It’s not that hard to come up with a list of complaints about most ski resort snowboard parks. Too crowded, too small, too many jibs, not enough jibs — listening to many snowboarders you’d think park quality is a global crisis. But what if your local resort is hours away, and then has only limited Midwest-style park offerings? What could you do besides complain?
Nick Trotochaud has an idea, and it’s called Hirschy Lab. The 17-year-old from Venon Hills, IL has, for the past four years, created an ever-growing snowboard park, right in his backyard. It might not be getting him ready for the X Games or whatever it is people think they will “accomplish” with snowboarding, but it’s a place where his friends can get together, ride, learn tricks, film, and do whatever the hell they want.
Hirschy Lab, named after Nick’s friend Mike Hirsch, started as a flat box and small jump less than a year after Nick was first introduced to snowboarding. “I loved it right from the start,” he said. “When I first got into riding terrain parks, I thought it would be fun to [build something to] just practice and get better at some tricks on. I currently live in the suburbs in Illinois, kind of by the IL/WI border, so if I wanted to go and ride, I would have to drive at least a couple hours to go and ride a decent park. But because I set this up, I am able to just head out into the backyard and ride whenever I want without having the hassle of getting there. It is fun to be able to set things up your own way, just the way you like to ride it. Also knowing that you made something so fun is pretty satisfying too.”
Every year Nick asks Santa really nicely for snow.
In four years the park has grown to include an up-flat box, a 15-foot-long flat box with metal sides, round pipes, up boxes and rails, and of course a couple more jumps. Nick and his crew are also into filming, and are constantly creating little edits for various contests, or just for the glory of Youtube. Last season Hirschy Lab Productions won $1000 in a video contest sponsored by Snow at Home, which is actually more than many “pros” make snowboarding in a year.
Like anything, a backyard park is more a matter of making it happen than anything else, and if you’re so inspired, Nick was kind enough to share a couple tips (and clips) for how to make it happen. His number one piece of advice though, “Just make your backyard park however you want it and don’t let people tell you it sucks or you are bad at snowboarding. We were all bad at snowboarding at one point so just have fun with it and make it what you want!”
“Some of the things alone don’t cost much, but when you add everything together it can get pretty costly. It also depends on how much you want to set up. In my backyard, I have about seven features and lights everywhere, so it kinda cost me a bit. But the basics you need to ride don’t really cost that much. To build a 10 or 12-foot flat box made out of wood, it could cost you anywhere from $70 to $200, depending on the kind of materials you use.”
“I always get the question what kind of plastic do I use on the top of my boxes? Well PVC pipe is the way you want to go if you want a cheap solution, but I mostly use lexan sheets, which you can order from almost any plastics website.”
“Just get some friends involved and be creative. If you don’t happen to have a hill in your backyard, go somewhere close where there is a hill or build an alternative. You can make a drop in ramp or you can buy a product called the Banshee Bungee. With the bungee, you just hook it up to something solid, have a friend help you stretch it back, and you can reach speeds of up to 35 MPH on flat ground.”
“Living in Illinois, I don’t really get as much snow as I would like. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area with a good amount of snow then good for you — have fun with it and build as much as you can. As for me, I wasn’t really happy enough with the snowfall so I went out and bought a snow machine from www.snowathome.com. They shipped everything out to me quickly with instructions on how to set everything up, and I had it up and running within hours. Of course it has to be cold enough to make snow, but they provide a website that can tell you whether the conditions in your area permit snowmaking at that time. They also give you different options on which package you can buy. I bought the package that allows you to make 6 inches of snow over almost all of my backyard in 8 hours of running the machine. Well, I ran it for 8 hours overnight and it made even more than that! If you don’t have the money to buy one of their packages however, they provide free plans on their website that teach you how you can make your own snow machine and hook it up to any garden hose.
If you want discount codes for their products, go on over to my website www.hirschylab.webs.com and contact me.
During the summer when there is no snow, I get a couple friends and drive over to the local ice rink with a truck. If you ask the maintenance guys who work there, they can dump the snow from the zamboni outside so you can put it in the truck. It should be enough snow to ride your box for a couple of hours in the middle of the summer.”