“I’m not sure if this is a good idea.”
It’s our second day of shoveling, and time to take a good hard look at what we’re actually trying to accomplish here. The kicker is way taller than we imagined it would be, and the gap bigger than we’d anticipated. We’re trying to host the inaugural Gaptastic Voyage starting tomorrow, and we still have no clue if our feature is even going to be rideable. But we’re about to find out.
Words: Ethan Stone | Photos: Klaus Polzer
Roy Kittler and Christian Stadler survey their handiwork. Is this thing really going to work?
The Legendary Kaunertal Road Gap
Kaunertal, Austria does not appear on any top-10 list of the best ski areas in the Alps. It’s not a glamorous vacation destination with glitzy hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants. Yet even so, Kaunertal occupies a special place in the core freestyle scene of Austria and far beyond.
It’s here, far up the winding glacier road into the heart of one of Austria’s most pristine valleys, that some of the first halfpipes were shaped by snowboarders in the early 1990s. The underdog resort was one of the first enthusiastic adopters of the freestyle ethos, and its spring and fall park sessions are the stuff of legend in both the snowboard and the freeski scene. Other resorts may have more glitz and glamor, but Kaunertal has always been about one thing, and one thing only: the pure joy of riding.
The Kaunertal road gap has played a major role in this mystique. As the glacier road ascends from the Ochsenalm bottom lift station up to the glacier restaurant at 2,750 meters elevation, there are numerous spots that lend themselves to a jump over the road. Needless to say, all of these spots have been built countless times, and are well documented in ski and snowboard lore.
From the deep archives of Klaus Polzer: Thomas Hlawitschka over the Kaunertal road gap back in 2004.
However, the tradition of the Kaunertal road gap seems to have waned in recent years. The most prominent and obvious spot for the gap was eliminated with the construction of the piste for the new Weissseejoch cable car. So when the Downdays crew decided to team up with the Kaunertal Spring Sessions and host an event up on the glacier, bringing back the road-gap tradition was first and foremost in our minds.
embarking on The Gaptastic Voyage
A few months and many meetings later, we’re up on the glacier, sweating our buns off in the middle of a snowstorm and shoveling a massive booter, which it’s still unclear if anyone will actually hit. Below us somewhere in the storm, park shaper Goffi Gram, whose company Shape-it runs Snowpark Kaunertal, is putting the final touches on his own addition to the setup: a tricky double-jump feature, complete with rail options, over a serpentine curve in the road. The idea is that riders will be able to hit all three gaps in a row—a never-been-done feat that would be a major milestone in the history of gapping the Kaunertal road.
The Gaptastic Voyage: our re-imagining of the classic Kaunertal road gap.
On Thursday, April 28 it’s finally time: the Gaptastic Voyage presented by Monster Energy has begun. Julius “Juterus” Forer, a last-minute addition to the crew, is at the top of the drop-in, eyeballing the first and biggest jump. After a single speed check, he’s ready to go—boosting far over the road and down the landing. Soon after he’s joined by Hannes Rudigier, David Wolf and Edouard “Edjoy” Therriault, and the session begins in earnest.
A collective sigh of relief is issued from all of our crew. It’s not just that the jump works. It’s working way better than we ever would have imagined.
Julius Forer gets the credit not just for guinea-pigging the big gap, but for sending it hard throughout the whole session. There couldn't have been a better last-minute invite.
When i first saw the jump, it didn’t immediately look like it was going to work. But the next day it looked perfect. I noticed that everyone else didn’t really want to be the first to hit it, so I thought, ‘Fuck it, let’s go.’ I think that was the right decision, because the session got started quickly after that.
– Julius Forer
If there was an MVP at the Gaptastic Voyage, it might have been a battle between Julius and Hannes Rudigier, who both threw down inexhaustibly from start to finish.
David Wolf wasted no time throwing down alongside his friend Hannes and Julius with tricks like this tweaked rodeo 5 bow and arrow.
Contrary to our expectations, this session is going off in a big way. On the first day already, double corks are being tossed on the first jump, and even the sketchy rail options of the second portion have been hit. There are a few speed issued involved in riding the whole line from top to bottom, but every jump is still being sessioned. The riders are stoked, and our transport cars provided by Škoda are running nonstop car laps up the road to bring them back to the top. As long as nobody pancakes onto the road—a very, very slim possibility that is nevertheless not a zero-percent chance—it’s looking like the Gaptastic Voyage is going to be a resounding success.
The session runs until the light is gone, with plenty of bangers already in the bag. Among them are David Wolf’s kangaroo flip, Edjoy’s double cork 720, a stomped double cork 1080 by Lukas Schäfer and Dani Bacher’s audacious switch hits, including a downright legendary zero spin.
Lukas Schäfer tweaks out a cork 7 reverse safety far over the road.
Simon Geminiani aka Real G Mon was the only man with the cojones to step to this daunting gap rail.
Dan Hanka floats out a 180 with signature style.
A lot of crazy tricks went down on Day 1, but Dani Bacher's epic switch hits took the cake both in gnarliness and in style. He was the only rider to hit the top jump switch.
Closing the Gap
The next day, we’re back at it. The day opens with a session on the lower section, where after two or so warm-up hits, Hannes Rudigier is already pounding out double corks in both directions. Parkbuilder Goffi Gram and some of his shape crew are also in the mix, throwing down on the setup that they built. Even Atomic team manager and former X Games competitor Noah Wallace is down for the session, throwing down a few picture-perfect 900s.
Austrian parkbuilder and local legend Goffi Gram shows the kids how it's done on the setup he designed and built.
Czech freeskier Dan Hanka left his mark on the session with style in excess.
The Gaptastic Voyage was a pretty sick idea. It’s super unique because there’s a line of three road gaps that you can ski at once. Even with some struggles, it all worked out. The features were perfect, even if they were sketchy as hell—which was kind the theme, after all. I really appreciate bringing back this history, because Kaunertal is quite famous for these road gaps.
Real G Mon kept it real with lofty cork 3s.
Load up the car, let's go! The Downdays Škodas kept the crew in motion and got them back to the drop-in quickly.
It was really nice to have something different, joining with other riders and seeing how they managed to ride a setup like this. Everybody was kind of out of their comfort zone and having the same issues in the beginning. But after testing it and riding it, we saw how the hype was going up, and everybody was just enjoying themselves and pushing each other. This was for sure the most memorable thing about it: the right people pushing themselves and seeing what’s possible, pushing their own boundaries.
Hannes Rudigier stacking doubles like it ain't no thang.
Luki Schäfer's lofty dub 10s were a real highlight of the session.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to an event like this, a shoot where there’s no pressure and everyone can do whatever they feel like. It was a really good crew, a lot of people that I haven’t seen in a long time, and it was awesome to ride with them again. It was an unbelievably cool vibe. the setup was something else. On the big jump I felt my heart beating faster on every hit. It was the kind of event that there’s been too few of in the last years. big up to the crew for making it happen to bring something like this to life. It was a bit sketchy, but that’s how it is with skiing. It’s not always perfect, and on a big jump like that, you need to be on point to even hit it. It was a real challenge, and that made it so much fun.
It's not every day that we post a snowboard shot on Downdays. But when snowboard legend Gigi Rüf shows up to hit our gap jump? Hell yeah, we're going to post that shit.
After lunch and a quick park session for variety, we’re back at the gaps in the afternoon. A sizeable crowd has gathered on the road to gasp in wonder at each hit. Everyone’s throwing down and a few new faces have showed up to partake of the session. There’s Lucas Mangold and Sven Rauber, and even snowboard royalty Gigi Rüf gets in on the session, as well as local legend Roli Tschoder—who has more experience on Kaunertal road gaps than anyone else here.
As the light dwindles on our second day, Dan Hanka finally lands the banger run we’ve been hoping for: a top-to-bottom run with tricks on every feature. Everyone else has stacked the tricks they’ve wanted, and it’s time to tear down this monster jump and declare the thing done and dusted. The Gaptastic Voyage has come and gone, and the tradition of the Kaunertal road gap has a major new chapter that won’t be topped anytime soon… until maybe next year!
Vibing with the homies after a successful session.
From the time I got the invite I was stoked because I knew it would be a cool event. It was a great end to the season— filming for two days and stacking clips with all the homies. In my eyes, it couldn’t have been any better.
That's it, that's all! The Gaptastic Voyage is history—at least for now!
A huge thanks to the partners and sponsors who made the Gaptastic Voyage possible: Monster Energy, Kaunertal Glacier, Snowpark Kaunertal, Shape-it and Somaland Agency.
A special thanks as well to Christian Stadler, Roy Kittler, Klaus Polzer, Goffi Gram, Mario Pesl, Crystal, Gabriel, Matze, Manuel and Andi for their help and support.
Stay tuned for the full Gaptastic Voyage recap edit, dropping fall 2022. Until then, you can catch a glimpse of all the action on the Downdays Instagram.