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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Squaw Valley USA Hires Terrain Park Director Tom Richards

Squaw Valley USA ..... In the beginning of the terrain park phenomenon, Squaw Valley USA was at the forefront. Squaw Valley was quick to embrace the new school terrain park regime and many “firsts,” like CR Johnson’s 1440, were photographed on Squaw’s manmade terrain. The terrain park trend spread quickly. Shortly after its inception, it seemed like every ski resort, big and small, had a terrain park. Resorts that lacked vertical and steeps found a niche in manufacturing state-of-the-art manmade features and soon the newest trend in snow sports was also the most accessible. As terrain parks grew in popularity, terrain park features grew in size and variability and, in turn, so did the risk and the cost. For some resorts, the benefit of terrain parks was palpable, but for Squaw Valley, renowned for having the best lift-accessed (natural) terrain in the world, the jury lingered on whether the commitment was worth the disbursement. After a long period of deliberation, the verdict is in and the terrain park tides have changed. Proof that Ski Corp is putting full fledged efforts toward terrain parks, the mountain’s first-ever Terrain Park Director, Tom Richards, is officially on board.

Tom comes to Squaw from across the lake at Heavenly Mountain Resort. A fixture in Heavenly’s terrain park operations for over ten years, Tom Richards helped their program grow from the ground up, literally, and is attuned to what works and what doesn’t. His vision drew successful events to Heavenly, notably, the iconic South Shore Soldiers Snowboard Camp, to which he served as the camp’s lead park builder since its inaugural session four years ago. Richards’ expertise in building perfectly sculpted jumps and immaculate transitions made him a reputable force in the progressive world of terrain park building. During Squaw Valley’s search for a Terrain Park Director, his industry peers could not say enough good things about him. Day Franzen of Rail Builders and the Kingvale terrain project told Squaw, “Tom Richards is one of the great unsung heroes of park building and is going to bring Squaw’s park program into the future.” From early on, it was clear that Tom Richards could resurrect Squaw Valley’s terrain parks, he was the man for the job.

Richards’ ability to look at a terrain park and ask “how can we make it better?” is reminiscent of Squaw Valley’s trademark vision, set forth by ski pioneer and Squaw Valley USA Founder, Alex Cushing. A legacy in industry leadership was part of what attracted Richards to Squaw Valley. “Squaw made terrain parks the standard--Squaw was the reason people started cutting half pipes,” Richard remarks. “I have faith that we can reclaim that influencer status.” From building rails to designing custom features, Tom Richards’ seasoned technique and years of snow cat experience make for a promising future for Squaw Valley’s terrain parks. One area, in particular, where he sees unbounded potential is Central Park at Riviera, a.k.a “Riv.” He plans to ignite the vibe at this night-accessed park and pipe with a new layout, new sound system (4 new amps have already been purchased), and of course, new features.

Tom Richards represents Squaw Valley’s overall heightened devotion to terrain parks. In his first month working at Squaw, Tom worked tirelessly to repair Squaw Valley’s existing box/rail features and to produce the first of many new features, including a wall ride and a box/rail stair-set feature. As for jumps, a brand new Park Bully means Tom and the other park builders will be more equipped than ever. “Squaw Valley is famous for natural terrain,” says Richards. “My goal is to bring that same esteem to the mountain’s man-made terrain.” The season has yet to start and Tom Richards has already made a tangible mark on Squaw Valley’s terrain parks. Stay tuned.


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To watch a snowboard and ski review movie of Squaw Valley USA click here

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