SNOWBOARDER Mag’s creative director, Pat Bridges, on Superpark, The Launch, and the progression
Superpark's history dates back 19 years as one of snowboarding’s most coveted events. It's not a contest. There is no prize money. But hundreds of riders, photographers, filmers, resorts, and brands come to Superpark week to witness progression in its most raw form. And if, as a rider, you get an invite from Pat Bridges, creative director of SNOWBOARDER Mag, that golden ticket could be the catalyst to a lasting career. Superpark has called home to several resorts throughout the West coast, having history at Mt. Bachelor, Mammoth, and even Mt. Hood; but never has this nostalgic session come East, until now.
"We know firsthand what can be done with some ingenuity and the right partners," explained Bridges on moving Superpark to the East Coast. "Seven Springs and the management at the resort have been involved with Superpark or The Launch in one form or another at least half a dozen times. When we started talking to them about Superpark there was no ambiguity."
Superpark’s evolution has also introduced a new level of attraction for larger, more "mainstream" brands to have an authentic voice amongst an intimate family of snowboarders. "For brands like Nexen Tires [Superpark 19's presenting sponsor], I think it is about acknowledging the lifestyle and saying "Hey we think snowboarding is cool," supports Bridges on bringing a non-traditional voice to an event like Superpark. “If they can sell tires that get people to the slopes while also supporting the events that keep riders inspired and entertained until they can get back to the slopes, then it comes full circle.”
Superpark's success spurred MS Superpark and The Launch — MS Superpark providing a platform for the ladies, and The Launch giving that next generation of talent a chance to session a high profile event. "Is the thirteen-year-old sending a 360 on an eighty footer still spectacular? Hell yeah. Therefore we created The Launch to shine the spotlight today on the legends of tomorrow."
We had the pleasure of talking with Pat Bridges to discuss the excogitate nature of Superpark and The Launch, their effects on the younger generation of snowboarding, and the sponsorship behind supporting an event that, ultimately and genuinely, supports the progression of the sport.
Superpark 19 | Seven Springs
All photos property of Snowboarder Mag
How was it bringing SuperPark out East for the first time in its 19-year history? How was the vibe different from the West coast?
Riding back East has a much more of a "blue collar" vibe. These snowboarders hit the slopes rain or shine, ice or slush and occasionally are graced with powder. Unfortunately, these same conditions that have spawned fearless icons like Pat Moore and Scotty Lago are the same circumstances that make it difficult to hold events back East. Yet it isn't impossible.
Given the sub-par snow depths on the West coast SNOWBOARDER would be assholes if we didn't at least explore the possibility of migrating Superpark to the East. After all, 90% of our staff including myself are from New England and at least 25% of our audience resides East of the Mississippi.
We know firsthand what can be done with some ingenuity and the right partners. Seven Springs and the management at the resort have been involved with Superpark or The Launch in one form or another at least half a dozen times. When we started talking to them about Superpark there was no ambiguity. They were gung-ho from the get go. This isn't to say that it was easy for Seven Springs to make this happen. This is the first Superpark in 19 years that was constructed entirely of man-made snow which is no small feat. Seven Springs hammered the hill with millions of gallons of water for over a month straight to create fifty foot tall drifts. This afforded their terrain park builders as well as those visiting from Bear and Boreal more than enough material to build one of the best Superparks yet.
How has Superpark matured throughout the years?
Superpark began strictly as a vehicle to create exclusive editorial content for the print magazine. Within a few years, the progressive imagery was paired with a desire to elevate what could be achieved in the realm of terrain park building and highlighting those cat drivers who are really pushing the snow moving craft. As Superpark has grown so has our need to focus on slope maintenance techniques in order to accommodate 300+ riders lapping for 10 hours a day for five days straight in some of the most sun-baked and slush producing conditions ever. Keeping the sessions productive and, above all else, safe, is a major focus.
From a media standpoint we no longer even bother with exclusivity and instead take pride in Superpark being the most exposed event in snowboarding. Sure the X Games and Olympics get more non-endemic eyeballs in the aggregate but when it comes to what real riders are watching nothing else comes close to Superpark. As the amount of participating riders and media has grown Superpark has also taken on the role of being an "ender sender" or more aptly a summit of freestyle snowboarding where an eclectic cadre of our sports elite gather to cap off and celebrate another season in the books.
Nexen Tire was the presenting sponsor for SuperPark 19. From your perspective, why do non-endemic sponsors want a piece of the Super Park experience?
It is interesting that Nexen is categorized as a non-endemic. A person can snowboard without goggles, without gloves, without a hat, but how many people can go snowboarding without tires? I am being serious. If the car you drove, bus you caught a ride in, or even the landing gear on the plane you flew to your destination didn't have wheels none of us would even make it to the hill. For brands like Nexen I think it is about acknowledging the lifestyle and saying "Hey we think snowboarding is cool."
If they can sell tires that get people to the slopes while also supporting the events that keep riders inspired and entertained until they can get back to the slopes, then it comes full circle.
Why was The Launch created?
After SNOWBOARDER created MS Superpark Barrett Christy reached out to me suggesting we do a similar offshoot of Superpark tailored to the next generation of rulers for the same reasons. The fact of the matter is that SNOWBOARDER can only highlight a fraction of the Superpark participants. Oftentimes the 13 year old doing a three sixty on an eighty foot tabletop gets outshined by the established pro chucking a triple corks. Is the thirteen year old sending a 360 on an eighty footer still spectacular. Hell yeah. Therefore we created The Launch to shine the spotlight today on the legends of tomorrow while doing so in a non competitive atmosphere that emphasizes fun and camaraderie. The success of The Launch is perhaps best highlighted by the fact that three of the four Olympic Freestyle Snowboarding gold medallists in Sochi last year, Sage Kotsenberg, Kaitlyn Farrington and Jamie Anderson attended the very first Launch a decade ago at Northstar-At-Tahoe.
Can you touch on the evolution of branding and sponsorship at The Launch this year? Why is it cool for brands to specifically target this younger talent?
I think for a brand like Volcom [the presenting sponsor], The Launch is more about the line to the bottom than the bottom line. They've always made a place for the groms in their lineup.
With The Launch, Volcom does gain a ton of exposure but they do so in a way that is less structured, forced and generic than having a logo imposed on national TV. The Launch is about the progression that can happen when a bunch of friends let loose in a sick park with no limits. You can set your own line and be the judge of your own style. Had this event been around a decade earlier I bet Janna Meyen, Jeff Anderson, Ben Ashburner, Jason Toth, Jamie Heinrich, Billy Anderson, Ryan Immegart and Joel Mahaffey would've been filming for The Garden at The Launch.
It goes without saying that it’s important for the longevity of the sport to keep the younger generation of riders engaged, but can you touch on this? How does it come full circle?
Let me start by saying that every age demographic is important to the longevity of snowboarding. The more enthused we keep the older demo the more likely they are to pass along their love of snowboarding to the next. As for the youth I'd like to quote Stevie Caballero and The Faction and say "let's make them understand that the kids, they are the future." Snowboarding is no different than any other facet of commerce where a lifelong consumer is more valuable over time than one with a limited window of access. That said, it is all important because a kid only remains a lifelong snowboarder if the sport stays relevant to them for the long term and that means catering to them all with media, experiences and products that suit there evolving sensibilities.
I've even proposed having a Superpark type event for legends like Todd Richards and Terry Kidwell to come together and throw methods and talk shit about the salad days. Maybe call it "Early Supper Park" or something like that.
Bear Mountain Zone at Superpark 19 presented by Nexen Tires
For more videos from Superpark 19, click the link to Snowboarder.com