Steamboat Springs The tide was favorable Monday, and a flock of snowboarders and free skiers surfed Mavericks, the new superpipe at the Steamboat Ski Area.
"The key to getting big air is staying low, getting a lot of speed, and having the courage to go fast," visiting Illinois rider Dan Delacruz said.
Mavericks opened for the first time Saturday. It is named after the renowned California big-wave spot, which consistently produces 20-foot swells in the winter.
The ski area couldn't resist a name that combined Steamboat's western image with that of a legendary California surf spot.
At 600 feet long, 50 feet wide and with 15-foot walls, the ski area claims Mavericks is the longest superpipe on the North American continent.
Steamboat Terrain Park Supervisor John Asta said Steamboat can now stake a new spot on the snowboarding and free skiing map. He worked until 10 p.m. Sunday night tweaking the grooming job on his new pet project.
"I think I finally got it dialed out," Asta said. "It's so huge, we could have named it the Grand Canyon. It's going to be big, so it will never be crowded, and it will allow skiers and riders to drop in at any time."
Mavericks is located in Bashor Bowl, which is serviced by its own lift so skiers and riders can access the pipe and the park more easily.
The chairlift ride up Bashor bowl is 3 minutes long.
Mavericks is the first section of the terrain park to open, with the remainder of the park expected to open within two weeks.
"The park is also going to be quite a bit bigger; we'll add more jumps and rails than last year," Asta said. "We're looking for it to be a challenge for skiers and riders so they can continue to improve while also seeing that everything is designed with their safety in mind."
Asta, who learned to handle heavy equipment on a Wisconsin alfalfa farm, has a new piece of equipment to play with this winter. The Bombardier HPG-17 pipe grinder will help maintain Mavericks' quality as needed, perhaps two to three times weekly.
Asta said it means a lot to have a Bombardier snow cat dedicated to grooming the superpipe and the new terrain park that goes with it. Instead of having to change implements like he does on his farm tractor in the summer, Asta can fire up the new HPG-17 and be grooming within minutes.
Aside from the imposing 15-foot walls, and the never-ending length of the new superpipe, Asta predicts the primary quality riders and free skiers will notice is the smoothness of the "trannies." That's pipe speak for the two sets of transitions pipe riders must negotiate as they zoom down one wall and head into the next wall of the pipe, on their way to launching 6 feet into the air.
Asta explained that last year's halfpipe lacked the smooth transitions of Mavericks.
The old trannies caused riders to lurch forward or backward and prevented them from gathering all of their strength and style as they launched into the air.
"The trannies on Mavericks don't cause you to change your body weight," Asta said.
There's one other thing riders will notice about Mavericks the first couple of times they drop in: "The hard part is remembering to breathe," Asta said. "A lot of people just don't believe the size of it. It's so long, you've got to remember to breathe."