On the snowy morning of Oct. 9, I made my way to the cat garage at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (MMSA), and got into the mix of a rail revolution. There, I spoke with TJ Dawoud, the Unbound Terrain Park Department Head, and some of the other key players that make Mammoth Unbound Parks come alive each winter.
The welding bay was full, with barely enough room to move. Mammoth Mountain Unbound will be bringing so many new features to the table this season, with Dawoud at the reins. It looks as though he’ll be driving this wagon to perfection, making Mammoth Unbound a huge contender for number one park.
Dawoud started out as a park groomer at June Mountain 8 years ago. This year he’s bringing a new vision to Mammoth’s Unbound. “Main Park will have a slew of new rails,” he said. “There will now be a ThirtyTwo [brand] training facility open to the public. It will always be in Main Park set-up together. It will consist of the ThirtyTwo down-flat-down and four additional ‘street style’ features that we are in the process of building.” He added, “In Main Park they are going to experiment with the jump line, so that they can have heavy hitting rail lines as well. Main Park will also have the 22’ renovated pipe. The Mountain has done a series of dirt work, so the pipe will take less snow and time to build, ultimately giving us a better finished product.”
The run jibs galore, Dawoud said, will have a new look this season. Dawoud would like to get creative with rail set-ups in this zone as well.
Multiple Unbound playgrounds this season will also offer beginner features.
According to Eric Meyers (Brand Content Manager, MMSA ), “We’ve long offered the best terrain for the top professionals, but what about the newcomers? Features found here are your first introduction to freestyle, with micro-boxes that get a little taller and longer with each step, while staying far from intimidating. Also at Unbound playground you’ll find signs to help you learn your first freestyle tricks, but for the ultimate learning experience, check out the Unbound playground sessions. These are small lessons of no more than four people that are grouped by ability and available for skiers and snowboarders.”
Meyers went on to say, “Staying at the vanguard of park design means our Unbound architects keep a close eye on emerging trends within the realm of snow-sports. We recognize that there is a sizable group of you out there, from pros to parents and their kids, that have little interest in jumps and rails but desire enhanced terrain more exciting than your average groomer. For you, friends, we introduce ‘Rhythm Ridge,’ four acres of bowls, berms, banks, and bumps, inviting enough for mom and dad to bring the groms [young child that snowboards or skis], but also full of hidden hits for advanced skiers and snowboarders. Everyone can create their own cadence in Rhythm Ridge, a truly rivaled offering that provides fun for everyone, and just might change the sport forever.” Rhythm Ridge will take the place of the old Art Park. Take Chair 16 to access the new park.
“Without progression, we couldn’t bring new people into the action sports industry,” added Dawoud. “Having parks that promote progression keeps the sports alive. We need new riders and families to be excited about the terrain parks.”
“Enhancing the experience for the guest is the ultimate goal,” said MMSA Ski School Director Craig Albright.
MMSA Snowboard/Freeski Team Director Ben Wiser said he is excited for the new features; “I think it’s great that Mammoth is putting in time on the progression side of snowboarding, which in turn is creating better riders and gives athletes a chance to progress at all ages and skill levels.”
“This is the best collection of personalities Mammoth Unbound has ever had,” Dawoud said. Every person is passionate about the Mountain, the town and the terrain parks. Without the unbound team around me none of this would be possible.
“The locals are the loudest voice,” he added. “A lot of pros and other riders come through, but no one is as critical as the locals.”
Dawoud said that he has an open door policy on feedback. “We all are on the same team. Let’s work together.”
MMSA is scheduled to open for the 2013/14 season on Nov. 7.