Halfpipe returns to Heavenly
After a five-year hiatus, the halfpipe is back on the Heavenly hills and better than ever. “This is easily the best pipe we’ve ever had here, and we built it in record time – just nine days,” said Heavenly Terrain Park manager Mike Thomas. Heavenly Mountain Resort opened its new halfpipe Saturday, Jan. 19, making it the only halfpipe in South Shore at present. The terrain park crew teamed up with the best of the best, Snow Park Technologies. Their powers combine made an 18-foot-tall, 450-foot-long halfpipe with a 16.5-degree slope angle. The crew also took snowmelt into consideration when building. The pipe’s North-facing angle should mean even melt on both sides. To top it off, the view’s not bad either. “With Lake Tahoe as a backdrop, this halfpipe will feature, hands-down, the best views from any halfpipe in the U.S.,” said Pete Sonntag, Heavenly’s general manager. Heavenly’s High Roller Freeride Team rider Kyle Smaine christened the new pipe Jan. 19, making massive tricks look easy off its 18-foot walls. It was a successful test run and the pipe was declared open for business. Heavenly’s halfpipe can be accessed via Canyon Express Chairlift on the California side of the mountain inside High Roller Terrain Park, which is also now open. Of Heavenly’s three High Roller-branded terrain parks, High Roller Park is the premier park. It has been re-designed this season to include rails, boxes, jumps, and other jib features, both above and below the location of the halfpipe.History of halfpipesLee Crane tells it this way in TransWorld Snowboarding magazine:The whole thing goes back to skateboarding. By the mid 1970s, skateboarders had graduated from riding flat streets to drainage ditches and swimming pools.Back then, snowboarding was an outlaw sport and resorts didn’t see it as a market they wanted to attract. So, snowboarders had to find their own fun. Riders in the Lake Tahoe area found it first, in 1979, on the edge of a city dump.Those early pipes were modified natural terrain, nothing more.In 1983, Tom Sims, founder of Sims Snowboards, organized the first World Championships at Soda Springs, Calif. Snowboarding was a small and fussy world back then. The Burton crew threatened to boycott those first world championships because they said halfpipe riding had nothing to do with snowboarding.And the halfpipe was pretty terrible — it was just two rows of snow chunks about four feet high.By 1986, the World Championships moved to Breckenridge, where the ski company built a pipe, about 150 feet long, 60 feet wide, with walls about 5 feet high and no vertical. It was bad, but it was better than anything Soda Springs built.Breck got the hang of it the next year, greeting the world championships with a pipe 200 feet long, 40 feet wide, with 6-foot walls that went nearly vertical. When the contest was over, the pipe remained and the general public loved it.Hoerter and everyone else who sculpts halfpipes can thank Colorado farm machinery mechanic Doug Waugh for making their jobs possible. Waugh built his Pipe Dragon in 1991.Waugh’s Pipe Dragon was towed behind a snowcat and was the first machine designed to groom a curved shape. Vail used it that year. So did Eldora, Snowmass, Buttermilk and Copper Mountain, according to TransWorld Snowboarding magazine.— Writer Randy Wyrick of Vail Daily contributed to this report
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