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Brian Stanford is putting the finishing touches on the latest features for Timberline's freestyle terrain parks.

When it comes to new rails to ride in Timberline's freestyle parks, Brian Stanford's preference is to build them himself. "It's way cheaper," he says. "Plus when you do it yourself you can build it any way you want.”

brian-stanford-timberline-freestyleTimberline will have seven new steel rails in its parks this winter, each one hand-built by Stanford. He buys the steel in Portland, hauls it up Mount Hood, rips it to size, and welds it together the way he wants it. His latest series replicates the design of a hand-rail in Timberline’s Wy’East lodge. He has finished the first in the lodge series, a tan 32-footer nicknamed Franklin, and he hopes to complete the other two lodge rails this coming weekend.

Timberline runs five freestyle terrain parks at the peak of the winter season, and Stanford’s latest batch of creations will push them over 60 rails. They have a 12X8 dance floor, a big wall ride, a star destroyer box made out of ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, and all sorts of other features, including the rather huge jumps on Paintbrush and Spraypaint.

Mt. Hood Meadows has five parks, a half-pipe, a mini-pipe and a banked slalom run. Skibowl has three parks and regular rail jams. But the terrain park operation at Timberline is the most complex on Mount Hood, because the snow sports season at Timberline never really ends. 

Timberline becomes a Freestyle Mecca in spring when big resorts like Park City and Mammoth shut down for the season. The parking lot fills up with shredders of all varieties, flocking to Paintbrush and Conway for huge air and good times.

Stanford, groomer Doug Albert and the 18-person parks crew at Timberline are like stage managers and set designers behind the scenes. They create the platform for the show to go on. Their work involves moving a ton of snow around, some welding and painting, and a whole lot of creative design. "I sit at the the top of the park with my crew and say, 'Okay, what do you guys want to build today?'" says Stanford.

It is important to test every feature to make sure it works. In other words, shred the park repeatedly. Launch off the 70-foot jump on Paintbrush and make sure the landing is good, then ride up and try it again. No wonder park crew jobs have become some of the most sought-after low-wage gigs on Mount Hood.

Stanford learned the job by doing it. He grew up just down the hill from Stevens Pass in Washington, took his first mountain job as a digger at the age of 14, became a supervisor at 18. His mom worked for Stevens and his dad did avalanche prevention for the state highway department. And yes, he knew all three of the victims of the tragic 2012 avalanche at Tunnel Creek at Stevens Pass, immortalized by the Pulitzer Prize-winning series “Snow Fall" in the New York Times. Stanford skied the backside line that got pulverized by that avalanche plenty of times. He was just lucky enough to time it right.

Stanford also felt fortunate when he heard about a job opening as terrain park manager for Timberline. He wanted the job so badly that he got up the next morning at 1:30 am and drove straight through to get to Mount Hood by 6 am.

"Timberline is the end game goal for a park guy like me," he says.

That's because it's a year-round gig. When other resorts are winding down operations in May, Timberline pulls a massive pivot. It starts with the annual Cutter's Camp in the second week of May. Groomers and park managers from all over come to this week-long on-the-job conference to share ideas and push things forward. Last May’s conference attracted terrain park managers from 55 separate resorts.

After Cutter's Camp Timberline Head of Mountain Operations Logan Stewart and his grooming and park crews shift everything up to the Magic Mile to work with the action sports camps like Windells and High Cascade Snowboard Camp, hosting some of the top freestylers in the world.

"By the time May is over, we're all zombies, and the groomers are all zombies because they bust their butts," says Stanford. "They move so much snow in May it's incredible."

Then in mid-August, as the freestyle camps are wrapping up, there's the terrain park up on Palmer Snowfield to build and maintain. Palmer usually stays open into September, and then if you get early-season snow as we have this year, it's right back to work in October. It can get exhausting for employees like the 27-year-old Stanford, who broke his back in a rail crash when he worked at Stevens and still catches more air in a day than some of us catch all year. But it beats five months of work followed by a layoff.

Plus, it's stimulating to work a job where people expect you to be creative. The Timberline Freestyle Facebook page, which Stanford updates daily when the season is rolling, has 1,878 diehard followers, and the new Timberline Parks Instagram account snagged 156 followers with its first seven pics.

Here's a photo gallery shot entirely inside the freestyle parks that Stanford and his crew build. If you recognize any of these shredders, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with names and we will update the captions.

Abe Barnett and Alex Hackel sync up on Paintbrush.

 

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