Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a member of the park crew at a resort? Well kids, today I, Helen Wade, Brighton Ski Resort park-crew member since 2006, will reveal the secrets of becoming a member of the Terrain Park Crew. You may think that all we do is get paid to snowboard and nothing else. You also may think that being on Park Crew would be the sickest job of all and there is not much to it. Fortunately for you, I am here to reveal the true meaning and physical demands of becoming a “digger.”
Using my personal background experience (I am the only girl on my park crew and I have been a digger at Windell’s Snowboard Camp for the past two summers), I asked several local terrain park managers to break down their average day for me. So here it is, all the magical secrets of a day in the life of a digger.
*6:00 A.M.*- Alarm clocks around the valley are buzzing, chirping or rocking out the most annoying song to wake up park-crew members.
*6:20ish A.M.* After several slams of the snooze button the diggers are beginning to roll out of bed. “It takes me several hits of the snooze and a light to turn on before I even consider getting up,” says Mouse, a digger at Brighton. Every digger has a different morning routine. Many of the diggers are cursing their messy floor while looking for their ninja suit. I make sure my ninja suit is close by and that a pot of coffee is even closer.
*7:15 A.M.* All the diggers are running frantically out of their house while trying to figure out who to car pool with. “We generally meet at the mouth of the canyon around 7:30 and load up in somebody’s car. We care about the environment and want to use the least amount of gas to get up the canyon,” says Keaton, a digger at Brighton resort.
*8:00 A.M.* The repetitive beep of the time clock is heard around the resorts. Boots begin to be laced while stories of last night are told.
*8:15 A.M.* On a normal non-stormy morning the diggers are given clearance by ski patrol to load the lift and begin their day. If the diggers encounter a stormy day they must wait until ski patrol is done with avalanche patrol. Sometimes this leaves the diggers waiting at the bottom of the lift to load until after nine in the morning.
*8:20 A.M.-10:30ish A.M.* The park begins to open. All the diggers spread out to a feature and begin, reshaping, cleaning and perfecting the feature. “During this time we may put some new features in or tweak the existing ones to change the park up a bit,” says Jared Winker, terrain park manager of Brighton. “Most importantly, we want them to have fun. In my eyes the best way for shredders to have fun is to make sure they have a plethora of features to ride and learn tricks on,” says Steve Duke, terrain park manager at The Canyons Resort.
Every morning is a new day and hopefully kids will appreciate the hard work the diggers have put into making the park fun. Please keep in mind that on a powder day the rails are generally buried and we have to find them, dig them out and try and reshape them as best as possible. “If it has snowed over a foot, kids should not be in the park. They should be out slashing the pow. The rails will be there tomorrow but the powder won’t,” says Hayden Price of the Brighton Terrain Park.
*11:00 A.M.- 3 P.M.* The whole park is just about open by 11 a.m. At this time some of the diggers go straight out and start taking laps through the park. Others will get a quick bite to eat and rest for a moment before the day goes on. “We like to make sure there is a presence of the park crew in the park at all times. After opening the park a rake rotation schedule is figured out or a specific feature is chosen that needs some extra special TLC,” say the diggers.
Most terrain parks are open from 9 A.M.-4 P.M., Brighton is the only resort that offers night skiing and access to their park from 9 A.M. -9 P.M., Monday through Saturday. Sunday is the only day the Brighton Park has an early closure of 4 P.M.
The park takes a true beating throughout the day. Each feature is hit over 100 times an hour by many different shredders. Throughout the day the diggers pass the rake and try to keep the features as pristine as possible. So if you see a digger raking a feature, please don’t stand behind them and ask, “Hey, can I hit that?” The diggers all agreed that this is one of the most annoying questions they are asked throughout the day.
*3:15 P.M.-4:30 P.M.* Unfortunately at the majority of resorts this is when you see the diggers band together with rakes in tow to close the park. Each feature has to be raked to perfection and then marked off with bamboo. The bamboo is placed in front of and behind the feature as a marking for the Snow-Cat driver. If you feel the urge to hit a feature that is clearly closed off just remember, the Snow-Cat driver could accidentally hit and ruin the rail that you just had to hit one last time.
*4:30 P.M.* (Brighton excluded!) Rakes are placed back in the locker room, boots are unlaced and sighs are released. The diggers are done for the day! The Park may now be closed to the public and the diggers are going home, but something else is happening. The loud purr of a Snow Cat is heard in the distance. Between the hours of 5 P.M. and 8 A.M. the Snow-Cat crew is working hard to reshape the jumps, fix the landings and push snow around. The Park literally never sleeps. “The thing we can’t stand the most is busting our ass for five solid hours to build a new feature and then be told by some random that the park crew is lazy,” states Winkler. The diggers agree: “It is frustrating [that] the minute we sit down to take a break people instantly assume we are lazy and don’t do anything. What they don’t realize is we are human too. Sometimes we get tired and just need a break.” An average digger’s day starts at six in the morning and doesn’t end until the park is put to bed. For most resorts a parks closure time is 4 P.M., however Brighton resort is a little different. Monday through Saturday Brighton stays open until 9 P.M. and the diggers follow the same closing procedure as they would on any other day. So the next time you’re in the park and you see a digger working, or even just riding, give them a little appreciation. There is a lot of work put in to the park that is unseen by the public. When you see a new set up or a jump open, remember those features did not sprout from the ground on their own. These guys and gals work hard to build the park and sometimes a nice comment can go a long way.
I hope this article has opened your eyes to what it takes to truly be a digger. Becoming a digger means joining a new family. When asked what the terrain park managers look for in a digger, Steve Duke of The Canyons stated, “…I look for the person who loves shredding with all of their heart and loves riding the park everyday. You know a person with the true passion. Also they have to be able to hit every feature and jump … every jump.”