Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Nick Roma, now working as the terrain park manager for Steamboat Ski Area, helped build the ski and snowboard cross course at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. He’ll build a similar course for a late-January competition in Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Springs It’s not hard to figure out how Nick Roma got here.
On skis by age 22 months, building jumps by the time he could walk and working on parks by the time he was 20, Roma, Steamboat Ski Area’s terrain park manager, is a budding star in the world of park and course building.
With the ski area trying to ramp up its terrain parks and welcoming three ski and snowboard cross events in late January, Roma has found a home in Steamboat Springs.
The Maine native spent eight seasons building parks and courses for the Sunday River resort in Maine. He was the only American builder to help build the ski and snowboard cross courses at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“Nick is in that stepping-stone mode,” said Jeff Ihaksi, who is an FIS World Cup builder for ski and snowboard cross. “If he chose to go build on the World Cup circuit, he could. But at this point, he’s quite happy with Steamboat.”
Ihaksi, who has 14 years of experience building parks, started working with Roma at Sunday River, prepping courses for a World Cup.
That’s where Ihaksi saw what Roma could do. The weather wasn’t pretty for course building.
“For two weeks, it was 14-hour days,” Roma said. “Then the night before the competition, it was pouring rain.”
But part of being a successful park and course builder is getting used to the unpredictable weather. Despite the conditions, the World Cup went off.
Ihaksi was tasked with building the ski and snowboard cross courses at Cypress Mountain just north of Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics. Seeing what Roma could do with the unpredictable weather at Sunday River, Ihaksi invited Roma to be part of his build team at Cypress.
Building on the big stage
If Roma thought Sunday River’s weather could be tough, Cypress Mountain proved to be even tougher.
Cypress was a builder’s nightmare. In 39 days of building, only three days saw temperatures dip below freezing.
Thousands of hay bales had to be flown in to help build the course. Most of the features had to be hand-built. The crew had to constantly reshape features and tarp the entire course at the end of workdays.
“You never expected winter in Cypress to quite be like those conditions,” Roma said.
Roma and the crew worked 13 of 14 days, usually in 12-hour shifts.
Add in the fog and rain, and the crew’s ability to put on a course at all was a testament to its hard work.
“We were usually off just long enough to get our clothes dry,” Roma said. “Or mostly dry.”
But the experience Roma got was second to none. He had taken the job in Steamboat in 2009 after wanting to leave the East Coast.
He had applied to three resorts in Colorado, and when Steamboat came calling, the choice was easy.
Ramping up Steamboat
Steamboat never has been known as a terrain park mecca, but Roma said he has plans to start making it one.
In addition to several new crew members, there will be 25 new rails and features spread across the ski area’s parks.
Roma plans to start building the ski and snowboard cross course in early January.
He said his idea is to have the ski area feature terrain and parks for skiers of all abilities.
“We saw his assets,” said Jim Schneider, the vice president of skier services for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. “He was one of the few folks selected to be on the Olympic team in terms of building the boarder cross and other events up there. We thought that would be a good match relative to the experience he has and bringing Steamboat to a new level.”
For Roma, the long hours and being at the mercy of the weather are all worth it. He’s doing a job that he was intended for.
He said when he decided to leave Maine, he couldn’t have found a better place.
And 22-month-old Roma would be proud of 30-year-old Roma.
“I like the challenge,” he said. “Besides, we get the best snow in Colorado. Who wouldn’t want that?”
— To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org