Raging Buffalo Snowboard Park may be the wave of the future. It was established in 1993 as a snowboard only park. It was established in response to all of the ski areas that at that time did not allow snowboards. The idea was to give the emerging sport of snowboarding a home. It was a place where snowboarders could focus all that rage against the evil ski world. The anti establishment chic has faded a bit over the years as snowboarding has become more mainstream. Thus the area relented a few years back and now allows double plankers with their own gear on the slope. But the idea is still to fly in the face of the snow establishment!
The set up is purely a terrain park. There is no set trail map. The layout of hits, kickers, rails and jumps varies almost day to day. As I looked over the slope there were a lot of different types of terrain features. I was clearly not hip enough to know what they are all called. It just seemed the hill had lots of ways to get air and risk broken bones. The area does require that everyone wear a helmet and provides helmet rentals for those who show up lid less. Given the emphasis is on jumps and air time, that is probably wise.
Located in suburban Chicagoland, the area leases land from the Kane County Forest preserve in Algonquin, Illinois. The slope is broad and gentle with a drop of a mere 200 feet. Up slope transport is provided by two large rope tows: the rope tow being the ideal way to get snowboards back up the hill without having to step out. The flatter area on top is the learning area and is serviced by a magic carpet. The resort is located on a small ridge overlooking the Fox River. Raging Buffalo diversifies in the summer by providing wakeboard instruction on the river. The extreme culture is in full play here.
The day I showed up a local morning news crew was doing a live remote. I watched a reporter who had never been on a snowboard try to ride up the rope tow. She didn’t make it very far but it was entertaining. Interestingly the slope was pretty crowded. Lots of kids were taking advantage of the early opening brought on by the news crew, all hoping for some possible TV air time thus they were launching some of their own air time to get noticed. It was pretty cool to watch kids flying off jumps pulling all kind of tricks at 8 a.m. Normally Raging Buffalo is open nights and weekends during the season.
The day was overcast with temperature in the mid 30’s. The coverage was a nice packed power and the snow was holding up nicely. As I stood at the base I spoke to a few others there for the remote. They were commenting about the snow. It seemed a large storm had come through a few weeks back and dumped some nice powder on the slopes. However they said this was actually a bad thing for this crowd. It seems when snowboarding to do tricks it is better if the snow is tight rather than a soft powder. I had never thought of that.
This area is a neat idea. It would seem that it would work in some other cities as well. Places with cold weather, a good population base but not much vertical. There are probably some good candidates in the Mid-Atlantic. I know several cites have placed skateboard parks in more urban areas with success. I wonder if that would work with a snowboard park? Raging Buffalo shows that in the right market with the right marketing, it does. I hope others in the future will follow their lead.
Robbie Allen is an avid small hill skier. He has written several articles on the many small hills he has sought out.