"If you are persistent, eventually you will make it happen."
Two years ago, Laura Rogoski collaborated with Marsha Hovey, Chloe Butel, and Jess Goucher to launch Take the Rake, the first time an all-women’s crew had built a terrain park. They gathered a group of female diggers and cat operators and set Trollhaugen’s legendary rope-accessed Valhalla park. In 2022, they returned with double the women and created a new build. Since then, women from the TTR crew have been working to expand the vision of the original event, creating experiences to bring more women into the terrain park and operations side of the snow industry. Laura Rogoski, cut her teeth riding in Vermont when she attended college at UVM. Her first sponsor was Darkside Snowboards, a shop with multiple locations in the state. This year, Laura is working full-time with Snowboy Productions on their busy event schedule and when they touched down in New England for the upcoming Side Hit Seancé with Rome Snowboards, Laura headed down to Darkside Killington to teach a group of women about building terrain parks in the shop’s own park, the Dark Park. We checked in with her about the event as she works to share the rake. – Mary T. Walsh
photos: Anna Burch
So, you gathered a crew of women at Darkside Killington on February 26th to learn how to work in a terrain park by doing a rebuild at the shop’s Dark Park. How did you get the idea to do this and how did it come together?
Marsha Hovey called me two years ago with an idea–Take the Rake: A terrain park built entirely by women for every human to enjoy. The first year was so impactful; our industry really took notice. Take The Rake was meant to be a spark–the beginning of change, showcasing what females are capable of, and encouraging other similar events. Darkside Snowboards was my first sponsor when I started riding in Vermont. Their Killington location has a free hike park, and the shop has a pretty big ladies following. Last year, I talked with Kyla about hosting a Girls Dig Dark Park. Unfortunately there wasn’t any snow at the shop and it was raining the day of. We moved the event to Red’s Backyard at Killington. Around ten ladies still showed up despite the weather. Earlier this season when I got my schedule lined out for the Snowboy Productions tour, I talked with Jordan from Darkside about hosting the event for a second year. She was super supportive and we came up with a rough outline for the day.
You’ve been working in terrain parks for fifteen years. Why is it important to you to help get more women into this field?
My first experience working in a terrain park was digging to ride at High Cascade Snowboard Camp fifteen years ago. At that time, I was the only female working at High Cascade (or Windells). Since then, I have seen more ladies skating around Salt Lake City and more ladies riding in the park, but still very few actually working in the terrain park. I think a lot of that comes from the idea that if you don’t have experience, you won’t get hired. There are so many different avenues to be involved in the snowboard industry. You don’t have to be the best rider to be great at building–but it’s probably one of the best things you can do to feel more comfortable on your board. I guess before Take the Rake I didn’t really think about how few ladies there were building, or how many might be interested in learning. he feedback from our community helped me realize that the knowledge I have is a resource I can share.
You don’t work at a specific resort currently–instead, you are on the Snowboy World Tour working on event builds with Krush Kulesza and crew. What is it like traveling to new mountains to work on new topography and terrain at each event? How does this compare to working at a resort for an entire season?
I get to meet a ton of different passionate people–and each resort runs their park a little differently. For example, at Mountain High the rails are built on square frames so they can sit right on the dirt upright when snow levels are low. That was the first time I’d ever seen that kind of fabrication. Trollhaugen sets rails with a Skid Steer–every other resort we went to just uses cats. It’s cool to see how many different ways you can accomplish the same task. And there’s no right or way wrong to do it.
The biggest difference [between different resorts], more than the pitch of the hill or anything else, is the snow quality we work with. Sugary snow filled with ice chunks is really challenging to work with. Traveling around keeps everything really fresh and exciting. If you work at one resort you might rake the same lip for three weeks straight–or longer–before you reset the park. We spend one-to-seven days building a park, get to ride it, then move on. With Snowboy, we put a lot more time and energy into our builds and everything is fine-tuned by hand. It feels artistic; we’re creating something that is visually exciting but also snowboards well. Most resorts don’t have the time or resources to put as much effort as we do into a build.
At the Darkside event, were a lot of the women totally new to terrain park building?
Almost every lady was brand new to building. A few had minimal experience, but not a ton of confidence behind it. They hadn’t had an opportunity to pick up a rake or a shovel and ask questions or get pointers.
How did you break down intimidation during the event so that the women felt confident building their skills and having agency in the park, both as builders and as riders?
I think from being honest and vulnerable myself? I let everyone know I was intimidated by how many ladies showed up, and how attentive they were. I was a little tired, but wanted to do my best to make the day special. I asked them questions about what they wanted in the park, and was open to any suggestions and encouraged them to ask questions. This day was for us–we didn’t need to stick to a strict schedule. We could go with the flow and do what felt right. When we started riding, everyone was cheering each other on. It was definitely helpful to have the park to ourselves and know that everyone who showed up wanted to learn and progress. It wasn’t a contest.
Tell us about the Mental Meet Up side of the event. You’ve been holding a meet up at each event you work at, whether the Snowboy events, Take the Rake, etc.
A Mental Meetup is an hour devoted to authentic conversation, vulnerability, and creating a safe place to be yourself. Each one is unique. We start with a brief reading on a topic that hopefully gets us thinking and is constructive or cathartic: fitting in verses belonging, scarcity mindset, imposter syndrome, being nice to yourself, priorities, etc. We go around in a circle and each person has an opportunity to speak, uninterrupted. You can share how you relate to the reading or anything else you feel like–if you have good news or are struggling with something. After everyone shares, we open up for group discussion. There are usually some tears and laughter. I always leave with a full heart. I’m so grateful for everyone who has attended a Meetup–you’re what makes them so special.
My idea for creating Mental Meetups is that snowboarding is stressful. It’s inherently risky. We all have something in common and we’ve also dealt with similar challenges. One-on-one therapy is great, but you are paying someone for their time. Feeling supported by a community of your peers is really healing. It’s also free. Someone might bring up something that you wouldn’t have thought about on your own. My goal with We’re All Mental is to create a free emotional support community and safety net within the snowboard community and beyond through creating opportunities to deepen preexisting friendships and create new connections.
The Darkside event didn’t take a lot of money to create, you mentioned. Are you planning on doing more of these events in other places? Do you have any advice for women looking to recreate this or do something similar in their neck of the woods?
The only money spent was on pizza for lunch! I’m running out of time this season–seriously don’t know where the winter has gone. I am planning on holding another Girls Dig Darkpark at Darkside Killington next year–maybe even make it a two day event? I heard Harmony Johnson and Abigail Lewis both have events cooking up. If any resort or shop wants to do something similar, please reach out to me. You really just need ONE person who has knowledge of building, a location, and to get the word out.
Huge thank you to Marsha and Trollhaugen for starting the spark, to Krush for believing in We’re All Mental since day one, and to Darkside for supporting me and my ideas over the years.
I also want to give a big shout out to Anna Burch who took all these photos. I hit her up a month before the event and asked if she’d be down to document the day. She hasn’t had very many opportunities to shoot snowboard events. It’s intimidating to advocate for yourself as a photographer or videographer in snowboarding, especially if you are a female. She helped make everyone feel really comfortable and as a result took some amazing photos.
If you have an idea and are passionate about it reach out and try to create opportunities. The worst case scenario is that someone doesn’t get back to you, or says no. If you are persistent, eventually you will make it happen.