Danny Burrows, our wonderful editor in chief gave us purpose this fine day! He sent us off to Garmisch-Partenkirchen to go a and find the whereabouts of the man with the plan; Christoph Weber-Thorensen. Our mission: to catch up and get the inside scoop on the latest news from the GAP session.
Onboard: First question: if you compare this year’s kicker with the one from two years ago, what would you say is different? Did you change anything? Chistoph Weber-Thoresen: Generally it has stayed the same. There’s not such a big difference in regard to the flying curve, the distance and amplitude. However, we took the spectators into consideration and wanted to build the kicker in such a way that one can see more of what’s going on during the jump. You will be able to have a perfect view from almost every point in the stadium. We had to change it a little bit, due to the lack of snow this year.
OB: Was there a point where things were looking pretty gloomy and where you were under a lot of strain and stress?
CWT: Well, at the beginning of the season we all had high hopes, because the winter was in full force already in early November. Then, when it was time to start producing the snow for the jump it all of sudden got rather warm. Luckily, there was a little time window of about ten days where it got cold again, and we were able to produce snow. After doing that we scraped all the produced snow together and shovelled a hill with it. In the beginning we were a little sceptic since it wasn’t that big. Thanks to the huge over-sized airbag, which will be installed in the gap to prevent injury, we were able to save a lot of snow and make the construction how it stands right now.
OB: The idea for the kicker design came to David and you in the backcountry while filming for ‘91 Words’. How was the communication with the riders about the kicker after the first GAP Session? What was their feedback like? Did you consider it when designing it this time around? Did you consider changing the design totally, or are you still convinced of the shape?
CWT: Of course, you try to reach a general consensus with the other riders. You will have different opinions. Some riders wouldn’t mind more pop, others would like it more floaty etc... Last year we built the same type of kicker up at Whistler and one in France, and sessioned it (with Christophe Schmidt, Sani Alibabic, David Benedek and others). There we had the chance to fine-tune some things. In general though, all of the riders from the first GAP Session were stoked about it for sure.
OB: Is there time to change up the shape, in case it isn’t working the way you imagined it. How much leeway do you have to make changes?
CWT: Actually, not that much! I mean, if it’s a question of changing the take off or landing by a few degrees it’s no problem. Anything more major might bring with it some late night headaches!
OB: In the GAP Session DVD Travis Parker compliments you on the kicker and wishes that some park designers would look into it and try and make similar jumps in their parks, since they are safer with more airtime. It’s been two years since the first session, and it still seems as though most parks still only offer the standard tabletop kickers. Why is that? Is it because a jump like this requires so much snow, effort and time? What do you think are the reason’s that we are not seeing more jumps in parks resemble yours?
CWT: You definitely need a park shaping crew that really knows what they are doing, that are on it, that put in a lot of time and energy and who can convince the mountain resort to make such an investment. Kickers like the one we have also need more intensive reshaping and care. You just can’t build such a kicker and leave it unattended for a month! I’ve seen a couple smaller versions around though, like in the Ehrwald. It’ll just take some more time. What you have to also consider is that not everyone can ride a kicker like this. The speed that you need to clear it and the jumping technique is pretty much only recommended for experienced riders.
OB: Speaking of speed and hitting it up; you, as one of the head-shapers, are a primary candidate to guinea pig it. If you end up being first off, do you still get butterflies in your stomach before dropping into such a thing?
CWT: It’s still being debated who will hit it first. Might end up being me! I wouldn’t know anyone who doesn’t get a little nervous before dropping into a kicker and pushing the limit like on this one. So yeah, butterflies everywhere! But, since we already rode almost identical kickers, it should not be that scary or unknown.
OB: Speaking of limits, are you expecting to see something crazy any of the riders. Next level manoeuvres?
CWT: Most of the invited riders were picked with that criterion in mind. They all have immense potential, but I’m not able to pick one at the moment and say that he will do something crazy.
OB: A couple years ago the discussion arose that snowboarding has maxed out. Then David starts spinning Double Cork 12’s and Rice is doing Double Bs Rodeos. How far will it still go? Is snowboarding ever going reach a point where it can’t go further? CWT: There will always be room for creativity and to try out new stuff. I believe that it will keep on progressing far into the future. One just has to try and find a little undiscovered corner, look into it and get creative. As long as there is a will there is a way.
OB: Small factual q’s now! How many people have been helping shape and design the whole thing?
CWT: Oli Deby and I are kinda the go-to dudes. Not to forget Nick Francke who’s also one of the main shape dudes supervising and digging. I think there are around 10-12 people that are doing the shaping and shovelling.
OB: How many cubic meters of snow did you need to use?
CWT: It’s hard to say, because 20-30 percent of it melts while you are moving or shaping it. If I were to give a rough estimate, I would say about 15,000 cubic meters.
OB: Where did you get most of the snow, and how did you solve the problem of the recent warm stormy weather?
CWT: Most of the snow was produced on location, however some was transported by trucks from the surroundings. The storm system [Bavaria got battered by high winds last weekend] was pretty intense. The wind actually blew some of the kicker off, but it wasn’t too bad. We coated the kicker and landing with huge plastic canvases to protect it against the rain and wind.
OB: Thank you very much for this little informative interview. We hope that all goes well and that come Saturday we will see some sick snowboarding!
CWT: You are very welcome!
Interview: Marko Grgas, Anna Langer Photography: Sami Tuoriniemi