Here at Laax we recently met up with the resort's Freestyle park designer and manager Roger Heid, who is responsible for not only the detailed planning and construction of all the resort's jumps, jibs and halfpipe, but also for this year's MINI Creative Use of Space feature and the ultimate safety of the riders that take to his courses. We talked about what it takes to deliver this scale of big mountain freestyle architecture — read the interview below.
Hi Roger, thanks for taking the time to chat. What's your job here all about?
Well as Park Manager, I build the team that will plan and construct the parks and pipe here at Laax.
How many people in your crew?
We are now like around 14 people, including the cat drivers and everything.
How many snowcats do you guys have? Do you use a different cat for the halfpipe than for shaping the slopestyle course?
Yeah for sure, we have the pipe dragon — the monster — which is doing the shape with a winch cat supporting. Then we've got two park bullies for the park, grooming it.
Tell us a little bit about the pipe - It's huge.
Yeah I mean, the pipe, it's huge. No really, it's a bit bigger than in other years actually, because we're trying to get more out of it, to make it a little bit bigger, we're cutting it two different steps.
It looks sweet now, but hopefully it gets a bit colder for the riders. It's good for the riders when it's colder, so they can see the edge better, get more speed for going high.
Laax local, 5-year old, and basically most amazing person on the planet: Siria Poltera drops in to the pipe.
Is it a big challenge to cut a superpipe and slopestyle course that all three groups will use in the competition? Men, Women and the youngsters?
Not really, in the end each person can just do their tricks...
...some, yeah just go much bigger than others.
This year's youngest competitor: 5-year-old Siria Poltera.
How did you approach the slopestyle course this year? It's a totally different layout and in a different spot than last year.
I mean the idea was basically we wanna make the jumps better, and the kickers, get them safer and better — the other area was a bit in the shadow, which was hard, and the jumps we couldn't move around like we really wanted to because of the earth in that area, we needed to bring too much snow to get the jumps the way we really wanted them to be.
We changed the location to where we were free to build what we want where we want.
What makes a safe jump?
It needs a long tranny, a good flat, and you really need the right place to build.
How does it all start? Multiple drafts and drawings?
First thing is to go up in summer to check the area, where are the jumps gonna be, where will the snow build in certain places. Then we do a drawing, the drawing goes to Burton and we check it with Burton together.
We work up here all summer, fixing the rails and shit, fixing up the cats, and during this time we're always planning a bit. But mostly it changes anyways. (Laughs) The winter, you know? This winter was big snow, so we could really go wherever we want and use as much snow as we want.
So in the end, even though the features are man made, what the winter brings is a big influence on the final product.
Year for sure, for sure. Usually snowmaking is an important thing, but this year we didn't need it — the courses are all natural snow.
BEO 2012 Creative Use of Space Slopestyle Winner Jamie Anderson.
The Vision for the MINI Creative Use of Space Feature?
Our MINI Feature is inspired by the snowboarding that is happening on the streets, at the same time, the MINI Feature is designed to give the riders great freedom in choosing their line.
Are you from around here?
I'm living in Flims.
What's the best part about LAAX?
It's the whole thing coming together, riding down Curnius from the No Name, everything — the atmosphere, there's a lot of good people around. I think that's basically it.