By Roger Lohr- Snocounry.com
Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, N.H. is planning to develop a “ski park” this winter to help kids and adults to have fun on the snow while developing basic cross country (XC) skiing skills.
In recent years, terrain-based learning has been incorporated into snowboarding instruction at alpine ski areas. It is a natural progression for it to spread to Nordic ski areas, too. Designed instruction areas are created with natural or machine-made snow and can be shaped quickly with a snowcat combining flat and hilly terrain conducive to learning, skier improvement, and fun. This learning terrain helps the learner to have fun by removing fear from sliding out of control and perhaps even adding a fairyland setting.
Sue Weymss, Great Glen’s ski director said she first saw the idea of snow features in a book called “Teaching Children to Ski” and has been experimenting with terrain features and a fun obstacle course for the area’s annual one day Kids SkiFest for the last few years.
“We want to extend the terrain features to the entire season with snow roller coasters, trail bumps with rises and dips, a maze with markers, hula hoop arches, and more,” she told SnoCountry.com.
Kids have always been interested in building jumps and skiing kamikaze for kicks. With snowmaking at so many of the XC ski areas, operators can now consider building more terrain-based elements for specific purposes. Such elements might include elongated bowls, quarter pipes, rolling hills, spines, mounds, rails, boxes, and such.
The instructional terrain concept has been shown to allow faster technique learning progression by aiding balance and body awareness and it also helps with depth perception and ease of class segmentation (for instance, class age or fitness divisions).
The terrain could have a flat instruction area sloped a few percent to facilitate proper learning of stance, glide, and turning. Some rolling terrain with interspersed bumps could resemble trail skiing. Hill terrain with steeper slopes can have flat runouts that make the skier feel more safe and in control. Depending on the slope and length of runout, hills can provide the setting for downhill technique, telemark turns, and even slalom courses.
Great Glen is looking at various locations for the planned area on its property and one idea is to have it visible for parents and grandparents to watch their kids have fun in the snow.
“We’re family-oriented offering a compact and safe area,” she said. Kids love the tunnel and skiing to our tubing park. We see parents who feel comfortable letting the kids go to ski on the trails themselves.” Terrain parks that help new skiers build ski skills and confidence just could go a long way for a great time XC skiing and for a lifetime of fun in the outdoors.