When DC Shoes President Ken Block started construction on the DC Mountain Lab three years ago, it began as a place for solace. High in the Wasatch Mountains outside Park City, the retreat’s setting was about as opposite of Southern California as you can get. More wildlife than people inhabited the region, with deer, moose, and herds of sheep as constant visitors. However, as Ken’s friends visited the Mountain Lab, many of them pro snowboarders, snowboard shop owners and DC employees, Mountain Lab started taking shape as something very different. A terrain park was built with jumps and obstacles rivaling that of world-renowned snow resorts. In fact, in 2003 the Mtn Lab was rated in TransWorld’s Exposure-O-Meter as one of the top twenty-five resorts photographed. It became a place where fellow snowboarders gathered, talked about snowboarding, and people tested DC boots and outerwear in the best way possible–by riding in them.
Three years later, the Mountain Lab is debuting new features put in place by Chris “Gunny” Gunnarson, the foremost expert and pioneer of terrain park design and construction. In 1992, Gunny was given an opportunity to lead the charge in designing, developing, and constructing the terrain park program at Snow Summit which came to be known as one of the most progressive in the world. His work at Snow Summit paved the way for more and Gunny built parks at Big Bear, Telluride, and Booth Creek resorts including Northstar-at-Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe, the Summit-at-Snoqualmie, Loon Mountain, Waterville Valley, and Mt. Cranmore. As owner of Snow Park Technologies, he consults on the construction of snowboard parks, terrain features and race courses for Winter X Games since 1997, the Triple Crown, and the Nixon Jibfests.
Earlier this year, when Ken and his team prepared to make an already ideal snowboarding spot even more ideal, they translated their visions to Gunny who made them a reality by building every run, jump and obstacle in dirt, long before snow even touched the region.
“The DC Mtn. Lab has been such a unique project for our team to work on,” says Gunny. “When Ken and Brian first contacted me about getting involved with the Mtn. Lab, it was obvious that they had high expectations, but until you’re actually there you don’t realize how special it is. The pressure was on, but after spending most of the summer moving huge amounts of dirt and constructing an impressive inventory of jib obstacles, I think anyone lucky enough to get invited out there is going to be blown away.”
Already operational is one of the most crucial elements of the Lab-the 600-foot rope tow (dubbed Little Biggie last year in a “name the rope tow” contest) which is now 700-feet long as part of the enhancements. This season, the rope tow was elongated to ensure that all of the runs now dump right into the base of the rope tow and that riders come off the slope straight to Little Biggie.
“The enhancements to our terrain park are critical because we now have optimal riding conditions in a private and fun environment,” says Ken. “Before we had some cool things to ride. We had picnic tables, ledge boxes, and rails. Each season it would snow and we moved obstacles around to create whatever jumps and hits we wanted throughout the season. Last year we got a snowcat and it made moving snow around even easier. But this year, I wanted everything permanent. So we took someone with the vision to dream up the coolest, most far out things for me and my friends to ride, and then also what would keep a pro snowboarder both entertained and ready to compete for X-Games. We hired Gunny and he made our dreams reality at the Mountain Lab.”
Brian Botts plays a key role in Mountain Lab operations. As well as being the catalyst behind recruiting Chris “Gunny” Gunnarson and serving as DC’s snowboarding Team Manager, Botts was the liaison between Ken and Gunny to ensure that the terrain park was among the best in the world. Bootts also works with retailers, focus groups and riders to provide the best product development feedback possible for boot line and outerwear designers and developers.
“It’s really something to have a pro course builder do what he does for contests with the best riders in the world at your very own house,” says Botts. “Now that the snow has fallen, you can see and ride what Gunny’s done and it’s amazing. This is going to be our best winter yet!”
The custom-made obstacles and jib features include a forked aspen and a 70′ rainbow aspen, a stair feature that includes an up-flat-down rail on the left, 2 up-gap-down rails in the center (one with a missing section), and an 18″ wide up-flat-down hubba box ledge on the right, a missile, a quarter pipe and a wallride. More rail and box features include 2 flat rails, a flat-down rail, a flat-down-flat rail, a down-flat-down rail, a banister rail, a spine rail that extends the length of the hip, a 2-foot high 40-foot-long s-rail and a unique 60-foot C-bow rail that wraps around the corner of the berm, a gap to a flat-down box, a curve box, a 50-foot ‘S’ box and a 40-foot flat ledge, and finally a bmx-style kicker that if hit right, transfers you into the front of the berm. This totals 18 rails and boxes.
DC’s pro riders were among the first to see what Gunny has done. “The park is so good that I’d rather ride there then in the backcountry!” said new addition to the DC team Devun Walsh. “The shit is so good that if they sold season passes, Park City would be out of business, for real!” he said.
Eddie Wall continued the praise with, “I would describe the staircase feature as tight … but now that I’ve seen the glass DC logo on the side that lights up and the other side that has a glass case of all their skate shoes in it, I’d describe it as HELLA HECKA HELLA HECKA TIZZZZ-IGHTTTTT,” he said. “Where else can you jib a fifteen-foot live f–king missile? I mean seriously. DC never ceases to amaze me … this year it wouldn’t surprise me if the Mountain Lab won Best Park.”
Travis Rice offered this up after riding at the enhanced Mountain Lab: “It’s every ADD-affected kid’s dream because there’re hundreds of things to do,” he said. “Not only is the terrain park great for product testing, but DC has gone out of their way to cover every angle in snowboarding a pro rider would ever need.
“Our goal was to have the best terrain park possible that would make our team riders happy and that they would want to ride all day long. This way they will be able to train and thoroughly test our products in the best environment,” said Ken. “That was our dream and Gunny exceeded our expectations of what the Lab could be. It’s going to be an amazing winter atthe Mtn Lab!”