Tom Kelly: My personal progression at Woodward Park City
How often have you driven I-80 up Parleys and just wondered about skiing or riding at Woodward? Well, I finally did! No, I didn’t launch off the big jumps or even hit the rails (… yet), but what great fun to ride over the rollers and to see Parleys from a different point of view.
As a longtime alpine ski guy, this was a daunting experience for me. Heading to Woodward marked a change of culture. Complicating it all was that I was there to interview the legendary freestyle skater and snowboarder Jeremy Jones. Nervous, I called up some snowboarding buddies for tips and listened to about half of his recent three-hour-plus interview on “The Bomb Hole” podcast.
First off, there are two legendary Jeremy Jones snowboarders. Naturally, that was my out-of-the-box question. “TransWorld called me the ‘real’ Jeremy Jones, so I’ll go with that,” laughed Jones. That helped break the ice.
For those who don’t know Woodward’s snow programs manager, Jones is a Farmington native who grew up skateboarding, then snowboarding. He discovered skateboarding at Fashion Place Mall, of all places, when he was around 9 — initially attracted by the “whack” sound of skateboards landing objects. He added snowboarding when it got too cold to skate outside. They became his life’s passion.
Jones is known as an urban rider (you know, the ones who love to ride rails in snow-covered city landscapes) who became a true cult hero worldwide through his role in films while riding with Forum 8 and later Burton in the late ’90s and into the ’00s. He is, truly, a snowboarding hero.
Now 45, Jones has moved from hero status to legend. He’s a gentle soul who loves to engage with kids as we merged into the lift line to head up the mountain. As the so-called Hot Laps chairlift churned up the mountain, I was getting nervous looking at the big snow features. The sun was popping in and out of the clouds as snow began to dump. I looked to my right at this towering 40- to 50-foot jump. I hoped we weren’t headed there.
We slid off the lift and I was treated to a brand new view of the Parleys corridor. It was spectacular, as the sun popped in and out of the clouds shooting rays down to the horizon.
What made it even more daunting at first was that Jones hadn’t even brought a regular snowboard with him. He was in street sneakers and a snow skate — kind of a two-level device with a short skateboard deck atop a tiny, wide ski below. There were no bindings. Yes, he rode it just like a skateboard.
I watched him cruise effortlessly over the snow, dropping into the 10-inch powder along the edges and riding smoothly and confidently on the groomed surface down the fall line. We stopped down the trail for Jeremy to explain the setup of the mountain park.
In action sports, it’s all about progression. As he explained the layout, it all became clear. The progression sequences started on skier’s right with progression one, and continued to ramp up as you headed left. OK, that all makes sense.
As we started our first of three runs down the mountain, the snow started dumping and the clouds obscured the sun. We headed down in the flat light, Jones on his snow skate in the lead. I could see the first jump coming up. “We’ll just ride around that,” I thought. No, we went right into it, staying off the lip and rolling smoothly off the sides.
I honestly didn’t think I had accomplished much. But before long, I was hitting the rollers easily and feeling pretty good about myself. We stopped a lot to watch the kids just having a blast in the park.
Jones talked about his own kids, now both in their early teens. He loves skating and snowboarding with them but admits his son has challenged him with his love for more traditional sports of lacrosse, basketball and football. “I’ve been so grateful for him because he’s taught me to tolerate that more than I ever did. And he’s taught me to actually love it because I watched him fall in love and I watched him progress and I became the student and he enjoyed that.”
On lap two, we moved a bit more up the progression. I still wasn’t hitting rails but I was thinking about it. And on lap three, with the snow pounding down and the light getting flatter, we cruised up the big jump in about a foot of powder from the night before. Jeremy wanted to show me the drop off, which we couldn’t even see in the light. “I’ll take your word for it,” I told him, as I felt like I was sliding over the edge in the indistinguishable lighting.
As we regrouped down in the indoor action hub, I felt good about my own progression. Well, pretty good. Honestly, I was ready for more. In my omnipresent enthusiasm I told Jeremy, “Hey, before the season is out, I want to hit a rail box.”
You can be sure he’ll hold me to it.
Wisconsin native Tom Kelly landed in Park City in 1988 (still working on becoming an official local). A recently inducted member of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, he is most known for his role as lead spokesperson for Olympic skiing and snowboarding for over 30 years until his retirement in 2018. This will be his 51st season on skis, typically logging 60 days in recent years.
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