Marcel Brunisholz might not be one of the best-known names in the ski industry, but in Europe at least, he is becoming one of the most important. The mastermind behind the Zermatt summer park, he changed the potential of summer skiing in Europe. After many years building the reputation of Zermatt almost from the ground up, he has moved on to a role revamping Grand Masta Park in Adelboden, which even in his first year was transformed. In the summer, he now shapes the Saas-Fee summer park, a park that this year was the most fun it has been since I started skiing summers there in 2010. Those who know Marcel, know him for his insane drive to make his parks the best they possibly can be, at the cost of his sleep, his life and occasionally his sanity. I’ve seen him full build mode, tunnel vision, sleepless eyes on the prize more than a couple of times and his drive blows me away. And even after two nights straight of no sleep, you’ll still see him in the park dropping more switchups than you can fathom. So it’s high time he got some attention… this is his story in his own words.
Tell me about your background? Where are you from, when did you start skiing...
I’m from Lenk / Adelboden. I started skiing when I was 2 years old. My mom always told me that I could ski before I could walk… I don't know if that’s true, but ever since I can remember I’ve spent most of the time on my skis. I was one of those annoying ski racers with big bags back in the day, and then I found myself warming up in the snowpark before races. One day our trainer stomped a big frontflip off the side of a cat track and that was the moment I knew I wanted to have freeskiing in my life. So I quit racing when I was 14 and threw myself into the pow and the streets.
And how did you get so damn good at tech tricks?!
Haha, I don't think I’m good! But I guess it was many, many long hiking sessions. I remember that’s how I learned 2p2. It took me forever but I got it and after that, I wanted more. I got a big boost from my man Will Wesson who came to Zermatt for three summers… I always wanted to ski consistently as he does and with the same skills. When I saw him the first year it blew my mind how many tricks he did just when just cruising around. And also how much effort and time he took to get a sick shot. I was hiking and filming as much as possible with the Glacier Days crew and I think that changed my skiing a lot.
You were on the Line team in Switzerland for a while, but how did you get started shaping?
I started to love skiing so much that I wanted to ski in the summer too. So I went to Zermatt for a holiday and I met Janne van Enckevort, who was shaping there. I was so stoked about his lifestyle. because he was able to ski more than most of the pros those days. And he was free, he could ski whenever and whatever he wanted. No competitions just doing for it the love. I wanted to have the same so I asked him and his bosses Reto Kestenholz and Lukas Stähli if I could help out, unpaid. I shaped that season during my vacation and then the next season, I got a free pass for shaping on weekends. My first proper shaper job paid me 500.- CHF a month to work full time and since then, I’ve worked my way up.
You’ve were at Zermatt for what… 8 years on and off? How did you persuade them to put some budget into a crazy summer park?
The same way I learned the rail tricks I guess, a lot of effort and. I had a vision in my mind.I’ve never given so much energy to anything. That place was my wife, my kid, my everything. The longest shift I did was 43 hours but there were so many 32-36 hour shifts, I can't even remember. But again, it wouldn’t have been possible without some very important people.
Charles Beckinsale has always motivated me. He showed me that it’s possible to be a snowpark builder for life, even if you have a family. I’m super grateful to Sandra Stockinger, the Marketing Manager in Zermatt, for always believing in us and giving us the budget we needed. Especially for letting us create all the media content and events, things like Glacier Days. And for sure Sämi Ortlieb. Without him, Zermatt would not be what it is today. And for sure everybody who was worked on the parks. The shapers, the Bunch, the Inspired crew and all the homies! Thank you so much for all your love and passion!
You’ve always wanted media to play a big role in your parks. How did Glacier Days get started, again, how did you convince the Bergbahnen that was a good idea too?
If you look at how much a snowpark costs, especially a summer snowpark, it would be really stupid to not advertise, because it’s such a small part of the budget. David Ortlieb created the Glacier Days concept, along with Sämi, to show what would be possible with just a small amount of money. And like I said before, Sandra gave us the chance to prove it could work.
The numbers in the first test year were way better than expected, and we got the go-ahead for another 2 years. After those 3 years, the park had become one of the best known in the industry and we were able to produce the Zermatt Glacier Days Movie as the final masterpiece. The fact that the park had become well known meant it was producing social media content on its own, so we could just shoot and save shots. So many riders came through, posting up a few Instagram clips that we just needed to repost. Once again, huge thanks to David Ortlieb, Sandra and of course, Sämi.
The Zermatt Glacier Days Movie. Check out Marcel's segment from 06:30 onwards...
There’s a stacked list of skiers who have been a part of your shape crews, including LDM, Sami, BMack, etc… Who has had the best feature ideas and who was the worst shaper?
Hard question. I guess Sämi and Bmack are both creative minds with super crazy ideas... sometimes too crazy haha. But I would give the win to Sämi for most creative. The worst shaper does not exist...but I did sometimes wish LDM would do more hahaha.
Now you’ve moved on to Adelboden as your winter home, tell me about Grand Masta Park. How was the park before you took over, what were you able to change and what are your plans for the coming season?
GMP has a long history of parks, it was really sick 10-15 years ago. Dänu Kaufmann, the old head shaper, did everything by himself. Every feature he built himself, and what was there, was there because of him. At that time GMP was one of the best parks in Switzerland, but the stuff got old and so when I took over we had the opportunity to replace every single feature, which was an amazing start.
My plan for GMP is to take it in the direction of Klappen, to be just as good and just as fun. It has to be the best park in Switzerland, after Laax which has a pretty different vibe. We want to create something that people who come for a visit will remember as unique.
Last season, you guys made a short movie. Was that to raise awareness of what you’ve done at GMP?
I see it as the beginning of a new era. We want to create something like Kimbosessions but for the public. GRANMASTASESSIONS / GMP will hopefully become a part of everybody’s Europe Trip for the upcoming season. Everybody is welcome, no matter who you are.
The Grand Masta Movie
You also took over Saas-Fee’s summer park this year. I gotta say, it was so much more fun than previous years, at least from the perspective of having fun rails/flow… what can we expect next summer?
Next summer we plan to create the best summer training area for athletes in the world.
It’s gonna be crazy. I’m already looking forward to creating something unlike anything done in the summer before. We have big plans and I hope it all comes together like the vision we have in mind. I don’t want to say too much about it now, because it’s nothing official yet but you should definitely keep one eye on @snowparksaasfee in August and September.
Marcel sessioning his own jumps at GMP Adelboden
You have a reputation for working yourself and your park crews super hard to make the very best parks possible. What makes building parks so important to you?
I think the most important thing is to make people happy, snowboarders and skiers like me. When you see all the homies mad stoked about the park, and having fun, that’s my paycheck. I can’t imagine anything I would like to do more than a job that makes my friends and all the riders as happy as possible. If the riders are happy you have a super good vibe in the park, and even after working 14-30 hour shifts you know why you do it and you still get stoked to shred.
It’s also a big motivation to build stuff that means as few injuries as possible. That means hard work and perfect shaping. Because you can do so much to reduce injuries just by planing a jump line right, having the right landing angles, etc. Last but definitely not least, I still feel blessed to get a couple of laps to shred with the crew every day if I want. And the better we build the parks, the more fun we have shredding them.