History from 4 Pine Design's Founder;  Stephen Laterra.

4 Pine has had a long history with the terrain park that begins even before the start of It's park building.  we started riding park in the early days, when Breckenridge began its program.  It was around 1992.  From that day to the present our riding has always been centered on the park and other freestyle elements.  1996 was the year that we crossed over from just park riders to working with a resort as advisors.  That was the year we started on the Vail snowboard team.  There was no real program and rider input was needed.  We took every opportunity we could get to help out, whether it was just suggesting ideas or riding in the cat to guide the operator.  Three years later the resort offered us the position of Terrain Park Designers, which we accepted immediately.  Over the next ten years we worked night and day to ensure that the best product possible was made available to the public.  Everyday was a learning experience.  Many techniques and products were developed over that time as well.  We have been operating cats from the beginning and still love to doze.  Events were also a great learning experience.  We were fortunate to be a part of great events in that time; The Honda Session, The Sims World Championships and the US Free Ski Open were some of the biggest.  These events not only allowed us to be a part of the construction phase but also learn from the other park building companies that were brought in.  We have always kept an open mind and our mouths shut when working with these companies.  We wanted to soak up as much knowledge as possible, knowing we would benefit from it with our own work.  It is one of the biggest lessons that we have learned,  one person does not posses all the knowledge and have all the answers, but when these factors are shared throughout the industry everyone benefits and so does the park community.


What is it that sets you apart? 

Environmental conscious park construction and maintenance is a focal point of 4 Pine Design.  Our background is not just pushing snow.   From the beginning we have made it a point to learn as much as we can about resort mountain operations.  We wanted to learn and it allowed us to work well with all the departments in the resort.  Over this time we kept an eye on water and power use along with how much snow was used and for what.  Snow is not just used to build park features but also used to modify the existing terrain such as correcting fall lines and filling holes.  Not to long ago it occured to us; is all this production necessary or can we reduce certain things and still create the same product?  The answer is yes, it is possible.  Many resorts have done this already by moving earth in the off- season to reduce the amount of manmade snow needed.  We have used these methods ourselves with great results.  4 Pine Design is attempting to make these practices a standard in the park industry.


What has prepared you for this new approach?

Our entire lives and snowboarding careers have prepared us for this new approach to environmentally friendly parkology. Stephen grew up on the ocean and was always aware of the delicate balance of nature and what his role was to help preserve it.  Every person on this planet is responsible for doing their part no matter what they do or where they live.  You do not have to be an expert to do your part you just have to be responsible and look to the future.


What are you doing to change park building? 

We are simply trying to reduce the amount of energy and natural resources used to create a product that only lasts five months a year.  There are many areas that take a lot of man made snow to create seasonally.  Why not look into modifying the existing terrain to reduce the snow required?  This is nothing new and needs to be put into practice by more resorts. And it needs to be done properly and responsibly.  Instead of using man made product and the electricity and diesel needed to create and manipulate it every year.  Maybe it should be done once with earth moving.  This may not apply to every situation but it will be effective.


What has been the industry's response?

The response from resorts that we have worked with varies but is always positive.  It does take planning and money.  You just can’t go in and start dozing dirt.  Environmental impact is a major concern.  Everything needs to be evaluated by experts such as, but not limited to; wetlands, wildlife, drainage, run off and erosion.


What has been your latest project?

We have been working with Eldora Mountain Resort for most of this season.  Eldora is a small resort about 20 miles outside of Boulder, CO.  It was the first place that some of us rode when we moved to Colorado.  Ten years ago they had a full park and pipe but for the past five years they scaled the program back, way back.  That’s what made it different than most other projects.  They are starting completely over and brought me in to get things up and running again.  4 Pine started small but everything is top quality.  The main focus was to create a top quality product (park) and educate and train their staff at the same time.  They have a lot of hometown pride at the resort and every one there is great to work with.  






 Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vail: Turning the terrain park green

Vail Valley Company wants to reduce the environmental footprint of the terrain park

Edward Stoner

Vail, CO Colorado

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Photo: Ed Hurbold



Stephen Laterra, owner of Vail Valley-based 4 Pine Design, offers terrain-park consulting for resorts. The company is already working with Eldora Mountain Resort near Boulder. The company tries to incorporate street features, such as this now-chained rail in Edwards.

Kristin Anderson/Vail Daily

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado — The Vail Valley's terrain parks are fun. Whether you're a pro looking to soar over a 50-foot tabletop or a beginner trying to conquer a 5-foot rail, the sensation of gliding through the park can be exhilarating.


But they can be resource-hungry, too. The big parks require huge amounts of water and power for man-made snow. It can take 100 million gallons of water to make the snow needed to make a large terrain park. Snow guns also need lots of energy.


Stephen Laterra wants to reduce the amount of resources terrain parks need. He started Vail Valley-based 4 Pine Design, a terrain park consulting and construction company.


For years, Laterra, a pro snowboarder from Avon, was terrain park designer at Vail Mountain. Now is trying to bring his years of expertise to other mountains.


That expertise comes with a green belt. Laterra wants to introduce practices that can allow resorts to build top-notch terrain parks with fewer resources.


“We want to reduce where we can without changing the product,” Laterra said.


He believes resorts can reduce snowmaking significantly using techniques such as excavating and shaping dirt to form the foundations of wintertime features. Laterra believes resorts will soon be able to reduce snowmaking by 30 percent.


“I think it's possible for any resort to do that,” he said.


The answer to building bigger and better terrain parks has often been to make more snow. But, as water and energy become scarcer resources, that may not always be the answer, Laterra said.


“There's going to be a day when you're not going to be able to make enough snow,” he said.


Excavating dirt can be the answer to less energy use, but the dirt moving has to be done responsibly, taking into account wildlife, erosion and runoff, Laterra said. The company plans to work with the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to make sure those projects are done the right way, he said.


The company, which was created a year and a half ago, is already working with Eldora Mountain Resort, near Boulder, to bolster its terrain parks. 4 Pine Design aims to work with resorts to assess their current park programs or to start from square one with a new program. It designs creative layouts that can provide the “flow” that riders of all levels seek as they navigate the park from feature to feature, Laterra said.


“Flow, in my opinion, is being able, from the start to the finish of any park, to roll in, be comfortable and have a wide choice of options all the way through the park,” Laterra said.


Laterra is keen on focusing on a mountain's natural freestyle terrain to create freestyle features, in essence creating pockets of micro-parks across the mountain.


Another focus for the company is using features including stairways, ledges and walls that are installed on the hill.


Once the park has been created, 4 Pine Design can train crews for the best practices in maintaining and grooming the park.


Laterra has been involved in terrain parks since just about the beginning. He started riding Breckenridge's park in 1991, and became Vail's terrain park designer in 1999.


“I started as a kid skateboarding and building my own ramps,” Laterra said. “I really took to that whole scene. What really caught my eye weren’t just jumping and having fun but also learning how it's built and wanting to learn that and build it myself.”


Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 970-748-2929 or


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