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Stories from the ski areas

The big air show 

A hint of Hollywood

Ramp clear! A stuntman from the US film metropolis once did a test jump during the development of the landingbag. Today in the Zillertal Arena every jump artist can be a small star. 

It all started off from the fact that 15-year-olds can do somersaults in the snow more easily than people who have had ten years more experience. As a snowboard professional, the then 25-year-old Martin Rasinger from Vienna wanted to be able to keep up with these young rubber humans. He trained, tinkered, filed, and soon his tricks became more and more technical – a training device was needed. So he invented his first airbag for practice jumps with his board. He benefited from the fact that he had lived in California as a teenager and, after twelve years as an international snowboard pro, he was well connected. And it just so happened that at the beginning of his development work, he had a Hollywood  stuntman doing test jumps on a "stunt airbag", a fall protection system for special effects. Because Rasinger was not satisfied with the result, he tinkered with the design of his own bag, a kind of giant air mattress for piste run-outs. 

Like Landing on Clouds. Today, the Vienna native is a successful businessman all over the world with his high-tech airbags, and one of his products is now located in the midst of the fantastic mountain scenery in the Actionpark Kreuzwiese in Zillertal. What was originally only intended for professional riders is now available to anyone who wants to try out for themselves something that they would at best only be able to marvel at on the film screen or television: "This makes the facility in the Zillertal Arena unique, because its use is included in the ski pass", says Rasinger. Although it is now urgently necessary to take back the flippant term "giant air mattress". Because there is just so much technical know-how, so many years of development and improvement that went into this, that you can't call it that – even if it looks a bit like that, especially from a bird's eye view. But if you know what a landingbag has to be able to do, you can imagine how much work and expertise goes into it. On the one hand, the material must be strong enough to withstand the sharp edges of skis and snowboards without being damaged, and on the other hand, it needs to provide both professional and hobby freestylers with a soft landing like on clouds: "For years we've been tinkering with this to find the right mixture between robust and soft", says the former snowboard professional.

„For years
we've been tinkering with this to
find the right mixture between
robust and soft“

Martin Rasinger, former snowboard professional


But it paid off, and what was initially only reserved for professionals has now become an action tool for almost anyone, with a maximum fun factor, even for inexperienced beginners who want to experience what it feels like to be a stuntman. A realistic self-assessment would definitely not be a mistake. Because although the landing is soft, you should think very carefully about which of the three inruns you want to take in order to enjoy your personal fight. "Even though every jump here is cushioned really well: You should already have some basic knowledge", says Rasinger.

Another former snowboard professional in the Zillertal Arena offers assistance in assessing your own abilities, but also in learning the basic rules, through his "Shred School": Gerfried "Friedl" Kolar offers free workshops for interested parties every Tuesday at eleven o'clock. "Freestyling with an air bag is quite challenging. This is no bouncy castle", says Kolar with a smile. Even though it looks playful and easy for those who can do it perfectly, it still has its dangers. They begin even during the approach to this promised bliss, Kolar knows: "You have to be able to ski a straight line, and on a snowboard that's one of the hardest things to do." But in any case, you don't have to worry about being left alone in the Zillertal Arena, there'll be experts there to advise you. And then you can start out slowly, try out one or two tricks and, even as a nonprofessional, you'll look pretty good in the end: "The main focus here should be on fun, because this is  simply a fantastic addition to the already great offer in Zillertal", explains ex-pro Rasinger.

Close to the Stars. And because the airbag, measuring 31 by 17 metres and perfectly adapted to the slope, also attracts professionals for training purposes, with a little luck you can experience a little celebrity factor and get up close to the  stars. You just have to look around to see if one of them is already sailing spectacularly through the air. It could well be that Steve Gruber, who lives in Zillertal and who was a halfpipe world championship finalist in 1999, is out there enjoying a little airtime on the Kreuzwiese. This would be cause for amazement. But also cause for a bit of restraint, so you don't immediately go and try out what you've seen for yourself. Remember, you're looking to fall on top of a cloud and not from the clouds.

Image: Martin Rasinger, Friedl Kolar,!hologram" and text: Wolfgang M. Gran
Zillertal magazine Winter 2020/21


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