FAIRBANKS — The University of Alaska Fairbanks has begun work on a new terrain park on campus for freestyle skiers and snowboarders that will open in January, assuming Mother Nature cooperates and delivers enough snow.
A year after building and opening an outdoor ice climbing tower next to the Student Recreation Center, the school is constructing a playground for freestyle skiers and snowboarders on the hill below the Butrovich Building.
The terrain park, which officially be called “Nanook Terrain Park,” will consist of three jumps and about a dozen other “elements,” most of which will be rails, Mark Oldmixon, director of the school’s Department of Recreation, Adventure and Wellness, said. It is scheduled to open in time for the second semester starting in January.
It’s the school’s latest effort in making the campus more recreation-friendly for students and the community, Oldmixon said.
“It’s huge,” he said of the addition of a terrain park on campus. “To have it on campus, that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the U.S.”
The terrain park, which will cost approximately $200,000, was originally scheduled to be built last year, but it was delayed a year after school officials consulted with the United States Terrain Park Council, which UAF hired to help design and certify the park.
Once complete, it’s believed the terrain park will be the first certified terrain park on a college campus in the United States.
Mike Sfraga, vice chancellor for university and student advancement, said the addition of the terrain park is part of Chancellor Brian Rogers’ strategy to use the UAF campus in a way that enhances the student experience, makes the campus a more fun, active place to be, and reflects UAF students and the Fairbanks community.
“The terrain park fits right in with the overall philosophy of enhancing the campus life by using our landscape,” he said.
Counting on snow
While the only signs of work so far are three mounds of dirt that will serve as jump landings, that will change once the snow begins to fly, Oldmixon said. Rails and other features have been ordered and will be frozen into the snow while the actual jumps will be constructed from snow. The school has purchased a snow-making machine to help supplement what Mother Nature supplies, but it has to be consistently colder than 20 degrees to begin making snow.
“That’s what we’re counting on, to be able to blow enough manmade snow to create the take-offs for the jumps,” Eric Ofelt, assistant director for facilities, said.
The department took public comment from students during last month’s UAF Rec Fest regarding what kind of features to include in the terrain park, Oldmixon said. The department is still sifting through design ideas to determine what can be built locally, whether it’s in-house at UAF or at a local business, as well as collaborating with the terrain park council on layout of the features.
With a 10- to 15-degree angle and about 500 feet of elevation gain, the hill is perfect for a terrain park, Oldmixon said.
“We ski this hill every year with our mountaineering classes; students have been (skiing and snowboarding) on this for years with their own jumps,” Oldmixon said. “We’re just making it better.”
Like the climbing tower, use of the terrain park will be included in a student’s $75 student recreation center fee, while members of the public will have to pay a separate, yet-to-be-determined fee.
Unlike the climbing tower, which requires climbers to be certified before using it, there will be no certification required for use of the terrain park, Oldmixon said. However, there will be rules that skiers and snowboarders will have to follow.
“No certification is necessary but the park does have rules and we’ll have a code of conduct and people will need to operate within that,” he said. “It will be staffed when it’s open and when it’s closed, it’s closed. It’s not going to be a free-for-all like the sledding hill.”
One thing that will not be allowed is flips, Oldmixon said.
“Inverted aerials will not be welcome here,” he said.
Neither will homemade jumps or rails be allowed. There will be no 55-gallon barrels sticking out of the snow, Oldmixon said.
“We’re not going to have a scrap yard up here,” Oldmixon said. “It’s going to look professional.”
In fact, one of the hopes of school officials is that the addition of the terrain park will cut down on rogue jump building on campus, he said.
While an artist’s rendition of the terrain park includes an escalator that shuttles skiers and snowboarders from the bottom of the hill to the top, that’s more of a dream than a reality, Oldmixon said.
“That’s if we had $1 million,” he said. “Right now kids are going to have to hoof it to the top.”
There will also be a security fence built around the whole terrain park and a yurt at the top of the hill will serve as a check-in station, similar to the set up used for the climbing tower.
UAF employees from the facilities department will groom the terrain park using snowmachines and a tracked ATV, Oldmixon said. The school may have to rent a bigger machine, such as a Pistenbully, to assist in constructing jumps and moving snow.
“We’ve got grooming abilities, but we don’t have pushing abilities,” Oldmixon said.
The tentative plan is to open Thursday through Sunday during daylight hours, Oldmixon said. Days will be added and hours expanded when March and spring break roll around, he said.
Once the snow melts, the rails will be removed and stored. The area will remain a green space that is part of the school’s 18-hole disc golf course, and the jumps “will be made unavailable to bikers,” Oldmixon said.