The Pistol Complex: Simplified

Jen Karnan  

If anyone reading this has been up to Gunstock so far this season (and I hope you have, conditions have been superb!), you may have noticed that some significant changes have taken place on one side of the mountain.  As we turn 80 years of age, we’re collectively feeling very thoughtful; looking back with nostalgia on our respective childhoods here, marveling at how far we’ve come as a mountain over the course of these eight beautiful and formative decades through good times and bad, and focusing our efforts on the future of our resort as it pertains to the growth of snow sports and outdoor adventure as a whole. We have always prided ourselves on staying true to our roots while nurturing an innate pioneer spirit; and to do this, we must always consider what potential may be right under our noses, and what opportunities could lie within that potential.

Our snowmaking, grooming, and park crews have been working tirelessly (they might need to catch up on a little bit of sleep) on an initiative to offer all levels of park terrain and all levels of traditional alpine terrain on trails stemming from the Pistol lift.


Photo credit: thedailybs

We have begun referring to that area as the “Pistol Complex.” This is a big move for us, and rest assured, we’re fully aware that this will be met with both some positive and negative feedback from our guests, at first.

 As an avid alpine skier who doesn’t get too sendy with park elements, I’ll be the first to attest that I had my misgivings about this decision when I first heard about it. The Pistol trail, particularly, has a unique and beautiful fall line that provides wide open space for giant alpine carves with Mount Washington and Lake Winni as a backdrop on a clear day. That being said, our crews kept this fact in mind, and while Pistol now has some giant park elements on the left side of the trail, we kept it lovingly groomed and free of park elements on the right side for traditional alpine skiing and riding. The jumps themselves lend some really fun banked turns and rollers that have been groomed on the sides to allow for experimentation and variance in terrain on the way down skier’s right. I took a quick run down Pistol yesterday to check it out for myself, and was pleased with both the room available on the right side for some nice arcs and the novelty of having the groomed sides of those elements to use as banked turns.

Our goal with the Pistol Complex is not to alienate guests, but to provide more universal and diverse skiing and riding terrain for everyone. We have received an increasing number of requests from guests over the years to offer more freestyle terrain which can service beginners, intermediates, and experts alike. In an effort to accommodate the majority of our guests, we have provided both traditional alpine and park terrain on all trails in the Pistol complex. Even the Blundersmoke trail, which has historically been dedicated to park elements in its entirety, now contains bypass lanes for simple cruising.

Industry studies have shown that the future growth of snow sports will require offering terrain alternatives that are interesting, engaging, and exciting for the younger people learning to ski and snowboard. In order to do that safely, there need to be opportunities to try small features and learn how to navigate changes in terrain; for example, the Terrain Based Learning elements used in our Wonder Carpet area implement micro versions of what exists in the parks. Beginners who learn to navigate varying terrain from the get-go will welcome increasing sizes in those features as they progress with their skiing and riding, and the elements provided in the Pistol Complex will allow for progression in both park skills and traditional alpine terrain. Features are versatile, provide variety, and are changed often to keep it feeling fresh while allowing folks to try new things and develop their skills.

This initiative with the Pistol complex began last year, in fact, with the introduction of the Side Arm Progression Park and the subtle terrain movement features on Out of Sight. While it was a change for many, we have heard a lot of positive feedback from folks. People who may have never experimented with terrain park elements may now enjoy the small and approachable box elements and small jumps of Side Arm and the natural feel of the whoop-de-dos on the winding Out of Sight trail.  

With our new RFID technology, we’ll be able to tell who is using or not using the Pistol lift as we introduce this new initiative and how often. We will be studying that data closely and paying attention to traffic and frequency on the Pistol complex trails as we evaluate this change at the mountain.

We thank you in advance for your open mindedness and your willingness to try out our new Pistol Complex. Be sure to head over to the Pistol lift to see the new developments and maybe try a few elements out. Please feel free to peruse our Parks page, and reach out to us with any questions or comments.

~ Jen

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