LAKE TAHOE and#8212; Snow Park Technologies is a subtle name for a company that is half-responsible for snowboarding and freestyle skiing as we know it.
More commonly known as SPT, Snow Park Technologies has been behind the evolution of the terrain park since snowed-on picnic tables became snowboarding features.
The company, started by legendary park builder Chris and#8220;Gunnyand#8221; Gunnarson in 1999, is continually expanding its presence in its home region of Lake Tahoe. It now has contracts with Heavenly Mountain Resort, Northstar California, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley.
and#8220;Pretty much every top park is an SPT park,and#8221; said Heavenly terrain park manager Mike Thomas. and#8220;They're building the most progressive features with the best staff and the best equipment.and#8221;
What does this mean for your average snowboarder or freestyle skier? Bigger, better and more well-known terrain parks.
and#8220;They are so deep-rooted in the industry,and#8221; said Jess Rechitelli, Squaw Valley's terrain park manager. and#8220;They've been doing special projects, the U.S. Open, the X Games for years.and#8221;
SPT has designed every course for the X Games in the event's 16-year history. The company has built the halfpipes and slopestyle courses for the Burton U.S. Open. And it's done custom features for specific athletes and specific resorts like skier Simon Dumont's and#8220;Cube Pipeand#8221; at Squaw or Northstar's nature-friendly park and#8220;The Stash.and#8221;
and#8220;As an industry, we have to continue to find ways to keep skiers and riders excited and grow the overall market for terrain park users,and#8221; Gunnarson said in an email.
Yet SPT's appeal to resorts isn't just its ability to build giant or complex terrain park features. It's also the company's reputation. Heavenly, for example, has contracted with SPT for help on a new 18-foot halfpipe and help re-branding its terrain parks.
and#8220;They just have so many ties with the snowboard and freeskiing market,and#8221; Thomas said. and#8220;We have the park, but the mainstream doesn't know about it. That's where they'll be able to help.and#8221;
But building and designing continues to be a large part of the company. Northstar and Sierra have worked with SPT for years. They were all, up until recently, owned by Booth Creek, which now only owns Sierra. Both resorts' terrain parks have been able to achieve top spots among rankings in major snowboard media during their time working with SPT, which continues through today.
For Squaw Valley, SPT will help both with marketing and building, though the resort's sights aren't set on achieving a top-ranked park immediately.
and#8220;Of course our long-term goal is to be in the top 10 parks in the country,and#8221; Rechitelli said. and#8220;But right now we're focusing on consistency and progression.and#8221;
SPT will help Squaw determine where on the mountain is best suited to a terrain park, implement signage and branding and build rail features, one of which is a signature five-feature jib garden that will debut this season.
Just like the services SPT provides for Heavenly are different from that of Squaw, the company's relationship with all of its 15-plus resort contracts it holds are unique.
and#8220;Each resort is looking to provide their own experience, and as a contractor we tailor our program to complement and support the overarching goals of the resorts that we work with,and#8221; Gunnarson said.
So, what is the future of terrain parks? Roller coaster-like rail features and larger-than-life kickers? Maybe. But it's also in attracting people who would never consider themselves park skiers or riders, Gunnarson said.
and#8220;We have to keep growing in our sophistication and innovation with regard to the way that skiers/riders utilize freestyle terrain so that our sport doesn't plateau like alpine skiing or golf,and#8221; Gunnarson said. and#8220;One of our major areas of focus is building the freestyle experience as a whole and making terrain parks more accessible to a whole new demographic of skiers and riders.and#8221;