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Park takes natural look

Killington’s Stash a trip back in time

The Stash, an all-natural terrain park, features wooden fences, logs, and a masoned stone ledge. The Stash, an all-natural terrain park, features wooden fences, logs, and a masoned stone ledge. (Courtesy of Killington)
By Marty Basch
Globe Correspondent / February 18, 2010

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KILLINGTON, Vt. - Snowboarders such as Adam Dembowski can deftly launch themselves from a snowy lip and hit the roof of the Sugar Shack before safely landing.

No one yells at them. They’re not reprimanded for sliding the railings or stairs, either.

“That’s the best part,’’ says the 20-year-old Green Mountain College student from West Newbury, Mass. “We’re allowed to do this. This is OK.’’

So is sliding off a number of other things: a rustic arched sculpted rail with an ornately-carved Sasquatch-looking creature called a Shreddie on its side; wooden fences; downed logs; jumps; and a masoned stone ledge resembling a New England stone wall.

Snowboarding returns to its roots at The Stash, Killington’s all-natural terrain park. Spearheaded by Burton Snowboards and designed by Snow Park Technologies, the cloistered park with a wooden archway entrance off the Skye Peak Express is like a backyard fort on steroids.

Snowboarding’s psyche is found in its pioneers, including Vermonter and Burton founder Jake Burton. He and his buddies would ride homemade boards and snurfers in the 1970s through backyard woods before the sport evolved - a generation later - to standard metal features in resort terrain parks.

“Jake Burton saw a bunch of people basically not going anywhere but the terrain park,’’ said Killington terrain park supervisor Jay Rosenbaum. “He saw the soul of snowboarding go away. He wanted to combine terrain parks and the woods, blend the two together.’’

The Stash, found in the woods and on a trail formerly called Shorty on Bear Mountain, opened in December 2008 and is the fifth such Burton park. The others are in New Zealand, Austria, France, and California’s Northstar-at-Tahoe.

It will house its first competition, The Gathering, March 13. A slopestyle type of event, riders will find lines through the park and pass by judges in three zones, since it’s impossible to see - and sometimes find - all of the 40-plus features.

The features are made of milled birch logs, plus the maple and spruce found on the mountain. Much of the milled logs are used for rails and flat boxes, while the park also has bowing trees. Made with a recycling mentality, the park even has a weathered log cabin once used by ski instructors to show students their videotaped lessons.

There are three basic routes through the park, and the Sugar Shack is like an island oasis surrounded by the woods.

Though freeskiers and snowboarders look for new lines and hits, the curious also carve through the park to see the dozen or so timber carvings by Washington State chainsaw artist Bob King. The Shreddies are a cross between the Abominable Snowman and the Headless Horseman. Some are tall, while others are small and cling to trees. One’s a trash can. Each Stash has a theme, and Killington’s mixes its local flavor with a little literature from New York State.

“You can definitely make the argument that snowboarding is an art,’’ says Dembowski. “You can see all the features in here and they all go together. It’s like an adventure every time you come in here.’’

Dembowski was hitting the features with fellow students Charlie Pieper and Nathan Higgins.

Pieper, a 19-year-old skier from North Haven, Conn., likes finding new lines in the woods.

“This is like a backyard club,’’ he says. “What you envisioned, what you always wanted as a kid, they made it for you. Sometimes I feel like a little 5-year-old who wanted a terrain park in my backyard and they made it for me.’’

Also visiting the park were Rutland, Vt., buddies Matt Thayer and Ronald Crosby. Terrain parks, including The Stash, are part of their days at the resort where they also seek out the welded rides in straightforward traditional parks.

“There’s a different feel to the wood,’’ says Thayer, a 19-year-old prep cook. “Sometimes it can be sticky and other times it can be super slippery. You never know what to expect.’’

There is an intimidation factor.

“It is way easier to catch an edge on a woods feature than a feature with plastic on top,’’ says the 20-year-old Crosby, a rental shop employee. “It is way sketchier when you do the slides on wood.’’

The park is filled with medium to large features with the longest logs about 30 feet and a wall ride that is 24 feet long and 16 feet high.

The amount of snow in the park also influences the difficulty of the features.

“As weather does its cycle, the features get more difficult or easier,’’ says Rosenbaum. “In the beginning of the season there wasn’t a lot of snow. They were definitely sticking up a lot taller. As the winter progresses, it makes it easier. As it turns back into spring, things melt out and it becomes more difficult as the snow heights go down.’’

But the park’s constantly changing face appeals to a skier like Pieper.

“This is basically like a treasure hunt,’’ he says. “We have all these rails in here but half the fun of it is going into the woods and finding the other stuff they built.’’