Snowmass park crew’s work continues even after slopes close

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun
The Snowmass park crew uses a snowcat to move a large rail feature on April 16. The crew is hard at work moving rails from Snowmass' park areas to an out-of-the-way location on the mountain, where they'll stay until it's time to prepare for the next ski season.
Jeremy Wallace/Snowmass Sun |

Ski season might be over, but the work isn’t done for the Snowmass park crew.

The team is working now to safely store away Snowmass’ 100 park features, which are scattered throughout its three parks — Lowdown, Makaha and Snowmass — congregated near the Village Express and Coney Glade lifts.

Last week, they also were combining the three expert jumps in Snowmass Park into a new one that pro snowboarder Mark McMorris did a photo shoot on Monday.

On April 16, they were using a snowcat to transport rails to an out-of-the-way location above Spider Sabich Picnic Palace, where they were carefully unloading and stacking them against the trees. When they’re finished, they’ll cover all the features with tarps to protect them from sun and water damage.

Many park crew members have other on-mountain jobs in the summer, but they will all reconnect in the fall, when they’ll uncover the rails once again and bring them down to a flat spot near Spider Sabich to be worked on. Groomer Chris Branstetter’s season starts there.

“I start the year off here in the cabin cutoff area, refurbishing the rails fixing plastic panels that have been damaged during the season and stuff,” Branstetter said. “When we’re done there, we go up to the welding shop and build new rails for the season.”

Then during ski season, Branstetter drives a snowcat during the graveyard shift, grooming snow in the park and fixing problems with features.

For Tyler Reynolds and the rest of the terrain park day crew, the job in the winter is a little different. They start the day installing signs throughout the park areas, making sure the rope lines are set up properly, and checking that all the features are safe for use.

“And we go through there with our sporks, or rakes, and fix any flaws that might be there, make everything perfect,” Reynolds said. “Throughout the whole day we keep maintaining. We usually do one really good rake at the middle of the day and get everything really nice again, and come back out in the afternoon and do that again.”

At the end of the ski day, the day crew pulls out all the signs and flags in the parks so that they’re out of the night crew’s way. Their work sometimes goes late into the evening though if they’re building new features or moving rails to different locations.


The crew’s work has not gone unnoticed. Transworld Snowboarding Magazine named Snowmass the No. 2 resort for park in 2014, and stars like Scotty Lago, McMorris and the Burton women’s snowboarding team have trained on its parks this year, said Terrain Park Manager Yannick Rioux.

And on April 9, Reynolds and Branstetter were personally recognized by Colorado Ski Country USA with Terrain Master of the Year awards. The two were nominated by their peers for the awards, which are broken into day and night crew categories.

“It’s an honor to be voted by the guys and then go there and be recognized from the park managers and others that were on the sitting panel,” Branstetter. “It’s pretty cool.”

Reynolds just started working for Skico midseason last year, and Rioux said he was an obvious choice for nomination.

“He definitely worked hard this year and stepped up his game,” Rioux said.

Colorado Ski Country USA said in a statement that these awards are meant to honor the “unsung heroes” of the ski industry, the people who are hard at work before skiers and snowboarders even wake up to deliver the experience they have come to expect.

Rioux knows it’s not the easiest way to make a living.

“But they do it because they love it,” he said.