Finding a niche is key to the success of a start up, and identifying unfulfilled needs and gaps in the market creates the best niches. But better yet is filling a void by combining your interests, passions, and expertise in creative ways that others haven’t.
After fourteen years of building parks, Stephen Laterra has done just that with his new company 4 Pine Design, which combines his expertise and passion for creative jibs with a life long dedication to improving the environment. While this combination may at first sound like an oxymoron when you consider the amount of energy and snowmaking that goes into building traditional features, Laterra makes a strong case for the multi-faceted benefits of his way of looking at park construction. “It translates something like that and is not difficult to follow,” says Laterra. “I am simply trying to reduce the amount of energy and natural resources used to create a product that only lasts five months a year.”
In 1996 Laterra began turning the joy of jib into a career, working with Vail on its park, and became its terrain park designer in ’99. “Over this time I kept an eye on water and power use along with how much snow was used and for what,” says Laterra. “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 too long ago it hit me; is all this production necessary or can we reduce certain things and still create the same product? The answer is yes. Many resorts have done this already by moving earth in the off-season to reduce the amount of manmade snow needed. I have used these methods myself with great results. 4 Pine Design is attempting to make these practices a standard in the park industry. “
4 Pine Design’s efforts are intended to help resorts conserve money, energy, and reduce carbon outputs by decreasing the amount of inputs for its park over the long term. “The potential environmental and economical savings that can be achieved by resorts depends on how much they stick to the plan,” explains Laterra. “These savings will not happen over night and may take more than one season.”
Just as important is the creative use of natural terrain for innovative features that keep riders coming back. 4 Pine Design’s first major project has been revamping the park at Eldora Mountain Resort, a small mountain located 20 miles west of Boulder, Colorado’s ravenous college market. “Ten years ago they had a full park and pipe but for the past five years they scaled the program back, way back,” states Laterra. “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. The main focus was to create a top quality product and educate and train their staff at the same time. The Boulder freestyle community is hungry for a great local park and Eldora is ready to provide it. I expect great things over the coming seasons.”
Laterra’s goal is to build an alliance of resorts implementing environmentally focused approaches to building parks, an initiative he sees becoming a necessity over time. “In five years the industry may be forced to take more environmental initiatives,” believes Laterra. “Unlimited snowmaking may no longer be a luxury. And who knows what the cost of fuel will be? My opinion is that it would be better to begin these policies today as a group so that every one would benefit and ensure the future of the industry.”