The Man Behind the Course Designs for Winter Sport Events
Snowboarding and Freestyle Skiing are packed with celebrities—high-flying athletes who perform other feats of derring-do during annual X-Games events, but they couldn’t do what they do without Chris “Gunny” Gunnarson. As founder and CEO of Reno-Lake Tahoe-based Snow Park Technologies (SPT), Gunnarson creates the courses for the sports’ biggest events. He builds jumps. He designs terrain parks. In short, he provides the canvases on which the world’s best athletes can paint.
The San Diego native’s first job was on the ski patrol at Southern California’s Snow Summit in 1992, which morphed into a position as the director of snowboarding. Before he left to start SPT, he built the terrain park for Snow Summit and created the camera-friendly half-pipe and park for the first Winter X Games held at the resort in 1997.
Since then Gunnarson’s designed parks for dozens of resorts all over the world, including five different resorts in the Tahoe area. His 22-foot-high half-pipe at Northstar California is one of the largest pipes open to the general snowboarding public today, while the mile-long terrain park at Alpine Meadows has more than 40 jumps, rails, and features overall.
Among pro boarders, Gunnarson and his crew are a welcome sight at any event. Chas Guldemond, a Tahoe area-based rider who has been boarding on SPT parks for eight years, says he appreciates the company’s attention to detail—especially when it comes to safety.
“I’ve ridden a bunch of stuff that’s been suspect,” he says. “These guys make sure not to let riders on anything unless they completely trust it. It’s nice to know they have your back.”
Looking forward, Gunnarson says SPT plans to work with resorts around the country to build new terrain parks with baby half-pipes and other features designed to help introduce novices to snowboarding in a comfortable and unintimidating environment.
“Everything in snowboarding doesn’t have to be about gnarly jumps and hang time,” says Gunnarson. “We believe there’s a way to get people into the sport gradually and get them excited for life.”