The behind-the-scenes of building a terrain park.
words and photos: Mary T. Walsh
A lot goes into making a terrain park. This, of course, goes without saying, but I do think that it is a fact that most of us take for granted whenever we are taking laps in our favorite set ups. It’s meticulous undertaking, rife with planning, preparing, lifting heavy things, welding, painting, sanding—in general, hard work—and a dose of Murphy’s Law. By the time the lifts (or in the case of Trollhaugen in Wisconsin, the tow ropes) start turning, all we see is the perfectly groomed lined leading up to feature after feature.
While terrain parks are at the nucleus of our freestyle bent in snowboarding, we don’t often see the hours and days of work that go into creating and maintaining these areas of resorts. Shining a little light on the people that dedicate their time to building parks is something we should do more of (sidenote: check out The Blade Dive podcast, where Parker Bohon is doing a great job of that). This part of resort operations (in general, an area of the snow industry that deserves a lot more praise!) is so integral to snowboarding. But it also has very few women working within it. Enter Take the Rake.
Take the Rake is the brainchild of Marsha Hovey, director of marketing at Trollhaugen, though if you ask her, she will immediately call out the three women she worked with to make the event exist: Jess Goucher, Laura Rogoski, and Chloe Butel. In May of 2021, Marsha was at Snowboy’s IT’S TITS! at Mt. Hood, and was on the speaker panel at the Pitch Sessions, an open discussion for the riders and industry members who attended the women’s event. During the Sessions, Jess Goucher, a digger at IT’S TITS!, brought up the lack of women in resort operations, specifically terrain parks. Why aren’t there more women on park crew? she asked the group. A light went off for Marsha and the week after Thanksgiving after months of planning with Jess, Laura, and Chloe, a group of female park builders touched down in Wisconsin to create the first-ever park built entirely by women.
“For a lot of these women, they’ve never been a part of a full top-to-bottom build,” said Marsha. “They’ve never had a voice in those discussions.” The goal of Take the Rake was to change that. Through this build, it would not only provide a setting for women to meet one another and make connections in the industry, but also an opportunity to learn things in their field and participate in aspects of operations that they may not have ever had a chance to try, whether designing and planning, welding, working in the shop—the opportunities at TTR were full bore for everyone.
Eleven women (you can meet them here) arrived at Troll to get to business building out Valhalla, Trollhaugen’s infamous terrain park, known for fast laps from Ethan Deiss, Danimals, Mike Liddle, Benny Milam, Hannah Petersen, and many more. Nine diggers (the ones who wield the rakes): Jess Goucher, Laura Rogoski, Emily O’Connor, Egan Wint, Abigal Lewis, Anny Vongsavanh, Hannah Petersen, Natawnie Spellacy, and Haley Boucot. Two operators (the ones who drive the cats): Chloe Butel and Harmonee Johnson. They came from Trollhaugen, Brighton, Mammoth Unbound, Woodward Tahoe and Park City, Timberline, Jackson Hole, and Sierra-at-Tahoe—all with different levels of experience, some a decade-plus into their careers, others just starting out. Some had never gotten to work with another woman before, let alone a whole team of ladies.
The crew had two-and-a-half days to build the park. Tuesday was the planning day. Wednesday was the build. Thursday morning was the time to finish up anything that was left and at 3pm, the first-ever TTR park would open to the public. For much of the crew, this was their first time at Trollhaugen, so they wasted no time in getting down to business on Tuesday.
The women arrived, introduced themselves, and grabbed a goodie bag with gear from the event sponsors, TechnoAlpin, Liquid Death, Arena Snowparks, Pisten Bully, Effective Edge, and Lvl Up Academy. They headed outside to get a lay of the land, check out Valhalla, and go through the rail fleet. November temperatures had been unseasonably warm, but Troll’s fleet of TechnoAlpin guns had been churning in the colder evenings and blown plenty of snow in Valhalla. There were plenty of rails to choose from. Now it was just to decide what to create.
One of the challenges of any collaborative environment is figuring out how to work as a team. For the Take to Rake crew, they had limited time to figure out how to work together and they did so seamlessly. Working together, sharing ideas and opinions, the women of TTR seemed more like a seasoned crew than a group that had just come together the day before. On Tuesday afternoon, gathered in the top floor of Trollhaugen’s lodge around a laminated map of Valhalla, the diggers offered up ideas, one-by-one, working together to combine all of the perspectives into a cohesive vision. Sheets of paper with sketches covered the table, along with empty cans of Liquid Death, and while it was still light out, the crew had devised a plan and split up to get to work.
Tuesday evening was about prepping everything for the Wednesday build. Some of the crew went to select rails and bring them down to the shop, Abby driving the skidsteer and Harmonee and Natawnie helping navigate the features. Jess, Laura, Chloe, and Egan headed straight to the shop where they began to lightly grind the rust off rails that had been sitting since the season prior (standard upkeep at the beginning of winter). The shop was buzzing until late that evening as the crew spruced up the boxes and rails that they planned to use. New coats of paint, new wooden sides—they hustled to prep everything for Wednesday’s build day.
When a box needed some reinforcement to its metal skeleton, Adam Mahler, Trollhaugen’s mountain manager who is also a talented welder, put on a welding clinic, giving anyone who wanted an opportunity to learn how to fuse metal together. For these women, they had never been offered the opportunity to learn to weld like this, never been given the chance to really work in a resort shop at this level. Matt “Boody” Boudreaux, assistant mountain manager, pitched in with tips, he and Mahler welcoming the crew into the workspace. Watching the excitement of the women as they dialed in the finer points of welding, it was clear that Take the Rake, on just day one, was already a success.
Stay tuned for:
Day 2: The Build
Day 3: The Riding Reward