With every degree that snowboarding progression has risen the mercury up, the design of snow features have helped to do so, if not directly contribute to. These behemoth piles of snow have not only pushed the riders to their limits, but feature design to the peak of civil engineering, design and machinery.
To the untrained eye, these features are merely piles of snow, but to some of us they are more intricate than the Cathédrale Notre Dame or any skyscraper we cast our gaze upon. To think how far we've come in two decades makes the prospect of the future even brighter.
Without further ado, here are 10 of the biggest and best features built for snowboarding.
Hemsedal, Norway - 2002
As one of the first mega-kickers that the snowboard world had ever seen, the original Hemsedal kicker built for the Absinthe crew in 2002 genuinely changed the direction of snowboarding. Back in ’02 there weren’t Prinoth Bison X Cats or Pistenbully 600s designed especially for shaping, kickers were a brute force kinda gig.
Whilst now days, a jump of this size is pretty much the norm for some resorts at the end of each season, back in 2002 snowparks were lucky to have a shovel. So to have a massive step down of this size, that worked pretty much perfectly was a huge leap forward in the progression of snowboarding.
Hemsedal, Norway - 2005
In 2005 legendary Norwegian shaper Lars Eriksen sculpted what is to this day, the biggest jump ever built. With a table spanning 130ft or the best part of 40m, the jump took nearly 3 weeks to push, shape and cut before in a typically understated style Mads Jonsson sent a frontside 360, 187-feet across the expanse of snow.
Lars Eriksen was a massively influential shaper that worked with the Norwegian Ministry of Culture to create a snowpark instructional manual alongside working with the Norwegian Snowboard Forbundet on training shapers Europe wide. He perished after being caught in an avalanche on Christmas Day 2012 in his home resort of Hemsedal, but his memory lives on through those he shared his passions with and the legacy he left in snowboarding.
The Arctic Challenge, Oslo
What do you get if you blend two of the most influential snowboarders of all time, a country that’s mad for snowsports and a penchant for the bat shit crazy? Well, you’d probably end up with The Arctic Challenge.
The distinguished competition has taken up residence in Oslo, Norway after some time way up in the North. After 7 years of holding the competition, Terje Håkonsen launched himself 9.8m out of the transition and into another history book.
The man that helped get Terje that high was Claes Högstrom, a Swedish shaper and the best quarter pipe builder in the world. For the first time they used computer aided design and manufacture in the production of the pipe. By designing the quarterpipe on CAD software, they then transferred that across to an excavator, which displayed the 3D model onto a screen that the excavator driver could use as a guide.
Nike Chosen Session, Montafon
In the spring of 2012 under the burning sun of one of the Arlberg’s finest resorts, Montafon lay the treasure chest of parks. Not just one feature, but an entire park sculpted like a amphetamine popping body builder.
The brainchild of Dirk Scheumann and German shaping company Schneestern, the park took up the entire side of a mountain an even warranted having its own private chairlift.
With over 20 unique and custom built features, it took 27 shapers and countless Cat hours to get the park built and ready for action. Whether it was a huge Nike swoosh made from slow with banked walls, an 8m scaffold wallride drop or a snake pipe, the Chosen was a park nobody will be forgetting in a hurry.
The Big B, Northstar
They don’t called Burton ‘The Big B’ for nothing. For their 2005 film, Burton recruited Snow Park Technologies for what would be a long and illustrious partnership between the two companies for years to come.
At the time, it was one of the largest collections of snow around stetching over 100ft in length, 86ft in width and a supeperpipe official height of 22ft that had transitions the entire way around.
With over 17 different lines through, over or on the feature including: : two 18’ quarterpipes, a 22′ quarterpipe, one down-flat-down rail and down-flat-down box, two 30′ D rails, one stash jib and stash bonk, one jump, a huge hip, a pond skim with a gap over the pond, a cannon jib, one step up jump and a stair gap – it’s safe to say this is one for the memory bank.
Peace Park, Grand Targhee
One of Burton’s next projects with SPT is the widely known ‘Peace Park’ project in collaboration with Mountain Dew. The idea to switch up, rearrange and build onto a pipe is one that people had been bandying about for a while in various ways, but it took a man of wisdom and beards to make it happen.
Over the three years that the project has been undertaken, each year has pushed a new aspect of design into the park. From a not so humble superpipe to a multi-hit feature based around a pipe to a full on park – we’re sure that next years will push the envelope even farther.
Red Bull Project X, Colorado
2009, the most famous snowboarder on the planet disappeared. Just to drive that home for you – the long ginger haired cover star of Rolling Stone magazine ceased to exist for some time.
Now in the warm up to an Olympic year, that’s a pretty big deal. Especially when you’re battling it out for superpipe supremacy for the approaching Vancouver Olympics.
In a move that must have been inspired by the spies of WW2, it emerged that Shaun has built a superpipe in the valley of two remote peaks in the Silverton, Colorado mountains.
Red Bull Ultra Natural, Baldface Lodge
Most resorts or mountains will do the odd bit of earthworks each winter to improve gradients, obstacles or materials that could come through the snowline.
There are not many that do it so that 18 of the best freeriders that have ever lived can drop into one of the most innovative, gnarly and balls to the wall crazy setups on the planet.
In all honesty, it never seemed like there was much shaping to be done on this project, but it seems like there were some adept wood slayers that helped Mr T bring his vision to life.
Onboard Send Off Session, Stubai
How could we not blow our own proverbial trumpets when it comes to the Send Off Sessions? Our collaboration with Europe’s finest riders and Schneestern came to fruition for the third time earlier this season.
In typical glacier style, the weather was… challenging, but nonetheless the Schneestern boys nailed on of the best looking parks we’ve seen in Europe in quite the while.
All about them vertical sides innit…
Suzuki Nine Knights, Livigno
Before we get into this, we want to thank Nico Zacek and the whole ski crew for inviting snowboarders this year. It’s rad to see more collaboration between skiing and snowboarding on projects like this
We digress - this behemoth of transition and architecture has been built in Livigno, Italy for the best part of a decade with its sister event, the Nine Queens, being held in Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis each winter as well. This winter the there wasn't enough snow to build two separate castles, so they just built one big un' instead.
Each year, you doubt that they can top the design, but each year they come back with another ridiculous design. Have you seen Jesper Tjåder’s double backflip transfer?
In the words of Jay-Z and Kanye “That shit cray".