Picture a 70 % gradient, 150,000 m³ snow, the winch cable disappearing far above behind the snow-capped peak and a PistenBully tirelessly making its way upwards. A long and laborious process, grooming the landing for a gigantic kicker. A process that symbolizes the developments in freestyle winter sports. The era of a couple of "ramps" being groomed amateurishly by hand are long over. Nowadays freestyle projects easily stand on par with established major events, such as the Four Hills Tournament. Halfpipe, Slopestyle, Big Air. Ski Cross and Snowboard Cross have now become Olympic disciplines, and the preparations for them are just as painstaking as those for the Alpine Ski or Ski Jump world cups. We want to take you on a journey to demonstrate the magnitude of the preparations for a freestyle event at the top level of winter sports. A journey that began months ago: the joint road of our partners Schneestern and PistenBully to PyeongChang, South Korea.
New winter sport challenge: Slopestyle
Each winter sport discipline is a unique experience, regardless of the sport involved. Slopestyle has to be one of the most spectacular disciplines though. Gigantic features, with snowboarders and freeskiers spinning and flipping more than 20 meters above them. It's easy to see why such a competition set-up doesn't just get "stamped out". Based on experiences in Sochi, PyeongChang will be the first time an external specialist has been brought in. Accordingly, the FIS decided to issue an international tender for the creative design, planning and construction of the Slopestyle World Cup 2016.
PyeongChang calls, Schneestern and PistenBully answer
This is precisely where our partner Schneestern comes into play. Nine firms, including Schneestern, were asked to express their interest in this challenge. Each crew had to outline their previous projects and references to show that they were in a position to deliver such a high-end project. Following the first round of interviews, the number of candidates was reduced to five. These companies then went onto the next round, and the elite of the snow park design world were then invited to South Korea in September 2015 for a site visit. The vision and professionalism of our partner impressed the committee, and Schneestern won the contract in October 2015 to plan and construct the official test event, the Slopestyle World Cup 2016 in PyeongChang. The next round, the actual preparations for the World Cup 2016, followed swiftly after successful conclusion of the tender process. A total of 13 special obstacles were produced and then shipped to Korea. Boxes and rails were by no means the only things that the snow park designers needed on-site though, in order to realise the Slopestyle course. Their most important tools, PistenBully with Park features and SNOWsat support, stood ready to shift around 150,000 m³ snow and model it into precise forms.
SNOWsat means every snow crystal is exactly where it should be
With everything in place, work could commence: cutting landings, inruns and tables for the various lines, grooming features and installing the rails and boxes "Made in Germany". A course that began as a vision in September 2015 and was made into the exact image of its design in 14 days in February 2016. This was certainly down to the extensive experience of park designer Dirk Scheumann and his seven-strong shaping crew, but also relied on the support of SNOWsat, which enabled the PistenBully to put each individual snow crystal in exactly the right place. A digital terrain and park model created especially for the event was used to ensure that snow positioning was as eco-friendly and economical as possible, and will also facilitate precise reproduction for future events. On the PistenBully-YouTube-Channel you see details of the work and final results (Slopestyle@PyeongChang).
Setup and competition on a world class level by now
The result is a perfectly conceived Slopestyle course, ideally tailored to the requirements of an event at the world class level and with the right flow for the athletes, who come from the world elite of freestylers. With a field that includes superstars Joss Christensen, Jesper Tjäder, Nicholas Goepper, Josiah Wells, Henrik Harlaut, Lisa Zimmermann, Silje Norendal, Billy Morgan, Logan Devin, Jamie Anderson and some more, it was clear that "riders" at this level would need a set-up that meets their requirements to the full. From 16th to 21st February, the athletes have had five days to put the course thoroughly to the test. An extremely stylish "stress test", which, considering the overwhelmingly positive feedback, was passed more than successfully. Already a few days before the World Cup, when athletes, coaches, photographers and media published the first pictures of the course, especially in the social media, the reactions were all enthusiasm and praise. With creativity, professionalism and the understanding of what athletes in the modern slope style need, Schneestern has set higher standards for future contests. The slope style course of Pyeongchang may also be referred to as a "game changer", as it has shaped the picture of professional slope style contests. This result would not have been possible without the reliable "tools" of the Kässbohrer Geländefahrzeug AG and an interlocked cooperation with the FIS.
Good job! To be continued.