supplier we’ve used in the past, and here’s the elbow we used in this exact rail (cut to 15deg).
Curves aren’t that hard either, just keep in mind that the sharper curve you have, the slower the rider needs to go. The actual drawing I used for Elm’s 25′ S-rail is below; based off my own incredible intuition I paired the average rider speed at Elm (not super fast) with a 16′ radius curve. We sent that PDF to Linder’s to get two C-rails that we welded together and boom the smoothest single pipe S-rail in the midwest was born.
A more slopestyle feel for faster riders should be over 30 feet long, and more toward a 20+ foot radius.
To start off, just make a pencil sketch so you and any helpers will understand the same plan.
Start with the slide surface with its length, then add legs. If your legs are set with 48″ between them, you can cut strips out of a 4×8 sheet of plywood for skirting.
This rail could be cranked out in a day, minus the paint. Say we used 3″ pipe up top, 3″ legs, and 1.5″ tubing along the bottom of the skirts which we’ll say are 18″ tall. Now the only problems to solve are making the center parallelogram piece (just trace the shape onto the wood if you’re nervous), fork pockets if you wanted them, and tabs to hold the skirts on. Easy enough!