words: Mary Walsh
photos: Liz Mettler, Gus Noffke, Brian Norton, and Mary Walsh
Each spring for over a decade, Ski Area Management (SAM) Magazine has brought together dozens of terrain park managers, cat drivers, and park crew members for intensive sessions aimed at collaborating, broadening skills, and increasing experience called Cutter’s Camp. In 2015, a three-day camp was held at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire in early April appropriately titled Cutter’s Camp East, and a month later, the SAM crew congregated at Timberline in Oregon for a week-long Cutter’s Camp West. Since Cutter’s Camp began, terrain parks have gone from being an all too rare endeavor by a handful of resorts to a full-on mountain necessity and many people that were part of this terrain transition are still involved in Cutter’s today; while these individuals may have started attending the event as members of terrain park crews in the beginning, theys now return as presenters and leaders, running sessions on crafting perfect jump take offs, instructing first-time cat operators, providing information on how to produce terrain park events, and much more. And that’s one of the hallmarks of SAM’s Cutter’s Camp: it provides an environment that fosters each individual’s growth, and in turn, the growth of their resort’s park, and ultimately this benefits the whole–a rising harbor raises all ships, as they say, though it’d be more apropos to say that a well built transition raises all cats…no?
In early April, resorts from all over the eastern seaboard and the Midwest descended on Loon Mountain in New Hampshire for the first Cutter’s Camp of 2015. A stacked snowbase and absolutely perfect spring conditions welcomed the fifty-plus builders who jumped into the event by checking out Street Cred, Loon’s unique, annual spring contest that brings street-inspired features on hill for an open-ended, all-day jam. As attendees settled into a fireside chat and dinner for the evening, it was immediately clear that Cutter’s is as much about the presentations, sessions, and learning groups as it is about spending time with other like-minded, passionate individuals, all at different stages of experience who are stoked to work with one another and foster growth on all levels. Just spending time with guys like Carinthia at Mount Snow’s Day Franzen, one of the first people involved in Cutter’s Camp and a renowned builder, as well as Snow Park Technology’s Mike Bettera, and the crews from PistenBully and Prinoth, as well as many other intelligent and influential folks, is an opportunity to gain lots of insight and spur creativity. And the depth of talented individuals at Loon was deep: Hugh Reynolds, former Marketing Director at Mountain Creek, now at Snow Operating Terrain-Based Learning; Waterville Valley Park Manager Luke Mathison; Loon’s Brian Norton; event aficionado and Big Boulder Park Manager Pat Morgan; nationally-honored Burton Sales Representative who has worked closely with New England resorts for years, WhtFlg’s Matt Jagemann, and many more were on hand for instruction as well as hanging out. In addition, there was no shortage of good times as the end of winter was celebrated by a crew that puts in so much hard work over the winter. Plus, PistenBully brought 50′s and Loon created a helltrack one of the evenings. It was a good time, to say the least.
Post Cutter’s Camp East, the second week of May, as precipitation continued to fall on Mount Hood, over sixty builders from all over the world bee-lined it to Timberline Lodge. Park managers from Japan, Denmark and Austria joined crews from Alaska, New Hampshire, Utah, Michigan, Minnesota, and beyond to take part in sessions on how to better market their parks, how to get first-time snowboarders to stick with the sport and progress, and how to make super proper jumps and other snow features. For many of the attendees, with Timberline’s all-season snowpack, Cutter’s Camp West is a big opportunity to increase their cat-driving and building skill and with a dozen Prinoths and PistenBullys to learn on and cutters like Ken Gaitor, Jay Scambio and more to advise, the opportunity is paramount. Like at Cutter’s East, there’s time to celebrate a winter’s worth of hard work, too. Prinoth brought the crew to Windells for skateboarding, dodgeballing, and BBQing. PistenBully held a bull riding contest, and SNOW Operating rolled out all the stops with a big awards dinner the final night. The takeaways are more than just notes and cat-driving faculties, community relationships are deepened.
Some of the best cutters in the business attend both East and West to impart knowledge and foster the next generation of builders. SAM Magazine’s Olivia Rowan and Liz Mettler do a fantastic job bringing in experts to host presentations and break out sessions on a wide variety of relevant topics; the list of professionals is, quite frankly, staggering. In 2015, Steve “Stix” Nilson, snowboard industry veteran who has shaped countless events gave one-on-one info about working with sponsors on contests and events; Joe Hession, founder of Snow Operating Terrain-Based Learning talked not only about new progress in teaching people to snowboard but also provided experience from his time as GM of Mountain Creek to help facilitate communication strategies between park crews and resort management; SPT’s Bettera and Josh Chauvet brought in years of expertise as they broke down jump-building and terrain park feature planning and more; Jenny Messing, Global Women’s Marketing Manager at Oakley led a discussion on getting females into terrain parks and the multitude of reasons why that is important (see: power of the purse); Jimmy Lawrence, another resort veteran who is the VP of Loss Control for Willis Mountain Guard provided guidance on the legal side of safety and much more–the list goes on, including Kevin Laverty of Keystone, Ken Gaitor of Snowshoe, Elia Hamilton of Peak Resorts, Jay Scambio of Boyne and of course, dedicated crews from both Prinoth and PistenBully, who provide machines, guidance, and plenty of support.
At the nucleus of Cutter Camp, both East and West, it’s all about bringing together the men (and a handful of women, too!) who do back-breaking, up-all-night work throughout the year building and maintaining our favorite terrain parks and creating a much-needed, much-appreciated collaborative environment. Over the course of both camps, park crew managers and members of all levels of experience come together to share learnings, practices, and strategies. There’s no proverbial stone left unturned as everyone involved is open and excited to share challenges they have face and what has worked for them. Cutter’s Camp is one of the best examples of overwhelming teamwork that I have bore witness to, and I was more than stoked to do my best to contribute to the event and be a part of things this year. Thank you Olivia, Liz and everyone involved for their dedication to our community and for inviting me to be a part of the event!
Check out the hard work of these tireless terrain park crews in Feature Presentation.
Read the full Cutter’s Camp 2015 Super Gallery article on Snowboarder Magazine.