[Editor's note: In our latest interview series, Behind the Curtain, we talk to the people backstage in the ski industry, the often-invisible, always hard-working coaches, techs, ski patrollers, course builders and more. Here is part four of the series (check out part one with ski tuner Kenny Nault, part two with event announcer Frankie Alisuag, and part three with coach Elana Chase). Stay tuned to ESPN Freeskiing next Thursday for an interview with a guy who throws bombs for a living.]
David Ny founded Scandinavian Shaper in 2000 in Tandådalen, Sweden. Since then, he has engineered venues for events like snowboarding's Arctic Challenge, the legendary King of the Hill contests in Riksgränsen, and Olympic halfpipes in Nagano, Salt Lake, Torino and Vancouver. Most recently this spring, Ny designed the jump for the Jon Olsson Invitational, where a number of athletes landed their first triples.
My first big thing, where what I built ended up on covers of magazines, was the quarterpipe for the King of the Hill competition in Riksgränsen. At that time, there were no pipe cutting machines, especially not here in Europe. To have a good pipe, you had to do a lot of hand shoveling yourself.
That's where it all started. You'd just build a couple of walls up. They might be like five feet tall with just a little curve, and then you'd hold it as much as you could. There wasn't ever a deck. If you flew over, you would end up on the other side, whatever was over there.
Nagano was a 10-foot pipe in 1998. Salt Lake was a 15-foot, Torino was 18, and last year in Vancouver we had 22. Basically, I've seen them all, since the beginning of halfpipe. It's pretty fun, to see how it has changed.
People often ask me, 'Do you think it's going to get bigger?' I don't know. It's hard to tell. But I'm pretty sure that we're fine with 22 feet. I mean, you're going to need so much more speed to go beyond that. In Torino, the 22-foot machine was already out, but we decided to use the 18 because that's what the riders were used to.
It costs at least $100,000 to $150,000 for a resort to build a 22-foot halfpipe. On top of that, you have snowmaking and investments in the groundwork for the pipe. And the pipe cutter by itself costs $100,000 to $120,000. It takes tons of money.
It might be best to go back to 18- or 17-foot pipes, but make the transition much longer. I don't know what the industry will say about that. The thing is that there are only two manufacturers making the machines and they are both focused on 22-foot cutters, because that's what everyone wants.
A good jump is when you have no injuries and you have a lot of good hang time and the jump is easy to maintain.
When it comes to my jump building process, the terrain is the most important thing. The inrun and transition are crucial. To carry a 25-meter table that shoots you 10 to 12 meters in the air, you need to have a lot of speed. There's always going to be some compression, but still, you don't want it. You need to be really precise about where you place the jump.
I don't use much 3D technology and computers. It's more like a paper and pen and maybe I turn that into a nice drawing. Then I talk to the snowmaking guys to make sure we have all the snow we need. It's pretty simple, actually, if you know how you want the jump.
Jon [Olsson] is one of the only riders in the world who knows what he's talking about. A lot of riders will say, 'Oh, the jump is no good.' And I'll say, 'Okay, what's the problem?' And they can't explain what the problem is. The good thing with Jon is that he knows what he wants. He's actually a good jump builder.
For this year's JOI jump, we put together 8,000 to 10,000 cubic meters of snow. We had to push snow with three machines for a day and a half. Then we used an excavator, a big one, to build up everything. You save a lot of time using an excavator, especially when the snow is wet. It's like building with ice cream. It's really fast.