Bumper’s Paradise

Bumper’s Paradise

A new competition mogul venue on West Mountain will draw the U.S. Ski Team.

It would be overstatement to say the U.S. Ski Team’s mogul squad has a home hill. The best bumpers in the country bounce around between Steamboat, Deer Valley, and the Utah Olympic Park. That’s if the snow is good and the resorts have had time to think about mogul skiing. Sometimes the courses aren’t built, and early season snow is always a challenge. “We need a place that always has a course up and running,” says Freestyle Head Mogul Coach Matt Gnoza. “We need a place that will literally turn the lights on for us whenever we show up.”

That venue just might be Granby Ranch’s West Mountain.

Some backstory helps. Before famed freestyler Jonny Moseley was an Olympic Gold Medalist, he was having a hard time finding a place to train. He wanted to perfect an off-axis jump called the Dinner Roll before the next Games, but at the time, most ski areas forbade off-axis jumps. That’s when Andy Wirth, then of Steamboat, now of the management company that runs Granby Ranch, stepped up to build Moseley a venue at Steamboat. The rest is history—Moseley Gold—but Wirth remained committed to freestyle skiing during his years as a resort operator in Tahoe. Now he’s carrying on that tradition at Granby Ranch. And the U.S. Moguls Team couldn’t be more psyched. “My dream is that once it’s completed it will become a national venue for the U.S. Mogul Team,” says Gnoza.

In fact, that was the plan for this past December. Gnoza had hoped the team would train at Granby Ranch in the early season, and the mountain was ready to make it happen. But that was before Omicron concerns forced the mogul team to curtail such gatherings in an attempt to avoid Covid infection in the lead-up to Beijing. They were so careful, in fact, that Gnoza and many of his coaches stayed home while the athletes traveled to qualifiers around North America as individuals.

After the Games it will be a different story. Gnoza and the team can’t wait to burn laps on the venue, which features a near perfect pitch of 27 degrees. “That’s steep enough to keep the riff-raff from performing above their ability level,” says Gnoza, “but it’s challenging enough for the elite athletes too.”

Granby Ranch graded the slope to the specs of internationally-famous course builder Chris “Seadog” Seaman of nearby Winter Park. The course is 220 meters long and will eventually be serviced by a surface lift, which means bumpers will get to spend a lot of time “on task,” as Gnoza says. Snowmaking is already in place, and lights will soon follow. A state-of-the-art Prinoth Bison X winch cat is also on location, which will push the initial bumps into place and carve out the landing hills. Later, athletes will sidestep the course and then ski it in. “The more mileage a mogul course like that sees, the better it gets,” says Gnoza. “And unlike with racing, more snow only makes it better—on account of bigger and softer bumps. We’ll get back there after the Olympics for a ribbon cutting ceremony. And then that venue will be part of our regular rotation. It’s only fitting since Granby Ranch’s newly announced Bode Miller Ski Academy will include mogul skiing. West Mountain will produce future champions.”

This story appears in Granby Ranch’s winter mini-magazine edition. For more information or to get a print copy, please email eloveland (@) granbyranch.com.