There has always been a difference between the size, creativity and quality of the pipes, parks and rails of the US and their European counterparts, which may have been the reason that US riders were much better at doing newer and more technical park tricks in the past. As a former pro rider, I got to see many parks all over the world, and so at the end of my career in 1999, supporting the European ski resorts with smaller but finely shaped parks was an obvious career move for me. Over the last 5 years, Mellow Parks have been established in some of the best resorts across Europe with the intention of giving the best possible parks to every rider, from beginner to pro. Mellow Parks are known for their good easy lines and medium size obstacles that are built to maximise safety to minimise bad bails from short or fast and flat landings. Snow reliability is also very important for the Mellow Parks in Lech (Austria), St Moritz (Switzerland) and Nanshan (Beijing). Also our state-of-the-art park in China is a perfect example of how successful a park can be for snowboard communities and resorts alike.
Lech/Zürs, one of the best Austrian ski resorts, is located in Vorarlberg in the western part of Austria, and is best to visit with your own car. For people without a car, there are regular bus connections from the station in Stuben, 15km from Lech. The best time to go there is the low season in March and April when the landings get soft from the spring sun.
The ski resort operates 273km of ski runs, 86 lifts (some of them have heated seats!), plenty of freeride lines, and for the past 2 years a well-shaped 400m-long snowpark at the Schlegekopflift. A 4-man chairlift runs very close to the kickers and rails, so your friends or family can watch you in the air. The highlights are the easypark with bumps, waves and curves; a triple kicker line; and a new wall ride at the end of the park. The park setup this year, with its 13 take-offs and 9 jibbing elements, will be in general the same as last winter except for the 2 additional rail obstacles and 3 more jumps, and the pipe will be replaced by an easy double-kicker line. The new easy size jumps will be great for learning. The park should be open before 24 December, which will make it one of the first to open in Europe.
St Moritz, one of the oldest ski resorts in Switzerland, is the ‘Hawaii of snowboarding’ thanks to its perfect location in the Engadin. The valley of Engadin is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful valleys in the world, so it would be a very good investment to make a trip to St Moritz this winter. You can enjoy about 350km of ski runs, and if snow is good enough, you can find a great many freeride options. The 450m-long Mellow Park features 10 take-offs, 12 rails and a very long and funny easy line that is open from Christmas Eve until the end of April at the Corviglia. The park will be divided into 3 different lines – easy, medium and pro. The easy one will be 400m long and will consist of 4 easy rails, 2 jumps, and most of all, bumps, waves and curves. The main focus of the park is the medium line with its 5 jumps and 10 rails while the pros will have 2 bigger jumps with 12m tables and 2 rails to entertain themselves on. The biggest women’s slopestyle event, the Roxy Chicken Jam, will be held here 7–9 April and so the course will be of particular interest to girl riders at this time. If you love to ride a sunny park then you will be stoked on Corviglia and its amazing surrounding views.
We all recognise the country China, but few of us will have any knowledge of Nanshan. It’s located just 40 minutes from Beijing, the capital of China, and hosts the country’s biggest park with 5 jumps, 10 rails, and a pretty good hand-shaped halfpipe. Steve Zdarsky, Austria’s best export to China, now operates the Chinese Mellow Parks with great passion and success since last winter. The number of freestylers has grown enormously, so we have had to double the size of the park to fit the demand. The riding level is really bad there, so the rails and jumps are definitely not as big as those of Europe or US, but they fit perfectly to the progress of the Chinese snowboard level, especially as the sport only has a 5-year history in China.
This winter’s most difficult obstacle will be the S rail but all the other obstacles will be quite easy to use – these include a 9m funbox, a steeper A box, a new downrail and 5m downbox. Additionally there will be a funny wallride and a big kicker with an 8m table. The park will be getting another reshape before the Nanshan Open, the most prestigious slopestyle event in China, which takes place 7–8 January. 12 international pros will battle it out on the improved course against the best 4 Chinese riders of the Mellowparktour.