The Brandon Snowboard Park might be the city’s best kept secret.
And for a lot of reasons, that is just fine by Jordan Ross, who heads up the Brandon Snowboard Club.
"We’ve had to keep it a secret because we can’t have people coming out due to the fact we’re not open to the public, but the more we grow it and the more coaches we get, the more people we will be able to take on," Ross said.
The park, which features several rails, a quarter-pipe, heated chalet and tow rope, isn’t insured as a public park, meaning people who want to snowboard there have to be a member of the club and be insured through the Snowboard Association of Manitoba.
While the park might not be open to the public, it hasn’t stopped Ross and a team of committed volunteers from creating one of the best snowboarding terrain parks around.
And the business community has taken notice as well.
The park, which is built where the old water slide park use to be located at the end of Grand Valley Road near the Trans-Canada Highway, is leased from Jim Jackson. Valcourt Construction built a roof on the old building to help turn it into a chalet, while Manufab ensured the cost of the roof didn’t break the bank. Southern Water Systems helped set up the water system to ensure snow making at the park, while C&C Construction donated compressors. And to top it off, the club can now offer night lessons after Kit Harrison, owner of Sutton Harrison Reality, donated light stands for the park.
"We’ve had great community support and then there is a core of about 20 guys that have really made this place happen," Ross said. "Every year we’ve added a couple of things and it just keeps getting better and better."
That community support, coupled with a strong volunteer base, that "isn’t afraid to pick up a shovel to help out," has turned the park into a hit amongst its members.
"We’ve tried to grow it really slow and proper," Ross said, adding that there has been a lot of trial and error on projects such as the tow rope and making snow.
The snow gun, like so much of the park, has a story to tell itself if it could talk.
After tracking down a "like-new" snow gun in a shop in Lake Louise, Ross set out to get the machine back to Brandon.
"My friend kindly strapped it to the roof of his car and drove across the Prairies to get it for us," Ross said. "The gun was about twice as long as his car, but it got here and we finally got our snow-making dialed in this year."
On Saturday, the club hosted an open house and invited some of the best snowboarders from Winnipeg to test the slopes.
"It’s really cool to watch those guys ride this place and see the full potential of it," Ross said.
And potential might be the operative word as Ross could see the area expand at some point in the future to offer a complete winter park open to the public.
"We’re only using a third of the hill right now so we have the potential to go further up and open some runs in the future," Ross said.
Right now the club has about 30 members, but Ross expects that to grow as the Shredders program, which offers lessons to younger kids, starts to take off.
Currently, Ross, Andrew Broatch and Alison McGonigal run snowboarding lessons for kids who want to hone their snowboarding skills.
McGonigal, who hails from Kelowna, B.C., grew up in the mountains riding Big White and Silver Star.
Broatch dabbled in pro-am events during his time out west and has been riding for 17 years. The experienced staff ensures kids get off on the right foot at the park.
"It’s a place for younger riders to meet each other, hang out, learn some new tricks and push each other," Broatch said.
Etiquette is also something Broatch said is important to learn while snowboarding.
"That way when they do head to the mountains, they’re not zipping in and out of people’s runs," Broatch said.
As a coach, Broatch said it is rewarding for him to see a young kid land a new trick or get hooked on the sport.
"It’s great to see the kids progress and the first time they land a trick and to see the look on their face is amazing and it just makes their year," Broatch said.