Northern Dolomites: Get some air at region's 20 state-of-the-art snowboard parks
Stars and Stripes February 2, 2011
If you’d like to soar like Seth Wescott, Shaun White or Lindsey Jacobellis, then you’ve probably been looking for a place to take your board and grab some serious air.
The massive winter paradise in the northern Italian Dolomite mountain range has 20 state-of-the-art snowboard parks. Here, snowboarders (and their crazy cousins, freestyle skiers) have exclusive access to jumps, rails and halfpipes.
But even if you are not an expert — Wescott, White and Jacobellis are members of the U.S. snowboard team and Olympic medal winners — these parks have something for you.
Normally, there are jumps (also called “fun boxes” or “big air”) for beginner, intermediate or advanced riders. In some cases, the jumps are manmade, meaning they can be used even if there is just the smallest coating of natural or artificial snow. Thankfully, natural snow has not been a problem this season.
A rail is something that looks like a stairway banister, usually only inches wide. Boarders slide down the rail sideways, jumping and twisting at the end to ensure a perfect, and therefore very cool, landing. Halfpipes, shaped tubes of snow sometimes with sides as high as 15 feet, are designed for acrobatics and are the most popular feature at snowboard parks.
Then there are snowboard cross tracks, the latest rage. If you missed the last two Winter Olympics, snowboard cross, or boardercross, is a competitive downhill event in which four boarders descend simultaneously. They travel a course of sharp turns, jumps, moguls, drops and flats. Races test board control, skill and athleticism. Competitors also have to contend with one another, as limited space results in frequent bumps and the occasional spectacular crash.
Here is a quick look at five of the best snowboard parks in the Dolomites.
• Cortina d’Ampezzo has Vitelli Park. An ideal park for entry-level stunt riders. Four jumps and two slope-style attractions (meaning at least three stunt structures not separated by a stop area) in a 275-yard run offer beginners a great place to work on fundamentals.
• Kronplatz/Plan de Corones includes Snowpark Kronplatz. Built this year, the park is huge, 880 yards long and occupying nearly 15 acres (that is roughly the size of 10 football fields). It is divided into Family Fun, easy, medium and pro areas, and features jumps, rails and a heart-stopping snowboard cross track.
• Alta Badia ski area features Snowpark Alta Badia. The park opened this season and is more than 440 yards long with rails, a halfpipe and a snowboard cross track.
• Alpe di Siusi is home to O’Neill King Laurin Park. Perhaps the finest of the 20 snowboard parks, this 8-year-old park traverses about 1,650 yards and has jumps, slope-style runs, more than 20 rails, a half-pipe and the wildest snowboard cross track you’ll ever see.
• Obereggen offers Obereggen Snowpark. It has 10 jumps (two rated pro-only), eight rails and a snowboard cross track, but the park is best known for its monster halfpipe.
For a complete rundown of the 20 snowboard parks in the Dolomite Ski Area, check dolomitisuperski.com. Lessons are available at each park. Check out the website to find how to contact schools.
Then haul out that board and go get some air.
Jim Sajo is a freelance writer who lives in northern Italy. Visit him on Facebook at Jim Sajo the Writer.