DHS student puts his touch on DMR's new
|Silas Hatch, a freshman at Durango
High School, welds together two pieces of steel that
will eventually become an S-rail for DMR’s new
terrain park./Photo by Todd Newcomer
Dozens of Durango skiers have been venerated
at Durango Mountain Resort with some of the most popular
ski runs boasting their names. Now a Durango High School
snowboarder is joining the ranks of Chet, Sally and Ray
in his own sophisticated way.
Silas Hatch, a 15-year-old freshman and ranking snowboarder
who was sponsored by Inferno Snowboards last year, isn’t
getting a run named after him. But he is building and
adding a new S-rail to the ski area’s terrain park,
making his contribution the first of its kind. When Hatch
enrolled in a metal fabrication class this year at the
high school, he instantly knew that his class project
would be some sort of snowboard feature. The idea sprang
from his experience last summer, when Hatch, his friend
and his friend’s father built a snowboard rail for
Hatch’s back yard. After honing his boarding skills,
Hatch decided he wanted to hone his welding skills and
contribute something to DMR that could bear his mark.
Since Hatch is a volunteer at the resort’s terrain
park, helping groom the area and set up boarding obstacles,
he approached his boss, Eric Mischker, a couple of months
ago about his idea. Mischker initially was hesitant, only
because Hatch lacks the welding certification required
for resort infrastructure. However, the student and boss
figured that if Hatch’s metal fabrication instructor,
Paddy Lynch, oversaw the project and certified the welds,
that DMR officials would sanction the project.
It all worked out. And now Hatch is hard at work. In
a deal struck between Durango High School and Durango
Mountain Resort, Hatch is able to build the S-rail with
funds from the resort, plus some supplies from his class.
Mischker, the snowmaking and terrain park manager, declined
to say how much money the resort donated to Hatch’s
Mellow and whippy
Hatch, a soft-spoken, modest kid who hasn’t even
told his friends about his project, is working silently
on the S-rail, with hopes of finishing it by the end of
the month. He first drew up plans for the rail, based
on the one he helped build last year, as well as his own
experience as a snowboarder for the past several years.
“It’s going to be 25 feet long and 4 feet
high, so it’s nothing like they have at DMR right
now,” Hatch said.
The S-rail is exactly as it sounds. Hatch takes a steel
pole and, using a 2 1/2-ton metal bending machine at the
high school, fashions the pole into the shape of an “S.”
The pole’s legs are buried in the snow. Throw some
safety skirting around it, and the new terrain park rail
is ready for boarders to hop onto and slide along. It
fits right in with the obstacles that define the gravity-defying
acrobatics of this unconventional sport.
So, Hatch hopes that the rail appeals to jibbers of all
“It’s not going to be too mellow, but it
won’t too whippy either,” he says in snowboardese.
Regardless, the need and desire for a new feature attests
to the sport’s growing popularity, especially among
teen-agers. Nearly 15 years ago, many skiers and industry
leaders didn’t expect “knuckle draggers”
to be anything more than a flash-in-the-pan. Instead,
these amateur clairvoyants have watched a new generation
of riders grow like weeds and board with creativity and
eagerness to catch air.
Snowboarding now represents 28 percent of all downhill
participants in the United States, according to Snow Sport
Industries America (SIA), a nonprofit trade association.
Those numbers are up 10 percent since the previous year,
consistently growing since the ’80s.
Consequently, S-rails are common features in terrain
parks, so DMR is pleased about Silas’ contribution,
“We’ve had a C-rail in the past, Serpentine
rail and a backwards ‘S’ with a kink, but
this will be the first real S-rail that we hope will be
here for another eight to 10 years,” Mischker says.
Hatch’s rail will go in the terrain park that this
year will be placed on the Paradise run. Mischker reports
that the park is being moved from Limbo to Paradise, which
is 3,000 feet long and will offer such features as a half-pipe,
quarter-pipe and an assortment of rails and jumps. The
Paradise park, Mischker says, will be rated a double-black
diamond. A more intermediate park will remain on Pitchfork.
DMR put its first terrain park in place in 1994.
|Students Jason Cline, left, and
Hatch square up the base of the future terrain park
S-rail./ Photo by Todd
Lynch, the DHS metal fabrication instructor, is thrilled
about Hatch’s project. He’s pleased that Hatch
took on such a task that will benefit boarders while at
the same time contribute to the local ski area.
“I like his initiative, especially for just learning
to weld,” Lynch says. “The kids in this class
do some pretty amazing stuff.”
Hatch says that in spite of the pending fame his S-rail
will have, he doesn’t plan to pursue a welding career.
His infatuation is only temporary.
“I don’t think I want to do this for a living,
because welding is scary,” he says. “But one
thing I’ve learned is that you need to know a lot
about safety and have a lot of patience.”
That’s a lesson in and of itself, he adds.
But whether he’s looking forward to the fame of
his signature S-rail, Hatch is rather casual about it.
He hasn’t, he says, even bragged to his friends
about the project. Out of modesty, he’s keeping
it on the down low.
“Why? They don’t need to know,” he
Eventually, they will. At least according to Mischker.
“This is all Silas’ design, and it will be
really popular,” he says.