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A Park Crew’s Feature Handbook – Part 2: Design

Foreword

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.

18-foot Spine, Powder Ridge MN. Rider: @_jackfritz_ Photo: @612fly

Constraints

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.

42 feet of rail goes by fast. @Earllllllllllll on Mt Ski Gull’s DFDFD

Choosing Angles/Curves

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).

Elm Creek’s 36 foot, 15-degree flat-down

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.

Drawing

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.

A 30 second sketch for a versatile rail. DFD, Flat-up-Flat, Flat-down-Flat, and down-down-down if you’re an animal.

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!

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Mount Ski Gull the Tailgate Capital

Riders: Sam Mick (Earlllll) and Jared Magstadt
Photo Credit: Steph Keenan

The Plan:

Free filming and stills from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM (Just keep a heads up for other riders).

Multiple filmers and photographers will be uploading clips to a google drive. Download what you want and tag those who are responsible!

Purchase a lift ticket at the front desk and event is free. Support your local parks!

Come one, come all! The park will be open to all skill levels.

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Detroit Mountain Cookout: Back to the Basics

Rider: Karl Bekkala

My week started like most. Work, tired from the Powder Ridge Cookout, and a planned too not be as fat. Karl and I were heading to Detroit Mountain Friday night the 31st of January, to build for the Cookout on Saturday. Come 3:00 PM Monday afternoon Detroit Mountain had reached out checking in our upcoming plans. I was told they were planning on building on Wednesday and checking to see if we would want them to handle it. Until Tuesday I was holding on to hope that we could still do some of the build. Put the Colab Brand signature spin into the park. My hopes were squashed when the rod arms bent on my truck (frick). I was out of transportation and needed every minute at work I could get. So, we accepted the offer to let them fully control the build because Karl was also extremely busy with his job. Besides we only changed a couple lips and set 4 features last year. They can handle it. If you curious how it went check it out Earllllll‘s article HERE. Also check out some of the content from last year.

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Powder Ridge Cookout: The Second Go

Rider: Nate Bujarski
Photo Credit: Steph Keenan
Photo Credit: Tony Conrad

My name is Kael Luberts. I am the parks, event, and team manager for Colab Brand. Much of my work happens behind-the-scenes, mostly because Karl has a more handsome face. Some of you might have met me before or spotted the yellow coat.

Warming up around the tent village
Photo Credit: Grant Sadusky
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Andes Tower Hills Cook out: From the Beginning

Andes Tower hills is a small hill near Alexandria, MN. I imagine a lot of people haven’t been there or even heard of it. But like Matt Guf of The House I also got my start here. I rode here a couple times in high school during “Incentive Days” I later found my love for snowboard at Spirit Mountain in my college years.

JC Wagner wins some swag
Photo Credit: Kael Luberts
COOKOUT POSTER

The Plan:

This Cookout wasn’t originally on the schedule. Karl, Sean, Caleb, and I decided one Saturday it would be fun to go to Andes. Karl also had a prototype Knurly he wanted to give to the park crew. We couldn’t sell it because it had a few issues but would be perfect for a spare. So, when we got there we met with Tom (Manager), Gary (former park Manager), and Justice (new park manager). After a quick talk and gift exchange we’re off to play in their temporary park. After a couple hours we’ve explored what they had open and decided to call it a day. We made the trek back to my truck. While slowly loading up Justice comes by and asks if we would have any interest in helping with an event this year. Andes use to hold one or two events a season but Faction Board shop and Tow up Throw down both ended up dropping all events. A couple weeks after our visit to Andes we came up with one of our only open weekends in the next couple months.

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Don’t Worry, Park Crew. Your Problem’s are Nation-Wide. . .

I’ve had to start telling my friends to stop asking questions lately: Why isn’t the park open yet? Why in December, do we only have three runs open? For God-sakes just blow some f**king snow!, Have they finally fixed that groomer? Well why not!?

You’d better just stop asking any questions that have to do with efficiency at a ski hill. You’ll never be able to come to a logical conclusion. I promise you’ll wind up with a headache, too. There are, however, some people on the inside who know exactly why things are sometimes bad. What a great resource they would be if their behavior wasn’t so occult. And forget about the young people. They’ve expressed all their greivances in the form of demands placed strategically in the comments of ski-resort’s social media; you are very far from the heart of the beast, kids.

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