Partnering with Burton Snowboards and Lucasfilm, Sierra at Tahoe this season has opened Yoda's Riglet Park, a miniature progression park for 3- to 6-year-olds. The park helps kids learn the ways of the Force, and snowboarding, through interactive learning nodes, or staging areas, that showcase custom-made wood carvings of Chewbacca, Jar Jar Binks, Yoda and others.
A key tool in the operation is Burton's Riglet Reel, a specially designed reel and cord that attaches to the nose of the snowboard. It allows coaches to tow kids around the Park, and in the process, kids quickly learn how to balance, move and control their boards.
The kids begin their Jedi Master training in the indoor Padawan Center where they practice balance training on voodoo boards. They suit up in R2D2 helmets and R2 and X-Wing vests before heading outside. Jedi Master Yoda welcomes the kids into the park where he explains his methods of balance, movement and control. After experiencing the sensation of sliding on snow for the first time in the Movement area, kids begin their journey with Jar Jar Binks, who teaches how to "drop-in" and stay balanced while moving. The second learning node, "Navigation," brings Chewbacca to life: he helps kids slide into a bowl-shaped area that prompts kids to move onto their edges and navigate turns. Saying good-bye to Chewbacca, the kids head to Anakin SkyWalker's Control node, where a mini pipe enhances the fundamental skills just learned. The final step these young Jedi experience is to ride a miniature box buried in the snow to receive Yoda's Seal of Approval.
This being California, the park is made from 100 percent recycled materials. Sierra at Tahoe recruited world-renowned wood carver Bob King to shape each of the Star Wars characters from reclaimed wood. Recycled hazard trees from the surrounding area were milled into boards and used to build each of the four learning nodes. The foundation support beans were made from recycled scrap metal and old lift tower tubes.
Yoda's Riglet Park opened earlier this season, and averages 50 kids per weekend with a 3:1 ratio of children to instructors. Sierra at Tahoe and Burton are already looking at ways to improve and expand the park for the 2012-13 season.