„Holy s***, how huge is that jump?“, “Alright, that thing is definitely big!”, “What an INSANE take-off!”, “Way bigger than it seemed on the pics … scary!”. These were the first comments of first-class snowboarders like Boris Mouton, Rowan Coultas, Jose Aragon, Werni Stock or Roope Tonteri. Likewise, renowned freeskiers like Tom Granier, Tyler Harding, Javi Vega, Katie Summerhayes, Tobi Müller or Ole Pavel had the same sketchy feeling when they first saw Sölden’s humongous 2016 special obstacle in real life. However, after their first runs the freestyle-pros’ opinions had totally changed…
“Rowan Coultas was the craziest! He was the first to hit the jump when we were all very scared”, said Katie Summerhayes, whereas she has every right to be satisfied with her own performance as well: “I did a good 7 japan that I was really happy with”, she comments.
Werni Stock, known for his humble character, was super stoked by Roope Tonteri and Tom Tramnitz, while he himself tweaked the Wedge relentlessly: “Both are extremely stylish riders. Mighty props to those guys. Roope Tonteri always sends it and always takes it to the limit. No matter whether it’s a jump, hip or after-shred beer”, the pro from Zillertal adds winkingly. The superstar from Finland remains super chilled and pragmatic as always: “I wanted to get some stylish tricks but in the end everybody started to send it so I sent it as well. Haha!”
Even Tobi Müller, a regular starter of the “Legs of Steel” crew, was captured by the extraordinary aura of this monstrosity of an obstacle. Given the fact that the Wedge was shaped from masses of snow carried by not two but three avalanches, that’s more than understandable. He comments: “The Wedge was probably the biggest and gnarliest obstacle I had the opportunity to jump during this season. The resort is huge and located in this corrie, which provided the session with this magnificent scenery. Broad slopes, a big funpark and a giant obstacle, what else could one wish for!? It was massive, offered lots of possibilities but still was comfy to jump. That’s a real rarity!” ‘Comfy to jump?! What the ****!’, us average joes might think. But well … Werni Stock also finds only warm words for this monster kicker: “To me the airtime of this jump was just so cool! Spinning a FS 360 you could just chill and enjoy!”
But: “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” Frank Zappa put it straight – we don’t want to babble too much about the massive action going on at Sölden’s “The Wedge”. We’d rather have the full edit take us away. Check out the “comfy’n’chill” jumps stomped by this armada of pros at Sölden’s #TheWedge, enjoy!
Swiss-born Sven Toller works as project manager for QParks. Years ago he started as a shaper and soon became a well-respected park designer in the scene. Today as technical director, he supervises diverse projects in Austria, Switzerland and France. Since 2 years he has been carrying on the 14-year old tradition of Sölden’s mega-obstacle. In conjunction with Stefan Morocutti he designed and implemented “The Wedge”. Stefan, currently park designer at AREA 47 Snowpark Sölden, has had a long QParks career to look back to. He is particularly known for his park-design creativity and with his talent handling PistenBully joysticks, he has realized several major projects and parks in Europe. In short: If these two work together, there is something big to come!
• Where does the idea of “The Wedge” come from and how many coffees were needed?
AREA 47 Snowpark Sölden park designer Stefan Morocutti: Sven came up with this idea. The first thoughts were aiming for “understatement” – something to use for epic tricks. We then decided to twist and bend the original idea into something tremendous.
QParks project manager Sven Toller: The spot at Silberbrünnl seemed perfect. This is where we found this massive cone of three avalanches, which was perfect to build onto.
• What sort of expectations did you have?
Sven: In the beginning not too many. We wanted the kicker to be massive with lots of airtime and great to jump.
• How important are these kind of projects for the scene and the riders?
Sven: I think the riders are really enjoying those enormous obstacles. There aren’t many skiing areas in Europe – or at least not in the Alps – that want to or are able to support these major projects. To photograph an element without contest pressure or anything alike is very rare nowadays.
Steff: I also think these kind of projects are of particular importance. For riders, it’s a great option for good coverage. From the scene’s perspective it’s double-edged: The obstacles are getting bigger and more extreme and injuries are a tricky talking point. The next snowboarding generation will probably be bred in a “lab” – I mean in the gym. With these dimensions you have to exactly know what you are doing and what you are going for. For that reason, the sessions in Sölden are “invite-by-QParks-only” and strictly prohibited for public access. The joy of snowboarding and freeskiing is therefore slightly drifting off its original value but that’s what progress is!
• What’s hidden behind the scene? What are the things we can’t see?
Steff: Where to take the snow from? How big should the kicker actually be? Which angles make sense resp. are necessary? Is the distance doable by machine or will shapers suddenly have to shape a big stretch by hand? Is the landing area easily accessible with the PistenBully’s winch? How can I maintain something that’s 10m/32.8ft high and has just been dredged a week ago, in case the ramp has been overused? Where and how do I get the riders up to the in-run?
Sven: Sure, overall that’s a massive overhead for machinery and the shape crew, as they have to keep an eye on the park’s daily business all besides the buildup as well. Several terrain inspections, multiple hours in front of the laptop and heaps of meetings all before the first shovel is being touched.
• Which tools were in action and how many hours does such a project take?
Sven: PistenBullys, winches, digger, leveling instruments, chainsaw, snow blower…
Steff: And thousands of working hours! The construction takes about two weeks. That means 4 to 6 Bullys are moving the snow for a couple of days. Followed by an extra four days with a heavy digger and 4 to 6 shapers on site. One Bully was on continuous run and last but not least fine-tuning and visual effects. Once the masterpiece is ready and the first riders are rocking up, the work continues during the photoshoot. One to two skidoos and a PistenBully are needed to drive the riders back up, plus some post-shaping of the takeoffs here and there. In the evening the full power of 7 shapers is necessary to re-shape the whole piece.