10/10/2013 | by Sam McMahon | 6 comments
Stepping into the future
The blueprint consisted of a steep take-off, a steep landing, and a curved deck which would follow the trajectory of the rider. This would maximize the airtime.
By summer of 2005, David Benedek and his riding buddy Christoph Weber had carried out two failed attempts to build a park-style jump that would imitate the hang time of the natural kicker they’d found in Austria (see previous page). These were documented in the film David made with his brother Boris, 91 Words for Snow, which was given away on the front of various snowboard magazines throughout the world (including issue 63 of Whitelines).
The blueprint they were attempting to realise consisted of a steep take-off, a steep landing, and a curved deck in between which would follow the trajectory of the rider – rather than a conventional flat tabletop. This would maximize the airtime and do away with the usual sharp knuckle that is responsible for most of the danger in park riding. Shaping such a jump proved harder than anticipated. In Whistler, Benedek had found a crew of park builders that were willing to lend him all the necessary machinery and expertise, and he’d scouted a seemingly perfect spot over a natural hillock. After a solid week of moving snow and shaping, however, he discovered that the run-in was nowhere near fast enough to clear it. Another three days of re-shaping brought no more luck; it appeared the boys had bitten off more than they could chew. “I was going 124 kmph (77mph) which is the fastest I’ve ever been in my life, – and it was in the run-up to a jump. That’s just too much.”
As disheartened as they were, there was good reason to keep the idea alive. If successful, the added airtime – and the lack of consequences should you come up short – would grant riders like Benedek the opportunity to try new tricks. With this in mind the boys went back to the drawing board, returning that summer to the Zugspitze glacier, at the summit of Germany’s highest peak. “From Whistler we’d learned that you have to stay in a human scale: less distance but more in-run,” says Benedek. He and his team – including Christoph Weber and Marco Grilc – set about building a more modest version of their step-over design, and sure enough an epic session unfolded, the highlight of which was Benedek landing the world’s first double cork 1080 (pictured).
Following the success of Zugspitze, Benedek and Weber tried to apply their design to the big air contest format, building another step-over in Garmisch and inviting a handful of the world’s best riders to hit it. This progressive ‘Gap Session’ event was where Travis Rice perfected his double backflip late backside 180s, with which he later claimed victory at the Munich Air & Style. Further successful step-overs have been built, including one in the Pyrenean resort of Les Cauterets in 2008, where Benedek again pushed the boundary with three brand new tricks – a switch double cork, a switch backside rodeo 900 and a switch backside rodeo 1260.
Looking at the step-over concept within the larger context of kicker history, it seems that balls – even talent – will only get you so far. As dramatic as Hemsedal and Chad’s Gap were, for instance, the potential for progression is limited by simple physics. When it comes to developing that science and taking kicker riding into the future, Zugspitze proved that you have to engage your brain too. As Christoph Weber put it, “I think we came pretty close to the perfect kicker.”