Kids celebrate the opening of Red Gerard’s Backyard park at Copper Mountain
COPPER MOUNTAIN RESORT — By the time Rocke Weinberg scrambled in her snowboard boots to the top of the new Red’s Backyard terrain park at Copper Mountain Resort, she had to catch her breath.
After an hour of lapping and hiking back up the rail garden, Olympic gold medalist and Burton U.S. Open champion Red Gerard — the namesake of the rail garden — noticed her effort to get in as many laps as she could and to learn some new tricks. Looking up to older riders in the garden, Weinberg decided to try some of the bigger rails, at one point landing a backside 180 off a rail that had her, and Gerard, stoked.
Before she could accept her prize, Weinberg, a young snowboarder from Steamboat Springs, ran through the slushy snow on the side of the new rail garden at Copper Mountain Resort to meet up with Gerard. After bobbing and weaving through skis and snowboards, Weinberg breathed heavy into the microphone as she was embraced by him and awarded a free week of summer camp during the Burton Week at Woodward Copper in the summer.
“What stood out about Rocke is I was just watching her all day, and she wasn’t the best snowboarder here, but she was consistent with hiking and running back up the hill,” Gerard said. “She was the one I saw true progression in, and that’s why we gave that to her.”
Gerard and Woodward Copper hosted a grand opening rail jam contest Monday at Copper’s Center Village in celebration of the new terrain park zone. It’s a zone inspired by the actual backyard rail garden at the Gerard family’s home in Silverthorne. Inside the Red’s Shed tune-up and warming hut at the top of the garden, there is a poster listing the 10 Rules of Red, such as “Rake before session,” “Rake after session” and “Rip hard.”
Before the Gerard family moved to its current home in Silverthorne, Malachi “Kai” Gerard, Red’s older brother, said the family’s band of brothers always would scope out some patch of snow to build something to ride on. Then when they moved to Silverthorne, Kai and his older brother Brendan saw a hill with an almost perfect slope and asked their parents, Conrad and Jen, if they could build something bigger and better.
“‘Yeah, sure. Go for it,’” Kai remembers his parents saying. “‘Take it over.’ So then it went from having a couple rails to, ‘We should set up the dirt bike (motor) and make a rope tow if we can.’ It just kind of all grew from there, and five years later now it is what it is. It’s pretty awesome.”
Kai said Monday that the purpose behind the new Red’s Backyard at Copper isn’t to exactly emulate what he and Brendan brought to their backyard, complete with old pieces of horse fences as rails and rails inherited from other snowboard projects. It was more to bring a free option to a world-class resort like Copper so youngsters like Rocke could have fun snowboarding at no cost.
Both Red and Kai said that the main inspiration was their mother, Jen. Last month at the Mountain Dew Snow Dance event at Breckenridge Ski Resort, Red was hopeful the Copper hike-to park would open for free, as that was something his family was pushing for. Red and Kai said their mom sparked the idea of using their platform to help create a free park. Woodward Copper agreed, as did Woodward facilities at fellow Powdr Corp. resorts at Park City in Utah; Boreal Mountain in Tahoe, California; Eldora in Colorado; and Killington in Vermont.
“I am so psyched it’s free,” Red said. “To me, it’s a really, really cool thing. I know it was either going to be 10 bucks or 20 bucks or something, which is really nothing. But just for it to be free is awesome, I think, and it’s a really cool thing, and hopefully it puts a good example out there.”
The 75 spots for the rail jam sold out, as skiers and snowboarders from across the state dropped in and tried their best moves. One was a young snowboarder named Ben, who scaled the bottom of the superpipe mound adjacent to the park to steal the show and drop in in his own daredevil way. Though Ben didn’t win, Red said it was similar to something he might have done at a younger age when he was a little ripper learning skills at Woodward Copper.
“He was the next one up after Rocke just because he was so eager to be snowboarding and was so hyped on it,” Red said. “It completely reminds me of myself when I was younger. That was pretty cool to see, and he was ripping really well.”
Contest aside, Monday was all about the family feel at Copper. Red’s family, including Conrad, Jen, Red’s younger sister, Asher, and their dog Merle, were all in attendance. Conrad remarked that he loved how many young kids were dropping into the garden and having fun, getting themselves tuckered out the old-school way, without a cellphone in hand.
To Red, that’s what Monday was all about: fun and family.
“This is more my family’s thing than my thing, even,” Red said. “It took all of us to get this done, so I’m really psyched that everyone can make it here. … They did all the work and all of the stuff, and I’m just the one that was, like, OK at snowboarding. I’m really happy with how it all turned out.
Those who want ride or ski Red’s Backyard can use a lift ticket or get a free Red’s Backyard voucher at Guest Services in Copper’s Center Village.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard on Tuesday announced the final U.S. World Cup schedule, a lineup that includes the Aspen World Cup from March 3 to 5 on Aspen Mountain. Those races will include a men’s super-G and two men’s downhills.