Apr 172006
 
Authors: Sara Crocker The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Imagine skiing or snowboarding on a weekend for less than $40, and having live music pumping around the mountain while learning to bust all kinds of new tricks.

Welcome to Echo Mountain Park, the newest mountain this side of the Eisenhower Tunnel, which boasts itself as a skateboard park with snow: All terrain all the time.

“We’re 100 percent terrain park,” said Eric Petit, marketing director at Echo. “We’re the first terrain park in the country that’s been built from scratch.”

With more than 90 percent of Colorado’s ski areas having terrain parks and the growing popularity of the X Games and athletes like snowboarder Shaun White, filling this niche was logical to Petit.

The park, located in Idaho Springs, boasts many features to draw in terrain junkies, from rails to jumps and a half pipe. There are also 24 light stands around the park for night riding and 21 speakers to send spins from a disc jockey around the park, according to its Web site.

Petit said they hope to see the park expand more next year by getting more live music and reaching out to the growing number of teens and college-aged people who prefer parks to just riding. Petit said they have just begun to work with schools and universities in the state but hope to further develop those relationships next season.

Echo has been open since March, but planning for this park has been three years in the making. The park, only 45 minutes from Denver, was formerly Squaw Pass, a five-run ski resort that only stayed open for about 15 years. After changing owners, the area was purchased by the Petit family.

Also, Petit said he hopes they will be able to open earlier and stay open later than major resorts. Echo will be open through April. Weather will be a factor in it staying open any later. The park is elevated at more than 10,000 feet, which is about 3,000 feet higher than resorts like Vail.

But mountain resorts on the other side of the pass are not concerned with the new terrain park.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Carlos Garcia, who does public relations for Copper Mountain. “We think that kind of niche mountain is great for the industry.”

Garcia said any economic impact from the park has yet to be seen, but he does not think they will lose any business.

Sarah Chiarello, a senior equine sciences major and Snowriders officer, said she has not been to the park yet, but she will probably go next season. Chiarello said she likes to go to terrain parks, but that is not the only reason why she snowboards.

“I like to have the variety (of riding or park),” she said.

Still Petit remains optimistic that Echo’s cheaper prices and the growing craze of freestyle will help the park grow.

“It’s time for the industry to have a dedicated terrain park,” he said. “We just give (skiers and snowboarders) exactly what they want.”

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Find Echo: Go West on I-70, get off onto Evergreen Parkway (CO-74), turn right onto Squaw Pass Road (Hwy 103), 11 miles, 19285 Highway 103.

Hours: Weekends 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Weekdays 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Closed Monday)

Prices: $35 on weekends

$25 on weekdays

Night riding after 5 p.m. is $15

Upcoming events: April 29, Last Park Standing Competition with $5,000 in prizes.

Sara Crocker can be reached at regional@collegian.com

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