A higher plane

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The SoBe Terrain Park at the Steamboat Ski Area is the place to see skiers and snowboarders put on a show.

Most days during the winter, athletes ranging from students in the Steamboat Ski and Snowboard School to members of the Mavericks Free Ride Team can be found perfecting their moves in the park.

But visitors to Steamboat shouldn't feel as though they have to be able to perform stunts on their skis and snowboards to experience the terrain park.

Probably the least threatening way to catch the action in SoBe is to ride the Bashor chairlift over the top of the rails and pipes.

Entrance to the park is permitted only through control gates, and spectators should proceed with caution. Common sense will guide visitors -- it's important not to ride or ski into the path of others who have committed to a rail or jump.

One of the best places to take in the action is from the top of the quarterpipe at the bottom of the Mavericks Superpipe.

It's easy to walk or sidestep up the back of the quarterpipe and perch on its flat summit. Just don't approach the edge too closely -- the best skiers and riders will pop into the air right off the lip. From the top of the quarterpipe, there is an unobstructed view of Mavericks.

Mavericks opened Dec. 22, 2001. At 650 feet long with 15-foot walls, it was promptly proclaimed the longest superpipe in North America.

The newer Mini Mavs, nearby, is less intimidating for intermediates. It is 250 feet in length and 45 feet wide, but the walls are saner, at 10 feet high.

The terrain park and pipes were designed by their manager, John Asta. He's assisted by a staff of 14 volunteers.

In addition to the halfpipes, rails and jumps, the park includes two Nastar race courses. Music is provided in the terrain park throughout the day. n

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