Southeastern Wyoming is not known for its steep and deep terrain. However, protruding from the prairie is a lone peak called Elk Mountain, the original home of Ranyon D’Arge. Snow piles up in drifts here from the frequent 70 mile per hour winds that batter the region. Avalanches are a common occurrence, and access is difficult, enticing few to ride the isolated terrain. But D’Arge began his snowboarding career here. The risky region would be his first taste of big mountain freestyle.
After graduating from high school in Hanna, Wyoming, D’Arge began working at Snowy Range Ski Area. In his time off, he jumped off anything that would allow him to get air under his board. It was here, nestled in the Medicine Bow National Forest, where he decided the snowboarding industry would be his life.
Unfortunately, his love for jumps was not shared by ski patrol. D’Arge pleaded to build jumps for local riders but was continually shut down. Eventually, the patrol changed their minds and allowed him to build his first terrain features.
Within two years, D’Arge began to desire something larger, deeper, and more extreme. So he packed his bags for the Tetons. Arriving in 1994, he began teaching for Bill Briggs at Snow King Mountain’s Great American Ski School. The mountain was larger than he had previously experienced, but D’Arge says Snow King’s ski patrol was also against jumps and terrain parks in those days. For the second time, D’Arge implored ski patrollers to allow him to build some jumps, and eventually they agreed.
As he acquired new skills advocating for permission to build features, and then constructing them, D’Arge became a valuable asset as terrain parks became
increasingly popular. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort noticed his passion for the extreme and hired him in the Park and Pipe department 20 years ago. Today, he is the resort’s mountain design manager. He is now responsible for creating opportunities for both winter and summer recreation, including the resort’s mountain bike park, hiking trails, via ferrata, winter stash parks, and the kids’ snow castle at the base of the mountain.
When he builds features, D’Arge uses the mountain’s natural topography rather than building jumps in the middle of clear-cut runs. This holistic approach is meant to give riders a better experience and welcome more intermediate users alongside expert riders.
He finds building each terrain feature involves its own unique elements of difficulty. “Building terrain features is a challenge everywhere you go, and the challenges change,” he says.
D’Arge’s vision has shifted from his youthful days dodging ski patrol. Today, he expresses his appreciation for ski patrol and says he is humbled by their work and the efforts of everyone before him who helped forge the path for terrain parks.
He also loves spending as much time as possible out on the mountain, even when he’s not working. “I was born to do big mountain freestyle,” he says.