Need a contest-ready superpipe or an innovative slopestyle course? Call Chris “Gunny” Gunnarson and his team at Snow Park Technologies (SPT), the preeminent terrain park and halfpipe builders in the world.
Starting next week, a new reality TV show on the National Geographic Channel called “Mountain Movers” will go behind the scenes of SPT’s legendary builds in eight 60-minute episodes, the first of which premieres Thursday, May 9.
The show was filmed over the course of this past winter, from October through March.
“The show is along the lines of a Deadliest Catch,” says Frank Wells, SPT’s director of business development, who’s also a former professional snowboarder and widely considered the world’s best halfpipe builder. “It shows the down and dirty of what it takes to build something like an X Games or a Dew Tour course. It shows how much planning goes into it, from the snowmaking to the office sketches to the site visits, and all of the work on the mountain.”
Since Gunnarson formed SPT 16 years ago, his Tahoe-based company has been responsible for the most high-profile and ground-breaking courses in skiing and snowboarding, including around 250 competition venues from X Games to the Burton U.S. Open to the Winter Dew Tour.
It’ll be an eye opener to people to see how much work it takes to build these things.
SPT has also built many features for Red Bull, like Simon Dumont’s revolutionary cubed pipe at Squaw Valley, Calif., the lower features of Travis Rice’s Red Bull Ultra Natural course this winter in British Columbia, and Shaun White’s private backcountry halfpipe in Silverton, Colo.
Professional snowboarder and Red Bull athlete Louie Vito, who’s seen a few episodes of “Mountain Movers” already and has competed in SPT-built halfpipes for years, says SPT is far and away the best at what they do.
“Chris Gunnarson and Frank Wells have been around the snowboard world for so long. They’ve been a part of the progression of the sport,” says Vito. “Any kind of variable or curve ball, which happens a lot in winters sports -- from different weather, temperatures, snow textures, broken snowcats -- they’ve dealt with it and they know how to find a way to make it work. That comes from years of experience.”
One of the most praised qualities of SPT is that they’re constantly asking the athletes riding their features for feedback. “SPT is always asking the riders, ‘What can we do to make the pipe better? What did you like about this?’” adds Vito. “When SPT is building a pipe, you know it’s going to be good.”
Featured episodes in the new television series include a behind-the-scenes of the building process for the Red Bull Plaza, an urban-inspired park at Bear Mountain, Calif., and creating a course for a Red Bull Performance Camp, an Olympic training session for elite Red Bull athletes, at Sun Valley, Idaho.
“I think people see what we do and they think there’s a fair amount of work involved, but I don’t think people realize there are nine of us on location for a month or more building out these features,” says SPT’s Wells. “It’ll be an eye opener to people to see how much work it takes to build these things.”
Even Vito admits the show is an eye opener for him.
“As an athlete, you know what goes into making these features, because you see them building it, you seen them blowing snow,” Vito says. “But with the TV show, you see the late hours and the things they do before they even get to the mountain. There’s a whole process that even I didn’t think too much about. You really see how much work the whole crew does.”
Watch the debut episode of “Mountain Movers” on Thursday, May 9 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel.