As you'll doubtless have noticed, Nike recently dropped Chapter 2 of their Snowboarding Project trilogy of web shorts. Seeing as it's focussed on last season's Nike Chosen Sessions, we decided now was as good as any to post the feature we ran in the mag. Have a read and a gander at the bangers...
NIKE CHOSEN SESSIONS
Sat on the charlift, I craned my neck and swore. Back over my shoulder the first features were emerging from behind a large bank of snow. “Would you look at the size of that thing!" I spluttered, craning to see a 200ft long Swoosh lumber into view. As the rest of the setup revealed itself it became clear that the Nike guys hadn’t been hyping when they’d told us they would be building ‘something special’ for the Nike Chosen Sessions. As I picked out one improbably extravagant hit after the next and realised the scuttling silhouettes were not mountain wildlife but were, in fact, shapers, I swore several more times. This thing was less a snowpark than a snow sculpture.
All season long, Nike had been sweeping through Europe with their Chosen Series events and awarding one stand-out MVP amateur rider with a ticket to a slightly nebulous ‘End Of Season Session Of Epic Proportions’ where they’d throw down with the pro team. As I said, they claimed it was going to be extraordinary and mid-way through the season word began to filter through that they’d commandeered once face of a Montafon mountain to construct a bespoke terrain park. Nike enlisted the snow sculpting services of Schneestern and given them the simple brief to “design and build the best and most innovative snowpark ever," as head designer Dirk Scheumann recalls. “From the start we enjoyed great freedom designing it, but of course we integrated the ideas of Nike and their riders too. We defined that there will be a big kicker, a double kicker line, a rail line, a bowl and a corner. How these features were arranged in the terrain and how they look in detail was our job. It took me about 4 weeks to plan all obstacles including the bowl, construction site, pipe and the Swoosh feature. The whole process was super smooth and it was so productive working with the Nike team." Days before we were to arrive we’d seen some snapshots and CAD layouts, but the scale and full picture was impossible to determine. Now, halfway up a private lift I could look back and see the full setup… well, ostentatious doesn’t quite fit. I swore again.
“When I first saw the park in real life I was speechless," grinned a stoked Markus Mathis – the Am rider who blew minds all week and was voted by the pro team as the week’s MVP. “There were sooo many obstacles that I wasn’t able to decide which one I wanted to ride first." Such a setup doesn’t just come together with a snapping of the fingers, though. “We needed about 400 cat hours to collect all the natural snow and give it a rough shape in the first building phase," explains Dirk. “For the final build up and shaping eight snowcats and 27 shapers were in action. All in all we put in about 7000 working hours into the project." In case you were wondering, that’s a lot.
By now you’ll have seen the result. With a mix of hits ranging from the regular to the more flamboyant – specifically the bowl setup, scaffold ride-through/wallride, Swoosh obstacle and the two pipes – there was plenty to keep both the invited Ams and the pro team happy. “The park was literally amazing," said a stoked Ethan Morgan “I have never ridden a park that good. It couldn't have been more fun, and you were still able to film the properly big obstacles while the snake run with the combination of the jib obstacles was way too good to be true." Throughout the day you’d see the Ams fire through the myriad of lines, their own personal follow-cammer in tow and being tracked by the swarms of other Nike filmers stationed throughout the park’s expansive environs, to garner footage of their best lines, kicker hops and bowl surfing that would be edited together and voted for online before a top 3 would go before a panel of Nike pros. With such an abundance of quality footage needing to be selected, edited and pumped out to an eager internet, it made for long nights for the editing crew. “Usually the thought of sifting through 4TB of shots and putting them into some kind of order in a short turnaround period is daunting to say the least," remembers editor Richard Prendergast, “but at the Nike Chosen this year, the course was so unique and riding level so high, I really couldn’t wait to see what the riders were going to do next."
In fact as impressive as the riding of the pro team was during the session, the real eye-opener for us was the riding of these so-called amateurs. Dudes like Jørn Simen Aabøe, Jonas Steen, Enzo Nilo, Andy Nudds and Felix Georgii were more than capable of holding their own in the sessions, but for us Mathis was the clear standout and more than deserved his MVP award. He was overawed: “It's hard to describe the feeling when you are waiting with all these people to hear the winners name and then you hear they shouting your own name. The first second you can't believe it or realize it. I was totally stoked, it was so insane." The fact that he’s bereft of sponsors is as baffling as the variety of cutting edge spins he can power his way through.
While the Ams were on their own program, the pro team’s time was more laissez-faire: aside from the occasional rounding up by TM Jon ‘Shep’ Weaver for specific sessions they were free to lap the park at their leisure, hollering over to a shooter if they started feeling a specific hit to document. So at one point you’d hear Peetu Piiroinen had assembled a crew to session a redirect into the Swoosh, only to find Jamie Nicholls was eyeing up a boardslide to 7m drop off the top of the scaffold structure. As a mollycoddled member of the media being used to having an MC drilling my ear with penii and PR people telling me exactly what was going on where and when, it was a little disconcerting not knowing precisely where to be. This was also a good thing.
The times everyone did gather, however, were white hot. The session on the monster kicker saw an array of heavy stunts from the likes of Peetu, Jan Scherrer, Kevin Backstrom, Coin Coin, Mathis and Ethan Morgan, while Spencer O’Brien wo-manned up to back and front 3 the beast. The bowl feature, while perhaps not as ‘fire, spears and crocodiles’ as the jumps, was technically demanding, had so many options and was impressive to behold the myriad of ways the riders approached it – as Louie Vito and Coin Coin tackled the big cone Peetu would be boosting transfers and lipsliding the bar in the second bowl, while Jed Anderson felt out a weird transfer onto the stairset rail.
It all added up to make for an impressive few days of riding and lived up to its billing of epic proportions. Sure, a few keyboard assassins took umbrage at Nike’s display of opulence in the Chosen Sessions, but all that were actually there - from Ams to pros to media to worker bees - were floored by the setup and the way that, weather aside, things played out. Of course they wanted to make a statement, but I feel it was less of ‘Look at me and my wads of cash,’ and more to do with using their significant resources to shovel together the sickest setup their combined minds could dream up for the Ams and their riders to enjoy.
Dirk acknowledged that being given the opportunity to create arguably the most impressive park Europe’s seen was a double edged sword: “Of course, with such a budget a dream comes true but in the same moment you take a lot of responsibility. But with every day we proceeded my nervousness got less and I knew that we were not only realising our dreams but the dreams of the riders, too." It was, most certainly, quite the achievement.