Sun Valley, Idaho, known for its terrain perfect for mountain biking, skiing and snowboarding, hiking, and so much more, is home to all forms of adventure seeker from the weekend warrior to the ski bum living out of his car. Nate Sheehan, Sun Valley Resort’s Terrain Parks Manager, heard the siren call of this mountain town himself and accepted the job four years ago having only been to Sun Valley once in 2009. His love of snowboarding and the mountains as well as hitting the single-track on his mountain bikes in the off-season have instilled in him a love of the Sun Valley area as well as a passion for creating a terrain park on Dollar Mountain that will cull the adventurous spirit in all skill of rider.
photo: Tal Roberts // Sun Valley Resort // Rider: Nate Sheehan
Despite only having ridden in Sun Valley once, Nate brought a life time of snowboard and park expertise with him to the job of Terrain Park Manager. Growing up in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, the home of Ski Liberty, Nate was an avid snowboarder and was even competing in the Mid-Atlantic Snowboard series by the time he was in high school and would go on to become the three-time regional champion. He then attended college for a short while in New Hampshire, riding at Loon and Waterville Valley and eventually went on to place 2nd at the Bud Light Big Air competition and 1s tat Killington’s annual Spring Loaded contest. But to really pursue snowboarding, Nate knew he needed to head out west.
“Pennsylvania is nothing like the west,” says Nate. “The mountains are a lot small but I will say a lot of the east coast resorts put emphasis on their terrain parks since they don’t have bigger terrain to offer. At Ski Liberty, they did a really good job and invested in their terrain park; it was good for what it was. But here in Sun Valley, the terrain parks are great but also the surrounding backcountry and other terrain is so much fun.”
Nate landed in Utah where he worked as a freestyle coach for Team Utah while also traveling for national and international competitions, even competing in the U.S. Open and the X Games. He went back home to be closer to family and worked his first Terrain Park Managing job at his hometown hill. But soon, Sun Valley came calling.
Nate’s friend Mike Baterra worked for Snow Park Technologies (SPT) who was a partner with Sun Valley at the time Nate was hired. Mountain Manager, Peter Stearns, reached out to Mike looking for a Terrain Park Manager and, as luck would have it, Baterra thought of Nate who had been looking around for a job back in the big mountains out west.
photo: Tal Roberts // Sun Valley Resort // Rider: Jeremy Black
That was four seasons ago in October 2015 when Nate moved to Sun Valley to share his park expertise. Since he wasn’t completely familiar with the types of riders in the area, SPT shared data, pie graphs, and traffic flow with him to familiarize himself with the unique crowd that would be using Dollar’s terrain park.
“When I was competing, I competed in slopestyle/parks so I had the opportunity to see a lot of terrain parks around the world and get a sense of what worked and what people liked,” says Nate of his familiarity with park terrain. “Sun Valley though isn’t necessarily a training ground like Mammoth or Breckenridge, it’s not our demographic. I try to make our parks have a progression from the very beginner, first time user of the parks all the way up to the Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) kids who are training to be professionals.”
Despite having to try to create a park to fit all ages, skills, and talents, Nate truly tries to bring something new for them all and switch things around as often as he can. The actual real estate of the park at Dollar isn’t something that changes but Nate tries to provide new and unique features that also are consistent with what’s trending in the slopestyle world.
photo: Tal Roberts // Rider: Chase Cleveland
“We change our rail features throughout the season because we have a fleet of them and like to keep things fresh,” says Nate. “We’ll also rebuilt jumps as needed.”
Nate also works closely with Tyler Conway, the Head Freestyle Coach at SVSEF throughout the season to build any jumps or set up rail features that they might need for an event or for training. “I’m very open to catering to their needs because SVSEF freestyle riders are a big part of the terrain park user. I’ll have my design for the park before the season starts but I’ll also build it with SVSEF in mind.”
photo: Tal Roberts // Sun Valley Resort // Rider: (left) Nate Sheehan (right) Wyatt Caldwell
That kind of thinking and cooperation between organizations is a perfect display of the kind of community that makes Sun Valley so unique and also keeps someone like Nate staying year after year. “I’ve really taken a liking to this place because of the fact that it’s a small town with a tight community and a lot of the friends I’ve made are like me—they came to ski or snowboard or mountain bike and they love the outdoors and living in the mountains. Those are all things that are important to me and to this community.”