Mountain Blog

The On-Slope Art Parks
Nancy Story - Tuesday, February 27, 2018


 Most folks are familiar with the Michigan Legacy Art Park here on premise at Crystal. But there’s another form of park art that takes place during the winter months in our three on-slope terrain parks.

Terrain park guru Nickolas Kerby heads up the crew who sculpts the snow.

It takes snow artistry on the part of Nic and park artists Bryce Reckow, Austin Bert, Seth Morgan, Devin Lapan and Brent Johnson to craft terrain parks that can accommodate a variety of skills, thrills, and feature favorites. And they’re always dealing with the challenge of changing snow conditions – which can, in turn, provide fodder for more fun as they get creative with slope surfaces for unique terrain.

Building a park is geared towards rider progression and fun, according to Kerby. For him, it’s all about pushing the riders to get better while making sure they have fun doing it.

“Since Jester’s Alley is our beginner park, we tend to stick to smaller easier features, such as boxes and little rails” he noted. “We like to stay with ‘ride on take offs’ as they are easier for beginner riders, but we also usually do one feature in Jester’s that includes an ‘urban take off’. Our main goal at Jester’s is to enable beginners to progress to bigger features in the bigger parks – Basin Street and Little Vincent.”

In Basin Street, park features are bigger and more difficult than in Jester’s Alley. “You’ll find a plethora of features from boxes and rails, to combinations of the two. Take-offs in Basin Street are mostly urban, but we also build a few ‘gap on’ take offs,” Kerby said. Over in Little Vincent, home to Crystal’s quarter pipe, building jumps are the main focus.  “There are not many rails or boxes in Little Vincent, as it’s a shorter run without much room for extra features,” Kerby observed. “Any rails built in this park tend to be big and challenging."

So what are the favorite features for frequent park fans? According to Kerby, that’s hard to say. “Some riders just like boxes, some just like rails, some just like going off the corners of take offs  - which is not what they are for” he noted. “Some riders like jumps, and some like a little bit of everything.” But in the end, our talented terrain artists have one goal in mind as they sculpt park features: “We want to build parks where everyone can progress their riding skills, and have a blast while doing it!”  




Staying in the Groove
Nancy Story - Monday, February 12, 2018
         Headlining Crystal Mountain’s daily snow report are the downhill ski conditions – and buried under the avalanche of downhill details are a few sentences about cross country. Nordic skiing has always been in the shadow of downhill skiing, that gravity slave favorite. But every four years in an Olympic February, cross country skiing shares the spotlight with its Alpine cousin.

As it is on the alpine side, Olympian-sized efforts to maintain good grooming are ongoing. Unlike the Alpine groomers, however, our Nordic groomers are at the mercy of Mother Nature. So good grooming habits are even more important in a winter of fluctuating temperatures – which is what all winter seems to be anymore.
Diligence is on display when you step onto the Nordic side of the mountain. We’ve got three groomers out there – Kathloon, Tim and Greg – who are packing and rolling fresh snow, and then carving tracks for classical skiers and tilling corduroyed lanes for skate skiers. It takes hours, plenty of patience, and a skier’s eye for quality that make this trio so valuable to us. All of them are veteran skiers. Tim is a Level One certified PSIA Nordic instructor. Greg, our head golf pro, is a seasoned cross country teacher and Kathy lends a hand with lessons whenever possible
Kathy “Kathloon” Maginity has been grooming for many years, and “ meticulous” does not begin to describe how seriously she takes the job. This grooming guru is up before daylight every morning and in her office by 5:30am – her “office” being the great outdoors. Her office chair is a snowmobile with what’s called a “Tidd Tech” attachment. With heated grips and a large windshield, Kathloon always dresses for an Arctic day and is an expert on staying warm.

“It takes at least 6 hours a day to groom everything,” Kathy noted. “We groom the skating lanes first and on the last pass, we lay a track set. If the track looks good and we don’t wipe it out on our first pass, we won’t touch it.”
Groomers use a Skidoo Skandik 900 snowmobile which pulls the 7ft- wide Tidd Tech groomer. “The hardest part is getting a great track set because you need just the right conditions – meaning, about 3-4 inches of new snow, at temperatures between 20-30 degrees,” observed Greg. Moisture content matters, too. “System snow is better than lake effect snow for grooming as it has more moisture. Fluffy lake effect snow is the toughest to groom because it doesn’t pack as well.”
Crystal’s Nordic trails aren’t all about flat terrain. Tackling the hills with the Tidd Tech isn’t easy. Going up steep hills can be difficult because of the weight of the groomer pulls on the sled – and an icy surface can really pose a challenge to the most skilled of Tidd Tech pilots.
But all three groomers agree that the sweetest part of grooming is seeing the end product. It’s all about crafting that perfectly groomed skate lane beside a great trackset and knowing everyone who skis it will have a great experience – including the groomers themselves after they finish!