Superpipe dream to become reality

Steamboat Ski Area to install new attraction


— Snowboarder Sean Bailey was fully pumped when he heard the news Thursday that the Steamboat Ski Area is constructing a superpipe.

"That's awesome," Bailey said. "That's really, really good. From all of us to all of you out there, that's very good news. We've been waiting for that for a long time."

Ski area spokesman Mike Lane said Thursday the new superpipe, which will be located on the Bashor Trail, is under construction and will give snowboarders a better experience.

A superpipe is a new breed of halfpipe, according to U.S. Snowboarding. The halfpipe is a manmade terrain feature in which snowboarders leap into the air and throw stunts. People who haven't seen one at a ski mountain have probably seen one on television during ESPN's Winter X Games. Steamboat's own Shannon Dunn was an Olympic bronze medalist in the halfpipe at Nagano, Japan, in 1998.

Bailey said superpipes can be intimidating primarily because they are larger than halfpipes. In reality, he said, they are easier for beginning riders on which to learn.

"It's easier because it's one continuous transition," Bailey added.

Halfpipes could be described as a pipe split in half lengthwise and set into a snowboard run. However, Bailey said a superpipe is closer to a real pipe. That's because halfpipes have a sharp transition from their steep walls to a flat floor in the bottom of the pipe. Superpipes actually trace the continuous arc.

U.S. Snowboarding says the smoother transitions of superpipes allow riders to get higher above the lip. And the walls are more forgiving than the steeper regular pipe walls.

Lane said the new superpipe will be 50 feet wide and about 550 feet long. Its walls will be 15 feet high.

Steamboat's old pipe was made from scratch each year by blowing a large amount of manmade snow and carving a pipe out of the mound. The skeleton of the new pipe is being created by heavy equipment moving dirt, Lane said. That will mean far less manmade snow is needed to build the pipe. It should be ready for riding by early December.

The crews building the superpipe are ski area employees under the supervision of David Crisler, director of slope maintenance at Steamboat. The crews are also increasing snowmaking capacity in the area of the superpipe, Lane said.

Bailey, who managers Powder Pursuits snowboard shop, said he takes Steamboat's willingness to build a superpipe as a strong sign the ski corp. is embracing snowboarding.

"It shows that Steamboat the resort is picking up on the fact that snowboarding is here to stay," Bailey said. "It would put us in the league of Vail and Breckenridge and destination resorts in Southern California that have superpipes."

Bailey said the new superpipe would be most advantageous if the ski corp. commits to grooming it every night, or every other night.

"Actually, last year's pipe was really good," Bailey said. "But in order to really make the superpipe worth it, they should cut it every night, shaping it and allowing it to freeze overnight."

Lane said skiers as well as riders will make use of the superpipe. Bailey concurred.


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