Take the Rake at Trollhaugen 2021: Day 2 – Build Day

The second day of the Take the Rake started out bright and early. The crew of eleven women—diggers and cat operators from all over North America—met in Trollhaugen’s shop in Dresser, Wisconsin to get going on the build. The previous afternoon, they had decided on a design for Valhalla, Troll’s most lauded park. They had spent the evening grinding rails, repainting, welding, and getting things organized. Now it was time to put everything on hill.

This inaugural Take the Rake event was the first time that a crew made up of all women would design and build a park together. The event offered an opportunity for “women to bring their ideas to the table in a way they have never been able to before,” said Marsha Hovey, Trollhaugen marketing director and the driving force behind the event. To bring TTR to life, she worked with TTR park crew members Jess Goucher, Laura Rogoski, and Chloe Butel, bringing in their experience as females working in resort operations. “For a lot of these women, they’ve never been a part of a full, top-to-bottom build, never been given a chance to have a voice at those discussions.” From the onset of Take the Rake, the entire crew was involved in every aspect of park creation and getting to try new things, whether that was being involved in feature design or learning how to weld.

Of the eleven individuals that were on the TTR crew, there were nine diggers and two operators. Some of the women had worked in terrain parks for years and others were brand new to resort operations. For some, this was the first chance they ever had to work with even one other female, and now they were part of an entire team of women. Together, they had the opportunity to collaborate and learn from one another in a way that had never been available before. That this was a unique opportunity motivated the crew even more; being the first to do this, the desire to do things right and go above and beyond was palpable among the group–matched only by their cohesive hustle to do just that.

On hill, any park begins with pushing snow. Harmonee Johnson and Chloe Butel came to Trollhaugen from Mammoth Unbound and Sierra-at-Tahoe, respectively, where they operate cats—i.e. drive the snowmachines that push tables, form take-offs and landings, and groom out the big swaths of snow around park features. Within the resort operations ecosystem, the number of women on park crews is small to begin with; the number of women driving cats is smaller, still. The fact that Chloe and Harmonee operate machines at such reputable mountains is a testament to their abilities and passion, one hundred percent. Building the literal foundation of the park was up to them and they were out in Valhalla bright and early pushing snow for the multiple tiers of the park.

Once the tiers were ready, the hand crew headed on hill with the jib features to start placing them. The entire group worked together to set a pill on the first tier, a Troll-favorite down rail next to the tow rope, and then began working their way down the trail. It’s a really cool process to watch. There are a multitude of factors that go into building a terrain park that most of us never think about; flow, creativity, and level of difficulty of the set up are really only the beginning (this is in addition to pitch, snow depth, spacing for riding as well as grooming, upkeep for feature integrity, etc.). When it comes to flow, specifically, Troll presents a unique situation because of the tow rope.

The nature of a Midwestern tow rope is that you never have to unstrap when riding. Lapping the park is a dance, a never-ending down-and-up of momentum in harmony with the glove-splitting rope. Ride down, turn in, grab the rope, cruise up. On a busy night, Valhalla and its tow rope is a beautiful chaos: a barrage of snowboarders who know exactly when and where to hold on and let go, whether they’re lapping one feature or going top-to-bottom. The fluidity of the rope and the way it allows riders to repeatedly hit only one or two features as easily as they can ride an entire line adds another layer to the necessary flow of the park build in Valhalla. Everything has to work together, no matter where you enter and exit the tiers.

So, the plans for Valhalla must be strategic and there’s plenty of nuance. The tillers, rakes, and shovels used are cumbersome tools to the uninitiated that the crew wields with impressive finesse. For most of the women of Take the Rake, this was their first time seeing the lay of the land at Trollhaugen. Their first time setting foot in Valhalla. Their first time working together as a team. For any crew, it’s a task to build a new park in its entirety. For a crew that has never worked together before, it’s a whole other ballgame.  

And this was one of the most incredible things about Take the Rake. With only three days to go from introductions to finished build, the women wasted no time getting going, figuring out how to collaborate and work together; their cohesion was immediate, hearing each other out, building on one another’s ideas, problem solving and moving along. They were undoubtedly driven. As a bystander, it was clear the crew had something to prove. Not like a chip on their shoulders, but that they didn’t take this event lightly; they were here to show what they could do, not only for themselves, but representative of women working in resort operations, in general.

By mid-day, the TTR crew was making steady progress. Chloe and Harmonee had laid out everything that was needed for Jess, Laura, Emily, Hannah, Anny, Egan, Abby, Natawnie, and Haley to set rails and rake transition. All of the plans that the women had drawn out together the day before in the lodge were coming to life in the snow. They checked things, brought up a literal drawing board and confirmed the final tiers, seeing what had been built so far. Then they grabbed their Arena Snowparks rakes and continued building.

The crew checked in with one another throughout the day. Emily O’Connor had just been promoted to Trollhaugen terrain park supervisor right before TTR and this was one of her first big projects. Along with Hannah Petersen who is also on Troll’s park crew, Emily offered local’s advice on what works well in Valhalla. Rakes worked the snow steadily as the park came together. A bowl pocket with a tube running across it. Tubes running parallel and perpendicular to the fall line. A classic s-rail. Bonks, boxes, and more. Lots of options.

By nighttime, there was a little left to do on the final tier. Each feature had been placed with precision; stock was eschewed for the creative, the multi-option, and in the dark, the crew gathered around a c-rail, placing it at an angle on the side of a table. Watching from the sidelines, the way they worked so well together was undoubtedly impressive. To see where the park had come in so little time—especially for a crew that was working together for the first time (this can’t be overstated because they worked together so well!) was pretty incredible.

Everyone broke for dinner in the Skol Lounge in the lodge. Spirits were high. All that was left was a few finishing touches Thursday morning and the park would be ready to ride for a 3pm opening. Harmonee and Chloe would go back out after eating to give everything a pass with the cats so the snow would harden overnight well-groomed and be ready for the last bit of handwork in the morning. While everyone on park crews deserves more recognition for what they do, the unsung heroes of the crew are the operators. The recognition these two women received from their peers at Take the Rake was really cool to see.

And that was a wrap on the second day of Take the Rake. All that was left was a bit of handwork in the morning and to unveil the finished creation on Thursday afternoon. “It was really amazing to see this process come together because none of us had ever done it before,” said Marsha. “There’s literally never been a room full of women designing a park in the way that we saw this week. It truly is a collaboration of so many different types of women.” Women from different backgrounds, different riding styles, different regions, different levels of experience, and different roles. The proof was in the park. Take the Rake would open to the public on Thursday, December 2, 2021.

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