Still Super after all these years
Pat Bridges on the annual 'Summit of freestyle snowboarding.'
While mountains across the country are closing down, thing are really heating up down in So Cal. Superpark 14 is in full swing at Mammoth Mountain and with sunny skies and 20 feet of snowpack it's proving to be another one for the record books. Although the week started off slow because of high winds Snowboarder Magazine's Editor-in-Chief Pat Bridges said everyone's off and ripping now. As you read this dudes are chucking themselves over the 102-foot table, out of the 35-foot quarterpipe and otherwise doing whatever they can to progress snowboarding.
For the old-guard, Superpark remains the place to prove their prowess. For the up-and-comers, it's where you make a name for yourself. Bridges has been at 11 Superparks and we caught up with him about the phenomenen that is Superpark and how things are looking at Mammoth this year.
ESPN.com: How are things shaping up this year?
Pat Bridges: Every single Superpark is a challenge. It's a little bittersweet when we have a good Superpark, because we know that it's going to make it that much harder to make it better the next year. It's an evolution and we've got all the right tools to make it great. It's windy though, and that's what's making it a little difficult. We got lucky last year with not having any wind because Mammoth's known for having high winds. That said, we do what we can to bring in the best of the best for park builders. This year we brought in Pat Malendoski from High Cascade [Snowboard Camp] and Planet Snow and it's looking, um ... pretty super.
Besides Pat and Planet Snow who else is building this year?
Well, Loon Mountain -- last year they were the rookie team -- they're back here for a second year. And then we have the home team, Mammoth and the Unbound [Park] staff. So it's Mammoth, Loon and High Cascade/Planet Snow, that's our building crew. We've got a ton of talent. We've got Krush Kulesza from Summit at Snoqualmie, he's here on the sidelines. We've got Jeremy Cooper from Park City. We've got Clayton Shoemaker from Bear Mountain -- they wanted to be in the mix, but they've had a couple of late season projects at Bear and just couldn't swing it. We've got a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but we're making some good pies.
How long were those guys building for this year's event?
Anywhere between six days and a week.
Mammoth has 20-plus feet of snow, which must make for ideal pushing for those guys right?
Yeah, there's so much snow that it created opportunities that you don't get in many places, even in places that get a lot of snow. You still need a lot of snow to get these opportunities. One thing we've got is this thing I call the whack-a-mole, where it's a rhythm section that's built into the snow. Instead of building up like a traditional jump, these guys dug into the snowpack. So riders drop down eight feet and hit a table top, land and drop back down. The lips are flush with the level of the run. That's a unique feature that I've wanted to have at Superpark for years now and this year we had the mountain and the snowpack to make it happen.
How much of the design for Superpark is yours and how much of it is left up to the builders?
You know, I come up with a concept and they tweak it, or they come up with a concept and I tweak it, so it's collaboration for the most part. Last year the transfers were a bit of my idea and they kinda ran with it and made it better. And this year Loon had some features I was stoked on, but added a few redirects. But, for the most part it's the builders who come up with the stuff, then I come up with where I think the best flow for the park would be and we place the features based on that.
And you leave some room for rider input as well, right?
Oh yeah, even before the features are done we bring in guys like Lonnie Kauk, Scott Blum and Pat Moore and they ride through and they look at the stuff and give us a thumbs up or thumbs down. For the most part we get thumbs up. We definitely get the rider input before we go live and we tweak features based upon their input during the event.
What've you seen change most over the years?
Every year the terrain evolves and my involvement evolves. We've really learned to work on terrain management, making good runways, keeping it all maintained, as well as how you flow the park. We've got to keep the runways safe. You don't want to flow traffic in and out of runways.
And a big thing too is that it's not all super. A lot of it is just more creative features that are fun. It's not all 100-footers everywhere you go. There's a lot of stuff riders can pick apart, lap and have fun with their friends on. That's a big initiative for us because a lot of times riders come and they don't want to send it right away, so we want to give them something to do and warm up on. A lot of people think it's all gnarly jumps and stuff, but it's not quite that anymore, so that's been a big evolution.
And as far as the riders, the real interesting thing is that we're dealing with the park generation, those kids who've grown up lapping perfect parks. Their parents let them skip school to ride these perfect parks all day. Slayers like Sage Kotsenburg, who, when he was 14 did his first 1080 at Superpark. And you see guys like Tyler Flanagan, Mark McMorris and Sebastien Toutant, those guys are so on it, they're so efficient, so quick and it ain't no thing for them. So we're seeing this generation of park riders come up that are really young. In addition to the other factors that contributed to their progression, they watched riders like Scotty Lago, Pat Moore and Lonnie Kauk who were all business at Superpark. When they're first exposed to the Superpark environment -- like Tyler Flanagan when he was 13 at Superpark in Keystone -- it really resonates and sinks in with these guys. You can really see the impact of it, not just at Superpark, but also in events like the Dew Tours, X Games and such.
As a fan of snowboarding, it has to be really affirming to be able to have an event that clearly progresses snowboarding?
We obviously want to make our mark on the sport and be opinion leaders and steer the ship as stewards. On the flip side, we really just want to have this high-profile event that's not a contest. For the most part it's a summit of freestyle snowboarding, where people get together who normally wouldn't be on the same crew, or people who don't compete are standing at the top of a jump next to people that do compete. That gives all these people the opportunity to get together, ride at their own pace, not stress, and get to know each other outside of the contest or filming arena and that's really a big initiative for us. To be like, 'Hey, it's not all contests, contests, contests. You know that guy next to you, he's a pro snowboarder too, he loves snowboarding as much as you and you should realize that.' This is where you can.
Yeah, considering all the people that show up so late in the season, when bodies and minds are pretty beat down, it's obvious you guys have created that kind of event.
It gives people a great way to end the season. If we tried to do it in January or February, there's a contest every weekend, or if even if we tried to do it a month earlier we'd be competing with people filming up in Alaska. But, we're the only show in town this time of year. It's great that it's sunny, it's great that it's at a central location, it's great that we have access to the cats and the terrain to actually pull off the biggest event of the year.
It obviously takes a lot of work. Who's been instrumental in making it all happen this year?
Mammoth deserves a lot of thanks for all their hard work and Gatorade, too, for all their support. But really there wouldn't be a Superpark if it wasn't for the riders, so that's who this should really be dedicated too.
And have you put down a handplant on that 35-foot quarter yet? I bet you've been eyeing that thing up?
[Laughs] Ah, no, no no. I'll wait until Friday afternoon or Saturday to get after it. I'll let things die down a little then I'll have my fun.
Click here for all the Snowboarder Magazine Superpark 14 coverage.