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Welcome to B-Town!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Allison Buttner: Bolton’s Fun Builder

Beautifully sculpted table-top jumps, waxed handrails, perfect lips with just the right vert—these are just a few of the things that construct the dreams of freestyle snowboarders and skiers everywhere. Every rider out there has his or her favorite feature to hit at the park, but the average park rat doesn’t stop to think about how these various obstacles of fun get there to begin with. It’s easy to take the fact that that jump or box is in perfect condition for granted. Those jibs don’t build and maintain themselves. It takes creativity, hard work, and quick thinking to build and maintain a terrain park. Allison Buttner is the head honcho of the Bolton Valley Resort park crew and creative mind behind the mountain’s three freestyle playgrounds. She oversees every aspect of the parks, from the initial build, to the daily maintenance, to the events held at them. It is a daunting task, but someone has to take it on. Growing up in Killington, VT, Buttner has had easy access to the hills from a young age. Over the course of high school and college (at UVM), she worked at various ski resorts. Buttner began working at Bolton four years ago and, at just 24, has slowly worked her way up to head of the park crew, an unusual job for a girl. “I’ve gotten calls from the lift like, ‘Hey guy! You’re doing such a good job!’ Some guys are really surprised to find out I’m a girl,” she explained. Buttner has gotten used to the catcalls by now, however, and gets respect for the hard work she does everyday, despite her gender. And hard work it is. To the average skier or snowboarder out there, heading up a park crew at a ski resort sounds like the ultimate dream job. How fun would it be to pick and choose any features you want for a terrain park that you will then be able to ride? And it IS fun, but it’s also a ton of hard work, according to Buttner. Keeping Bolton’s three parks—the Jungle Jib, Burton Progression Park, and Butterscotch Park—ride ready requires a full day of work, including touching up the features in the morning and throughout the day, spray painting the take-offs so the skier/snowboarder hitting it knows exactly where the lip is, and writing up the grooming report so that the night groomers know what to work on. Buttner also attends daily Snow Plan meetings with Bolton’s bigwigs to discuss future plans. (Check out the clip to hear more about Buttner’s workday as head of the park crew.) According to Buttner, touching up the features a few times each day to account for the normal wear and tear caused by being use is normal. However, she also has to be prepared at all times for unexpected factors, such as a sudden rainstorm. “Rain is a really hard thing to recover from, especially if temperatures drop right after it rains because then it just gets hard as a rock,” Buttner explained. The crew also has to watch out as the rain is happening to make sure the features don’t tip over as the rain loosens up the snow and that the ramps stay the same height. “The rain definitely creates a challenge,” she added. Another challenge comes with planning out the parks each year. Even during the hot summer months, Buttner has snow on the mind. “I’m pretty much thinking about the park all year round. I’ll come up with ideas and stuff randomly throughout the summer, things that can be improved, stuff like that.” The time it takes to build the parks at the start of each season depends. The Bolton crew tends to get them up and ready for action over the course of a week and a half, to two weeks. About five of those days go to strictly blowing enough snow to create the parks, three to four days are spent on pushing the snow into jumps and mounds for ramps as needed, and the last couple of days are spent actually placing in the features. Perhaps the biggest perk of Buttner’s job is her freedom to create virtually any feature she can dream up. This year, she was really pumped on the idea of having a hip and a stair set, so they went ahead and built them. However, there’s more to it than simply thinking up a cool feature. Logistics need to be considered. “It’s a lot about flow,” Buttner said. “You have to make sure that your features are going to fit correctly where you have enough space for a groomer to get in between the features and [you have to make sure] you’re giving people enough space if they fall.” The “flow” of the park is just another factor Buttner must keep in mind daily as she leads the Bolton crew. After all, these parks don’t build themselves. So, next time you’re riding up the chairlift and you see the crew working on your favorite jump, shout down your appreciation. But whatever you do, don’t mistake Buttner for a dude. Jackie Stickley
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