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One Man's Trash is a Jibber's Treasure

Recycled features at Heavenly are changing the face of their terrain parks, while helping the environment.

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Jibbers looking for unique ways to push the limits and test their skills are flocking to the High Roller terrain parks at Heavenly to jib their unusual array of recycled features. Mike Thomas, terrain park manager at Heavenly, took the use of mountain trash as terrain park elements to a new level three years ago.

“Mountain trash is anything from the mountain that would otherwise be thrown away,” Thomas said. “Some resorts are building recycled features, but no one is doing 15-plus features and committing to a full terrain park.”

These park features, painted green to be easily recognizable, are built from mountain refuse that would otherwise be discarded. At Heavenly, corrugated pipes and snow-cannon towers are turned into rails. The park crew also modifies propane tanks and tops them with a used snow cat-track for wall rides and stalls.

“Riders love it,” Thomas said enthusiastically. “The sport is becoming increasingly urban and riders are craving elements that you wouldn’t normally see in the park.”

The skiers aren’t the only ones loving these recycled innovations. In 2008, Ski Area Management (SAM) Magazine recognized Heavenly for their forward thinking terrain park projects. Since then, recycled features have been popping up around the country.

“We certainly aren’t the originators of this idea. We just wanted to take it to the next level to make people aware of how much resorts can waste, and how Heavenly works differently,” Thomas said. “Then after the program began, we started to expand and show people how much they could be wasting at home.”

Instead of throwing out an old tire, Thomas said he hopes that people will try to border their garden with the rubber before tossing it aside.

Heavenly has also seen tremendous savings by virtually eliminating disposal costs and reusing materials to build new features. Thomas estimates the cost to build a fun-box with new materials at about $3000, but to build one from three old fun-boxes, welded together, is essentially free.

“It costs about $300 to dispose of a blown-out tractor tire, so we’re saving tons of money by reusing our trash in the park,” Thomas said. “Not only that, but our park has taken on a really unique look.”

In light of the program’s success, Thomas is planning another 15 projects. He’s also collaborating with pipe and skier-cross Junior World Champion Kyle Smaine to develop a new signature, feature for the season. Kyle’s Feature will be a down/flat/down rail with a 19-degree bend before the second drop.