In early April of 2009, the greater part of the Nitro Snowboards team assembled at The Canyons resort in Park City, Utah for a private, high-caliber park event—SNOWBOARDER Magazine's fourth of five Super Sessions of the year. According to the dictionary in my computer, the adjective "super" is defined as, "With outstanding or excellent qualities; exceptionally large or powerful; and greater than what is normal." The noun "session" is defined as, "A period of time during which people are involved in doing something together." And that's what snowboarding is all about—excellence and togetherness; I couldn't have said it better myself.
Evan LeFebvre –
A Super Session is in effect a smaller, more select version of Superpark—SNOWBOARDER Magazine's flagship event. It's a more intimate affair than its big brother, and smaller in attendance, but not in impact. The premise of these events is to bring out a relatively small group of riders to a mountain with a top-tier park crew, and once there the focus is on pushing the art and science of designing and constructing snowboard parks and raising the bar of what riders are capable of doing on their snowboards.
At this Super Session we had eighteen invited boarders on the roster. The Nitro constituent was more eclectic than the lineup for that "We Are the World" song, and stacked like a chimney. The super roster consisted of Eero Ettala, Bryan Fox, Austin Smith, Will Tuddenham, Jon Kooley, Markus Keller, Anton Gunnarsson, Yuji Suzuki, Andreas Wiig, Janna Meyen, Ben Bilocq, Knut Eliassen, Joe Mertes, Ricky Tucker, Sébastien Toutant, Cheryl Maas, Jonah Owen, and Tobi Strauss; and then I snuck my boy Cody Rosenthal in there for good measure—a heavy list to say the least.
Coming in as the largest ski and snowboard resort in Utah and one of the five largest in the United States, The Canyons is indeed massive, but it still manages to maintain a hidden-gem feel. The Can has a vertical rise of 3,190 feet and eight mountain peaks, the highest of which tops out at 9,990 feet. There are seventeen lifts in total, which access 163 trails, a pair of well-manicured terrain parks, and a whopping 3,700 rippable acres—there is a lot of shredding to be done. Due to its large size, it rarely gets overcrowded and there's elbow room aplenty. That wouldn't really be an issue for us, though, as it was a private event, so we wouldn't have any random heroes snaking the jumps or weekend warriors riding across landings unseen.
The Canyons is just a short jaunt down the road from the aptly-named park heavyweight, Park City. Since hosting the Olympics in 2002, Park City has invested heavily in its parks and recreation department and has become a major and world-renowned player in the game. But not content with shredding in the shadows, The Canyons has been steadily and notably upping their park ante over the past few years. With the addition of Steve Duke at the helm of the ship, they are edging their way closer to the heels of their rivals.
Duke expands on their advancement in that arena, saying, "A couple of years ago The Canyons was forced to reorganize their parks department. They've had a long history of building parks at the resort—The Canyons actually had one of the first terrain parks in Utah. They've been a leader in the terrain park world in the past, but it was time to revamp the terrain parks department and do it right." An integral part of that restructuring was hiring an experienced park manager with a strong background in building parks. Steve came to The Canyons from nearby Brighton Resort with five years experience, and he's also the co-owner of KAB Rails, to boot—a terrain park design and consulting company based in Salt Lake City. Steve continues, "The other parts of the restructuring were dedicating a full-time staff to maintain the entire park during the day, getting the whole mountain ops department back on board with the terrain park scene, and increasing the new feature budget. With all of the restructuring accomplished, we now have the tools it takes to build fun terrain parks and step up to the bar that has been set by our neighbors."
Our Super Session took place on the upper mountain in the Respect Terrain Park—the big boy park. Steve and his hand-picked crew had put in work, and the run allocated to us was littered with options. From top to bottom, we had a swinging log spine that resembled a crude wooden field goal; a big-ass tranny-finder hip over the park crew shack; a skate-style quarterpipe complete with metal coping; a poppy dual-lipped table with a precisely-placed pine tree smack-dab in the middle of it; a massive corrugated tube set up like a spine; a menacing step-down jump with three different take-offs and a hefty knot-ridden log jam sticking out the front of it; and a perfectly-sculpted 80-foot kicker rounding out the bottom of the course.
There was a recurring theme of timber throughout the course, and as Steve explains, "We'd been playing around with trees all year. We would ride around the mountain chipping, sliding, and jumping over random trees while we were shredding. Whenever we would see a downed tree that could be slid, the handsaw came out and the branches disappeared. So for us, it only seemed fitting to use trees as a focus for the Super Session features." Aside from all the heavy stuff and photo-driven features, the lap was fun as hell, and the more everyone rode through it, the more fun little lines developed. Norwegian-American ripper Knut Eliassen expounds on the setup a bit: "The gnarliest feature was the park cliff with the log jam sticking out of it. The best obstacle was the tabletop with the pine tree sticking out of it—that, and just taking runs through the park, cruising. We made so many little hits and jibs all the way through…so fun!" It's not all about fear factor and meat helicopters, and no matter how good you are at stunt airing, mini-shredding around is still the jam.
On a more serious note, when you do push the limits and start building next-level stuff for riders, the consequences and potential for injuries become heavier with every push of the cat's blade. Unfortunately, while taking his first run into the aforementioned "park cliff" on day one, our friend Joe Mertes landed inches shy of the tranny, compressed on the knuckle, and broke his back. More specifically, he broke two of his vertebrae, sustained a few other minor injuries, and was rushed in an ambulance down to a hospital in Salt Lake City where he was treated immediately. Bryan Fox was up top judging speed and contemplating his first attempt at tackling the beast with Joe right as he dropped in, and as Bryan explains, "That was fucking harsh, man. Watching anyone get hurt blows; watching a good friend get hurt is fucked. That really bummed me out. We were both standing there going, 'Is this enough speed?' Joe sent it, and he paid the price. He was probably thinking, 'Fuck it. Get some!'" After spending the spring on his back, Joe is healing up nicely, and will have already been snowboarding by the time this hits the printer.
Accidents will and do happen, but on the whole, everyone made it out in one piece and our time at The Canyons for this Super Session was fun and well spent, and some really extraordinary stuff went down as well, the most notable of which would inarguably be young up-and-comer Sébastien Toutant's impressive aerial assault. Watching him pick apart the course was like watching a real live video game; everything landed perfectly. The most unanimously outstanding move was a real doozy—a switch frontside double cork 1260 across the 80-foot expanse of the bottom kicker. I'm not sure if that one has been done before or not, but it's the first time I've seen that many things happen consecutively while someone was flying through the air on their snowboard. That shit was crazy.
There's no doubt that jumps will get bigger and more life-threatening, and there's no doubt that riders will send themselves across them in attempts at adrenaline and glory. There's also no doubt that as long as we're able, we'll be there along the way doing whatever we can to foster the progression of snowboarding by putting the right people together in the right places and enabling them to do what they do best, be it building, boarding, or documenting.
Many thanks to Steve Duke, Dan Schoppee, Eric Hansen, Jerry Romney, Tony Hagadorn, Zack Argyle, Mary Ellen Jones, Jonny Hall, Andy Marston, Daryle Young, Dan Black, Tim Semple, and everyone else at The Canyons for making this session as super as it was.
This content was originally published in the December 2009 issue.