words: Mary Walsh
photos: E-Stone, Mary Walsh, and Danny Kern
For the past five years, Snowboy Productions’ Holy Bowly, presented by Lib Tech and Monster Energy, as been an event that is marked on calendars early. In only four iterations–two in Japan, one in Utah, and this year in California–the transition-based park that makes up the Holy Bowly has become as iconic as the group of snowboarders that attend the week-long event–from jumpers to street savants and everyone in between, the rolling, tranny course provides ample fuel for creative, innovative, and downright stunning snowboarding. As Bowly wrapped up, we checked in with the man behind this amazing madness, Krush Kulesza, whose efforts and collaborations with different resort crews have brought this amazing experience to life. Here’s what he had to say about Holy Bowly, its time at Mammoth, and where Bowly will go from here.
What made you decide to bring Holy Bowly to Mammoth?
I've got a dream team list of resorts, just iconic places that I thought would be a good setting for it and Mammoth obviously has a great history. So, about two years ago, I started talking with TJ Dawoud [Unbound Director of Parks] about it and he was super excited. They were starting a tranny park, too, so they were kind of already getting the vibe that way. In 2015, we tried to do it in Europe and that just didn't happen, so it was kind of cool taking a two-year reset. The anticipation level got huge and we came back and it's been amazing.
This set up is double the size of the prior Holy Bowly course at Park City. It's absolutely massive.
Some say, Mammoth. (laughs)
Yes, Mammoth! Can you talk a little bit about the planning and build for this year’s event?
Basically it has doubled in size every year. So Happo-One doubled to Tenjin, doubled when we did Park City, and this over doubled than when we did Park City. When I was first talking to TJ, he said that it was going to be in lower South Park. The only time I had been in Mammoth prior to that was the last time Superpark was here and I knew the zone and was like, "Oh that's awesome." I really wanted to do something that had a lot more length. Park City was amazing, but it was a little pinched. It was the best one we'd ever thrown at that time. So, I was just really excited for something that could have really long length, kind of like what we've been doing up at the Bomber Bowl park at Mission Ridge. So, I just have a Field Notes full of all these sketches over the years of just what might work and stuff like that. When you get into the area, if there's a steep part, if it's flat–there's so many things that go into it and I just start pulling from some of those sketches and then working with the crew here to get their input. I don't like it to be like it was drawn on an autocad program and you're just going to force it to work. You have some ideas and just kind of put it out there and let it develop by itself.
Can you talk a little bit about some of the features that you guys pulled inspiration for from the JLA skatepark?
I was down here about six weeks ago doing the final site visits and went over and spent some time at JLA, trying to draw some inspiration from there. We've got three elements that some people might pick up on. The most obvious is the cradle. TJ and the crew brought that one to me. I didn't even have that in the mix and I was like, "Damn if you think we can pull it off, let's do it." They had some pseudo-trade secrets and we got that done. I hadn't ever put a love seat on anything, so we've got the love seat on the bean down there. Zimmerman got a photo of Alo [Alex Lopez] carving over it with his hands behind his back. Just that photo was worth two weeks of working in my opinion. And then the other one is on the bottom righthand side. It's the series of three outs that go into a quarterpipe. That's trying to pay homage to the back wall at JLA where it comes in and out with the rocks and then it goes up to an eight-foot tombstone, but instead of a tombstone, we just put a little hip off the side there. Little things for people. If they get it, that's rad and if they don't, they're just going to enjoy riding it. A little deeper story.
How many hours do you estimate went into building this whole thing?
From the grooming standpoint, we had four guys working 14-16 hours a day,for nine days in machines. Then we were doing about 8 hours a day on hand crew and by the end, it was 13-14 hours a day, basically start as soon as it got light and go until it got dark, just to pull it off. It was quite the undertaking, but it's been amazing.
When I went around and asked people what makes this event so special, obviously everyone's mind is blown by the course—that's the platform that creates what happens here, but the first thing everyone mentioned was the crew and the reunion and seeing and riding with friends—could you give us your take on that?
When I started Snowboy, I had this name, Snowboy Productions, but I didn't know what it was. The first time I went to the Banked Slalom–a long ass time ago… it was year twelve–I spent a week there and there were very few people I knew, but I felt so welcomed and brought in. I don't think I had a conscious thought on it at the time, but it was just noticing that it was the gathering. As long as something's rad, it's in a good place, it's just fun and there's not a whole lot of structure to it, people want to be there. They want to be there so they can catch up with everybody and all that. So, that's been at the core of all the events that I have ever done. Don't over-complicate it, just make it about the gathering and then provide different reasons for it. The Downtown Throwdown can be a gathering for that group of people. But then obviously with the Holy Bowly, I think it casts the biggest net of who can bring something to it. The whole idea is the excuse to mark your calendar and come, and then when you get here it's fucking amazing and you're having a blast. You remember it for the rest of your life.
Holy Bowlt at Mammoth has happened, it's been insane. What do you do next? How do you top this?
It's a good problem to have. I'll give props to TJ on that, because he knows that my whole concept of this is that it always moves around to keep it nice and fresh and to let as many people as possible experience it, but he made some comment to the effect of, "We're going to make it so big and do such an amazing job that there is no other resort that could ever host it to this level." And I was like, "Well, that a pretty damn good thing to say." So, I don't know. I figure I'll probably take about a couple of weeks after this and then my brain will already start kicking into gear. We've got a couple of spots that we've been thinking about. It's going to be a tough one to topm but it's a really awesome problem to have.