Detail im Crystal Ground | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen

01 Apr. 2016 · Winter Activities
Carolin Schratt

The Shaper Boss

The story of how month after month the head shaper at the Crystal Ground Snow Park creates from the snow one of the most popular freestyle park in the region ...

The park is buzzing. A good two dozen snowboarders and freestyle skiers have come today to inaugurate the obstacles. Hiphop beats reverberate across the park. Two days previously, there prevailed a sense of disarray when all you could hear was the sound of the piste grooming machines. An experienced team was sitting in the driver’s cabin: Headshaper Roland and Pistenbully driver Manuel. You can see the two of them smoothing, recirculating and piling up the snow for hours on end until they form the shapes that the head shaper has conceived in his head. All this is achieved without measuring sticks and computer-assisted planning.

Meanwhile, further up the slopes three young men are busy using more ‘delicate’ shaping tools such as pickaxes, wrenches, shovels and rakes. They work on one obstacle after the other. However, not all of them have been completely rebuilt. In fact, Roland’s objective is to ensure that when rebuilding the obstacles the designs are never repeated. Yet, he also needs to ask himself how he can create something new without tearing away everything that stood there before. For example, only half of the corner was taken away. ‘We are going to put rails on it. And if a part of the kicker remains, you can also enjoy a bit of air time.’ Cool. 

Three Cheers for Four Lines

Headshaper des Crystal Ground | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen

The shredders find a virtually virgin snow park for events such as the Atagge Demo. A number of difficult obstacles are installed for this event and even the best freestylers have to muster up the courage to tackle them. Two weeks is enough to set up the course from scratch and to ensure that it also suits the girls-only Jib Days sessions.

One of the challenges of shaping the course is the need to make the very most of the relatively small area of space. This does not mean just one or two lines, but in fact four! With quite a few opportunities to intersect the course. Word has now spread about the many creative and unconventional elements at the Crystal Ground Park. Snowboarders and free skiers from cities such as Ulm and Stuttgart are drawn to the snow park in the heart of Riezlern. Another reason for this crowd-pulling effect is also certainly the fact that the atmosphere is so laid back here. If it is too challenging to slide along a complete rail, you can just brush along the edges, or you can just watch the tricks performed by other snowboarders. ‘This helps you to develop an eye and a feeling for what is possible. Creativity and spontaneity are exactly what make the freestyle sport so special!’ explains the man in the know.

Construction Is More Fun Than Planning

Die Shaper  | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen

Even though Roland is king of the head of the shapers, nothing ever works out properly without team work. His young team are expected to contribute their own ideas which he then integrates into the overall plan. However, if you ask the head shaper whether he finds the planning stage or the construction stage more exciting, his answer is quite emphatic: the construction phase! As a teenager, he once built a small snow park off his own back at the Moos lift and at the Ideal lift. It is certainly no coincidence that after his first experiences of shaping he went on to do an apprenticeship with a bricklayer. The Crystal Ground Snow Park has certainly been benefiting from Roland’s construction skills since it was established over ten years ago.

Roland has become a bit more sedate since then. ‘However, I still really enjoy it and I always still have a few ideas in my head that I want to implement.’ The season at the snow park ends after the Atagge X Foreal Demo. During the summer, his ‘park’ is high up on an alp in Walmendingerhorn where he works as a herdsman milking and caring for cows on the mountainside. He can enjoy a great balance across the year. And an opportunity for a bit of airtime ...

Chillen im Liegestuhl | © Kleinwalsertal Tourismus eGen | Fotograf: Mariell Vikkisk

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