When X Games returns Jan. 23-26 to Aspen, Colo., the athletes know they can expect a world-class venue, from perfectly shaped jumps to one of the best halfpipes on the planet. The masterminds behind the course builds? Snow Park Technologies, which has been building the X Games courses, as well as other large-scale terrain park projects around the world, for years. We asked Chris "Gunny" Gunnarson, the founder and president of Snow Park Technologies, for a list of his favorite courses from X Games and other events.
X Games SuperPipe
"The halfpipe every year at X Games is a highlight for me, since it's hands-down one of the best pipes of the year, if not the best," Gunnarson says.
Shaun White Project X, 2009
"We turned an avalanche path in the middle of nowhere in Silverton, Colo., into a world-class halfpipe so that Shaun could train in privacy for the bulk of a winter season, then he went and won the Olympics. No big deal," says Gunnarson.
Boarder X, 2011
"The X Course in 2011 at X Games Aspen was a really good one. And this year, ESPN is bringing back Boarder X, so it'll be great to re-create that course," Gunnarson says.
Bobby Brown had a private supersized slopestyle course built for him last spring in Kirkwood, Calif. "It was next level. Period. Mad props to Bobby Brown, who had a vision and let us help him realize it. My guess is that if I was creating a project highlights this time next year, I will be including MegaSlope 2," Gunnarson says.
Nixon JibFest, 2011
"Nixon JibFest at Snow Summit in 2000 and Northstar in 2011 were the anti-events that helped bring it all back," says Gunnarson. "As slopestyle courses from X to Olympics now look at rail sections as the separator from one great run to the next, I'm reminded of how the Nixon JibFest played a historical role in jibbing today on all levels."
High Roller Hold 'Em, 2013
Shaun White was the celebrity MC at the High Roller Hold 'Em snowboard contest in spring 2013 at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Calif. The course, which was built by SPT and remains one of Gunnarson's favorites, overlooked Lake Tahoe.
Burton Rail Days, 2013
Burton Rail Days were held in the Roppongi Arena in downtown Tokyo in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and the course was more like a jib run than a normal rail jam. These courses still top Gunnarson's list.
Stash Park, Jackson Hole
"We worked directly with Jake Burton on designing and executing his vision for what a new type of park riding could be: a nature-friendly theme that is indigenous to the region," says Gunnarson. "We built Stash Parks at Northstar, Jackson Hole, The Remarkables in New Zealand, Avoriaz in France and Flachauwinkl in Austria."
Cubed Pipe, 2011
"Simon Dumont's Cube Pipe at Squaw Valley, Calif., was a really complicated and technical build. I loved that project because in each of the cutouts you can see just how big a 22-foot pipe really is," Gunnarson says. "And when Simon came back after the cubes were cut in, he had no chance for warm-up. It was just nail it and don't come up short."
X Games Aspen Slopestyle, 2013
"It's rare that any course is unanimously regarded as one of the best ever by all athletes, and last year's X Games Aspen slopestyle course seemed to make every snowboarder and skier, man and woman, pretty happy," Gunnarson says. "We shoot for that goal every time, but it's very hard to achieve."