There are some locations within freestyle that are instantly recognisable. Whether it’s the heart-stopping drop of the Mt Baker Gap, the iconic staircase in Quebec, or the icy depths of the Helsinki Harbour that riders launch themselves over. All of these spots are like the UNESCO heritage sites to us. One of these has to be the notorious media obstacle in Sölden that graces our screens each autumn in a plethora of the finest snowboard films. Strongly influenced by park designer and photographer Rudi Wyhlidal, the infamous Sölden feature has been a fixed date in the shooting calendar of numerous international crews. It is about time it got the history it deserves.
The Pyramid - a theater scenery
For the last decade, the Ötztal valley has hosted some of the most progressive film riding in Europe at the end of each season. The journey started in 2004 with the pyramid: Originally built as a prop for the “Hannibal” open air on the Rettenbach glacier, some resourceful riders quickly converted it into an obstacle. From that day onward, the project has developed each year with the progression of snowboarding.
The Cube - geometry at its best
Right from the outset, this chapter of freestyle history was co-authored by park design mastermind and photographer Rudi Wyhlidal. In its third year, in2007, the level changed dramatically. No less than 3 features were put on snow that winter: The “Cube”, based on an idea of photographer Gian Paul Lozza, the first big kicker on the Roßkirpl Mountain and a special multi-obstacle, which was shaped out of an avalanche. Freeride legends like Nicolas Müller and Gian Simmen as well as locals like Rene Schnöller did not let this unique riding-opportunity slide, which lead to a flurry of magazine covers and posters hung on bedroom walls across the lands.
The Needle - built using huge cement clamps and with tons of snow
This creative energy also powered next year’s special feature, as photographer and Snowboarder MBM editor in chief, Sebastian Gogl, came up with the idea for the “Needle”, a thin quarter extending into the sky like a monument. This obstacle, too, was received enthusiastically by the media due to its unique style. Then, in the spring of 2009, the time was ripe for some massive airtime! Since it was the last time that the media obstacle was built on the Roßkirpl Mountain, the occasion called for something special. Thus, not one but two massive jumps were conjured up: Firstly, a jump that in its shape was reminiscent of a medieval castle tower, including battlements, and secondly, a massive gap kicker! Amongst others, US sports channel ESPN used this opportunity to shoot in Sölden together with superstar Eero Ettala.
My Kicker is my Castle - Soelden 2009
Sölden has always aimed for higher goals, therefore the decision to stick to the kicker-concept was easily made, and all that changed was the location. Consequently, in 2010, the already established media obstacle had its premiere as a massive kicker on the Rettenbach glacier. The feature distinguished itself by allowing European riders to push the progression of their riding with the jump’s unmatchable airtime and pop. Only 2 years later, thanks to it being a huge success, history repeated itself, but this time with an additional massive corner feature to top things off.
The Incredible Project 2011 - Rudi Wyhlidal's creative climax
Never one to stay the same for too long though, the feature got an injection of creativity in 2011, and it went down in history as the “Incredible Project” located at the top station of the Silberbrünnl chairlift. It was one of the first and most spectacular multi-feature obstacles that incorporated a myriad of side hits, quarter pipes and jibs for the riders to paint their own line on.
Go big or go home - the Big Jump in 2012
For the last few years were about refocussing on the classical kicker-aesthetics, the “Big Jump” has grown better with tuning, tweaking and planning ever since, and 2014 was no exception. For the first time in history, the experienced Park Designer Sven Toller was tasked with building the mightiest kicker of the Oetztal valley - in a new location - on the Tiefenbach glacier. You may have seen this year’s creation in the latest Pirates Film or maybe in the latest Freeski-Crew or Boyz ‘n’ Toyz edit. The QParks media crew, too, was tasked to capture the Big Booter Sessions 2014 for eternity. You can have a look at the footage under this link.
The guys from Legs of Steel standing tall at the top of the world aka the Big Booter in 2014
The results are impressive and reflect the great developments that have made the Sölden feature what it is today: From the blunt beginnings on the Pyramid all the way to a highly professional work ethic and production in the last years. The Park Designers have always pushed the envelope and they will be redefining the boundaries next season, too - that’s for sure!