Sheep are usually the only occupants of this small piece of land in the hills above Innsbruck, until last winter, when a new group of tenants moved in, led by Benny Urban. This interview was conducted during a car journey between Switzerland and Austria.
Photos & Interview: Theo Acworth
Extracted from Method Mag issue 21.2
So Benny, what is the Moon Park?
Since moving to Innsbruck last year I felt that something like this was missing from my life. I just wanted to create a place where my friends and I can have a good time snowboarding away from the masses. Somewhere you can think about tricks, think about features, mainly just a place to play and snowboard creatively.
What was the inspiration for it?
Well, I’d spent two winters in Salt Lake and had the opportunity and privilege to ride the Bone Zone and also sometimes The Spot, so those were definitely a big inspiration. It was a perfect start to the winter season, just get the legs going and get into some tricks as early as possible instead of standing in lines on the glaciers just to get a few runs a day. That can be fun sometimes, but it’s just so inaccessible. You have to drive and then take three gondolas and stand in line with a million people while you just want to ride. You would never do that if you just went skating. I mean you still have to drive up to where Moon Park is, but you park your car and walk 5 minutes to the spot, and when you’re there you can just chill.
What’s up with the features, where did you get them made?
We got a connection through Sebi Springeth to a really good welder called Max Vieider who used to work for F-Tech. He knows what he’s doing and really helped us out.
Talk us through the process of finding the land and getting that all sorted out.
I think I got really lucky with that. Me and Alex Tank were driving around looking for a suitable piece of land, we were exploring this semi-private road and all of a sudden we run into someone driving the opposite way, and the road was one way with no way for us to pass. So the guy steps out and starts walking towards us, and we think we’re in trouble, and then he just says ‘Hold up guys, I’m going to pull back so you can pass me’, which was pretty mellow. So I thought I should take advantage of the interaction, and I asked if he knew who owned the land we were on. So he says ‘Well there’s only really two people that it could be. Hold on, I’ll call someone’. So he calls a guy, and says ‘Yep, that’s him, you want to talk to him?’
So I take the phone and talk to the guy very briefly, then a few days later I called him again and gave him a rundown of what we wanted to do. He was pretty overwhelmed, I think, like no idea what I was talking about. So I put together a pdf with photos from the Bone Zone and other videos so he could sort of get an idea about what we were going to do. Two weeks go by and I didn’t hear anything from him, so I give him another call, and he said that he thought it looked interesting, but he’d have to talk to a few other people who manage the local area and present the idea before it could be approved. So another two weeks go by, and he calls me and says that we’re good to go! Kind of unbelievable. I thought it would be so much harder and more time consuming to get approval.
I had no idea it happened that easily. Were there any conditions to the use of the land?
The only condition was that it was private use only. I pitched it to him as a private space that only a few of us from Innsbruck would use. So he said that as long as it’s only private and there’s not too many of us at a time, then it’s fine. Just don’t make any commercial use of it, don’t leave trash and take care of the land, basic stuff like that. I also had to pay a small deposit in order to get the usage between Oct-May, and that was it.
Did you ever intend it to be something more open to the public, like the Bone Zone?
To be honest, I wasn’t sure where it was headed, we just really wanted a place to hike a few creative features. I also wasn’t really sure what it would take to make it accessible for more people. I knew that making it fully public would mean that it’s going to be an actual job for me - like Ted Borland with the Bonezone - to manage the space, make sure everything is in order, taking responsibility for everyone there, because if something ever happened or someone got hurt then I would be the one who had to deal with it, and that’s not something I wanted straight away. So as of now, it is what it is, just friends and friends of friends.
Moon Park is located in an area highly populated with snowboarders, and it’s very visible from the road. I did hear a few noises that people felt it was sort of an exclusive thing. Anything you want to say about that?
That definitely wasn’t my intention. We just wanted to keep it quiet for the first weeks while we were filming so the first edit would be sort of a surprise. I don’t know if it was, but I hoped it would be. So we were kind of strict at first, and I guess some people got the wrong vibe from that. I’m happy to have an extended group of people there, despite people thinking that it’s only for ‘my’ close friends. If someone is in the area and wants to check it out then just hit me up on Insta and ask, if we’re there then you can come by. I just don’t want people to think that it’s something crazy exclusive that they can never use, because it’s not. In the spring we had a much wider group of riders up there. Michi Schatz [Ed. DON IBK] approached it perfectly. He wrote to me, asked what was up and if he could come and ride. Right from the start, he was there with his shovel, he brought a bbq, it was cool to ride with him.
How would you like people to behave when they do come to ride?
Well first of all, definitely try to reach out to me before showing up. Everyone should also bring a shovel and somehow contribute to the place, like putting a bit of time in to shape when they arrive to make it rideable. Snow has to be moved and features set in place by hand, it’s not a resort. So if you don’t bring a shovel, you can pretty much turn around. I mean if someone built a DIY skate spot there’s no way I would just turn up and say ‘Yo what’s up, can I skate?’ It’s just really frustrating that people can feel like we’re making it some exclusive thing because of that.
Dominik Wagner has just woken up in the back of the car and joins the conversation.
D. I just know how Austrians work. We can be really protective of our scene/spots/region. And along comes this German guy, professional snowboarder - everyone thinks he makes loads of money and that he thinks he’s the shit - and then he builds his own park and excludes the whole snowboard scene. At least that’s how I think they see it.
B. But I’m pretty sure that if you would done this in Schladming and you didn’t let everyone shred straight away, then you would have had the exact same reaction. It’s not even about me being German.
D. I know, but you come in from out of town and straight away have your own place. You work your ass off to make it happen, and then people hate on it because they didn’t do it themselves.
B. I’m not trying to be an asshole, but I also didn’t create this place to try and please everybody, we just wanted a place to snowboard. I was really surprised that there wasn’t anything like this in Innsbruck.
The SANE! guys had something similar with their park in Rinn, but it’s been a couple of years since that was running. If you wanted to, I guess an easy way to criticise Moon Park, and which people have done, is to say that you only got it because you’re sponsored, or because someone else paid for it.
I can speak openly about that. All the steel cost €400, and Max took €500 for the welding. So altogether that’s €900 for a pretty cool set of features. Yes, my sponsors helped out with the costs, but if a crew of 9 people who really want a snowboard park can get together and contribute a hundred euros each, then they can do it.
People probably spend that amount on weed and beer every couple of weeks, doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to put it towards something else. What would your advice be to someone wanting to do something similar to Moon Park?
Just go for it and don’t hold back. I was just experimenting with the whole idea and was slowly feeling it out, and within four weeks we had it set up. If you have ideas about features you like to ride, then spend a day at a hardware store and try to build something, bring it up to the snow and session it. It’s not that hard, but it’s not going to happen if you just wait for someone else to do it.
I think we’re going to see more things like this popping up around here. You’re definitely getting people fired up.
For me that’s cool feedback, to know that this is in some way inspiring people. I think that’s rad.
Thanks to anyone involved in the process, especially Max Vieider who helped with the welding and brought up the rails, Sebi Springeth, all the homies who came up and rode, Alex Pfeffer and yourself for shooting and helping out. And Hubert Leitner from Heiminger Forst! It already turned into something bigger than I thought. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the future, I just want to keep it alive, add a few more features and see where it goes.