TO GET BIG AIR, YOU (LITERALLY) NEED TO MOVE MOUNTAINS. MEET THE GUYS WHO DO IT.
PRESS RELEASE: (WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 23, 2013) When snowboarding’s super stars like Shaun White, Louie Vito and Mark McMorris perform insane freestyle tricks in the halfpipe, it’s a soaring, exploding sight to behold. One crew is responsible for designing and building these progressive snow sport venues that allow them to take flight. Chris “Gunny” Gunnarson and his team at Snow Park Technologies (SPT) build some of the most innovative projects on snow.
Mountain Movers, National Geographic Channel’s new adrenaline-packed series presented by Chevrolet, goes behind the scenes to show viewers how these world-class, high-intensity snow competition courses are constructed. Starting Thursday, May 9, at 8 p.m. ET/PT, bundle up as the hazards of winter weather, avalanches, heavy machinery and big personalities present constant challenges. But when metal, wood and snow are finally transformed into something Mother Nature never dreamed of … it’s epic. (Visit www.natgeotv.com and follow us at twitter.com/NGC_PR.)
Gunny is the creator and owner of SPT and an iconic, highly respected name in the snow sports industry. At a young age, he became interested in the infrastructure necessary to fuel his snow sport passion and was fascinated with the concept of moving tons of snow to create winter works of art. In the 16 years since SPT was born, Gunnarson and his crew have designed and built more than 250 competition courses, including all of the Winter X Games in the United States and Europe, the Burton U.S. Open and the Winter Dew Tour. When reality TV producer Jason Carbone met Gunny, he knew that he had to capture the real-life drama of his world, battling the most extreme weather that Mother Nature can dish out to create the pulse-pounding competition courses for the world’s most popular action sports events.
Working in the most remote locations under extreme conditions, Mountain Movers profiles the SPT crew’s every move — from battling with avalanche control to building a halfpipe in blizzard conditions. In each episode, we’ll see passion and craftsmanship at work. No one understands how to move and shape snow like this team. Meet Gunny’s all-star cast of snow-business veterans at SPT: Mike Bettera (Director of Operations, SPT Parks). A “mediator” who works with resorts to help them stay up-to-date and relevant within the industry by creating new and innovative programs and projects.
Mike Binnell (Director of Logistics). Gunny’s original partner in creating SPT. He is a builder at heart who knows how to run every piece of machinery used on the builds.
Chris Castaneda (Director of Operations, X Games). Essentially Gunny’s protégé, he has worked with Gunny since his teen years. He is an organized, calculated manager of time and personnel with a razor-sharp, dry sense of humor.
Sarah Castaneda (General Manager, a.k.a. Den Mother). A multitasking, “bad-ass sweetheart” whose ongoing task is to keep the guys focused on their jobs. Josh Chauvet (Director of Resort Programs). A former competitive snowboarder and returnee to SPT who manages the relationships with resorts and coordinates the multiple sponsored events run by SPT.
Elliot Cone (Project Manager). A self-described resident alpha hillbilly of the group who “bleeds diesel.” His upcoming assignment is the Dew Tour and the U.S. Open. Tyrone Coyne (Shop Supervisor/Lead Fabricator). A self-taught builder and SPT’s lead fabricator of jib features, which he makes from scratch for each individual project.
Aaron Dettling (Designer/Project Manager). The only man on the mountain with a calculator in one hand and a computer in the other, he’s the detail-driven, engineer-minded member of the crew. Corley Howard (Project Manager). A 19-year veteran snowcat operator, as well as a former X Games athlete and skicross champion. Sean Picard (Shop Assistant). Works under Tyrone to cut, chop, tack, fit and weld steel parts together to create some never-been-attempted jib features.
Frank Wells (Project Manager/Director of Business Development). An former professional snowboarder and the best halfpipe builder in the world. Frank is also SPT’s ambassador to the action sports business.
“Stairway to Hell”
Thursday, May 9, at 8 p.m. ET/PT
SPT will be designing the halfpipe and slope-style courses for this premiere event of the winter season. Their main focus will be creating a massive, Mountain Dew signature staircase and rail feature that will contain the biggest wall they’ve ever built. Undoubtedly, with a feature of this size, problems arise. Because of the feature’s size and weight, it’s going to be extremely expensive to ship. They must come up with a new design. Gunny decides to have Aaron, his carpenter, build the stairs on the mountain, out of wood. This is the first time that Aaron has ever had to build a complete staircase on snow, leaving the window open for complete disaster, whether it is manmade or caused by Mother Nature. This build will be a challenge for everyone. Not only will they have to push to build a course in a unique fashion, but they also will have to contend with equipment failures, weather delays and the sheer size of the wall and rail features.
Thursday, May 16, at 8 p.m. ET/PT
SPT’s next major project: an Olympic training camp for elite Red Bull athletes. While warm temperatures make it a high-risk project, Gunny is determined to get the job done, sending SPT’s “Jr. Meteorologist” Frank to lead the charge. But when Frank and lead snowcat operator Corley arrive at Sun Valley, they are shocked by the lack of snow on the ground, and are forced to redesign the course before Red Bull pulls the plug on the project. Corley and Frank hit the ground running and make some serious progress pushing snow, until Corley faces a potentially fatal accident with his machinery.
Narrowly escaping a disaster, Corley continues to build the massive 65-foot jump. But just as the temperatures drop and the SPT crew finally make headway with the jump, Mother Nature strikes again, sending an unprecedented rainstorm on a course to destroy their progress. Already behind schedule, the SPT crew must wait out the bad weather before they can get back on the snow.
“The Big Time”
Thursday, May 23, at 8 p.m. ET/PT
It’s time for SPT’s most stressful, most anticipated event of the year: the ESPN X Games in Aspen, Colo. As the original course designer for all 17 years of the ESPN Winter X Games, Gunny still feels the pressure to build the biggest, most intense courses the industry has ever seen. Gunny has passed the torch to his young protégé Chris Castaneda to lead the crew from SPT, who will have to manage the diverse SPT personalities of veterans Mike Binnell and Aaron Dettling, as well as rookie Landon Taylor. Extremely cold weather, malfunctioning equipment and tight deadlines quickly pile on to the intensity and difficulty of this worldwide televised live event. With the highest-caliber athletes waiting and the whole planet watching, SPT will have their work cut out for them.
“All Hands on Deck”
Thursday, May 30, at 8 p.m. ET/PT
The X-Games are Gunny and the SPT team’s Super Bowl of any season. One-hundred and fifty of the world’s best snow sports athletes compete in it and it is broadcast to the world live. This year, Tyrone is in charge of building one of the biggest features that SPT has ever been charged with doing: the snowboard street wall. Chris heads up the crew in Aspen and Kurt Eppler takes on the snowmobile course, which requires building two courses within the same location. Frank is in his element working on the pipe and Aaron starts construction of Snowboard Street. But Corley has been relegated to helping out everyone else when needed. The challenges ensue, including bad weather and equipment breakdown, as well as a ticking clock from the moment they begin fabrication until the last athlete crosses the finish line.
“Bear of a Job”
Thursday, June 6, at 8 p.m. ET/PT
Gunny heads back to Bear Mountain, Calif., the resort where SPT got its start 20 years prior. Here, with co-founder Mike Binnell, they’ll create a high-tech “mini city” on the last stop of the Red Bull Urban Plaza course. The plan is to start with a 40-foot long stairless feature that will lead to a shipping container that has been transformed to look like the facade of a police station, as well as some “fastplanters.”
A severed cop car will be attached to the side of the wall, which will stick out enough to create a rideable surface. SPT pairs with GoPro to install cameras to allow the riders to watch the moves they had just performed at the plaza, a technology component that SPT hasn’t done before. There’s just four days to get it complete.
Thursday, June 13, at 8 p.m. ET/PT
At only 22 years old, Jamie Anderson is a six-time Winter X gold medalist making a huge impact on the slopestyle community. This young female phenom consistently sticks runs on some of the hardest courses in the world. For this build, Gunny will create a mega jump in the backcountry of the property at Sierra-at-Tahoe exclusively for Anderson. But the massive size of this jump isn’t the craziest part of his vision — the plan is to have Jamie fly over a 65-foot wide asphalt road! If completed, Jamie will be the first female to land a jump of this magnitude, and if she succeeds there’s no doubt she will go down in history. With Mike Binnell as project manager, Gunny has also assigned Mike Bettera to work with the crew. However, what appears to be a basic jump turns out to be a major ordeal for the SPT team once the problems begin to mount.
Thursday, June 20, at 8 p.m. ET/PT
Gunny and the team have been granted the prestigious U.S. Open course — snowboarding’s longestrunning major contest. Set in Vermont for the past 30 years, this season it’s in Vail, Colo., for the first time. Gunny will enlist Elliot and Aaron to build a unique slopestyle course and retouch the signature halfpipe. The course will contain 13 different steel features, and one mess up in the jib factory could throw the entire schedule on the mountain into a tailspin. SPT feels that its run design feature could be just the thing that will help this year’s U.S. Open stand out above the rest. But a huge volume of snow is needed for the mega-features being built, and the uneven topography and abnormally steep ending to the slopestyle course make the build highly complex and risky.
Thursday, June 27, at 8 p.m. ET/PT
Gunny uses a job with Oakley to create a healthy competition between his employees. He selects two crews of three from the ranks of SPT to build feature setups simultaneously at two different resorts in the north Lake Tahoe area; one feature setup will be built at Squaw Valley and the other at Alpine Meadows. Gunny is counting on his guys to rise to the occasion, take ownership of the build and deliver a high-quality, professional set of features at each resort. The Oakley team riders and Gunny himself will judge these custom features on merit, design, efficiency and original character. Gunny sets forth detailed perimeters to ensure that this five-day test delivers the best product possible. But with a tight deadline, weather issues and rising tensions between cast members, this fun idea proves to be no easy ride.
Mountain Movers is produced by Good Clean Fun for the National Geographic Channel. For Good Clean Fun, Jason Carbone and Sarah Kane are executive producers. For National Geographic Channel, executive producer is Michael Mavretic, senior vice president of programming and development is Kevin Mohs, executive vice president of programming is Michael Cascio and president is Howard T. Owens. General Motors is a co-producing partner and Chevrolet is the lead media partner of Mountain Movers.