Snow Park Technologies takes over more Tahoe terrain park contracts including Heavenly Snow Park |

Snow Park Technologies takes over more Tahoe terrain park contracts including Heavenly Snow Park

Snow Park Technologies is the rise of South Lake Tahoe snow parks

Dylan Silver
Dylan Silver / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – 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.

“Pretty much every top park is an SPT park,” said Heavenly Snow Park terrain park manager Mike Thomas. “They’re building the most progressive features with the best staff and the best equipment.”

The company, started by legendary park builder Chris “Gunny” Gunnarson in 1999, is continually expanding its presence in its home region of Lake Tahoe. They now have contracts with Heavenly Mountain Resort, Northstar-at-California, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley, making these the best Lake Tahoe ski resorts for freestyle enthusiasts. 

What does this mean for your average snowboarder or freestyle skier? Bigger, better and more well-known terrain parks for your Lake Tahoe winter sports.

“They are so deep rooted in the industry,” said Jess Rechitelli, Squaw Valley’s terrain park manager. “They’ve been doing special projects, the U.S. Open, the X-Games for years.”

SPT has designed almost every snowboard and freestyle ski course for the X-Games in the event’s 14-year history. They’ve built the half-pipes for the Burton U.S. Open. And they’ve done custom features for specific athletes and specific resorts like skier Simon Dumont’s “Cube Pipe” at Squaw or Northstar’s nature-friendly park “The Stash.”

“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,” Gunnarson said in an email.

Yet SPT’s appeal to resorts isn’t just their ability to build giant or complex terrain park features. It’s also their reputation. Heavenly, for example, has contracted with SPT for help on a new 18-foot half-pipe and help re-branding their terrain parks.

“They just have so many ties with the snowboard and freeskiing market,” Thomas said. “We have the park, but the mainstream doesn’t know about it. That’s where they’ll be able to help.”

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 their sights aren’t set on achieving a top-ranked park immediately.

“Of course our long-term goal is to be in the top 10 parks in the country,” Rechitelli said. “But right now we’re focusing on consistency and progression.”

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 year.

Just like the services SPT provides for Heavenly Snow Park are different from that of Squaw, the company’s relationship with all of their 15 plus resort contracts they hold are unique.

“Each resort is looking to provide their own experience, and as a contractor, we tailor our program to compliment and support the overarching goals of the resorts that we work with,” 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 attracting people to spend a snow day at Heavenly Snow Park, people who may never consider themselves park skiers or riders, Gunnarson said.

“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,” Gunnarson said. “One of our major areas of focus in building the freestyle experience as a whole and making terrain parks more accessible to a whole new demographic of skiers and riders.”

Originally published in the December 3, 2011, issue of the Tahoe Daily Tribune and regularly vetted for accuracy. 

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