the young at heart
Halfpipe adds pizazz to Warm Springs
By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer
With the opening of its new halfpipe, the
grand dame of American ski resorts is being relentlessly drawn into the new
aerial world of rodeo flips, McTwists and alley-oops.
For years, local snowboarders and
freestyle skiers have been watching halfpipes and terrain parks pop up at ski
resorts throughout the country. Almost everywhere, it seemed, except Sun Valley.
The problem was finding a good site. Most
of Bald Mountain is just too steep. In 1999, a halfpipe was built on Dollar
Mountain. But the pipe didnít fly at that location. This summer, Sun Valley Co.
gave up some of its precious novice terrain to put a 400-foot-long pipe on Lower
"The location is ideal," said Sun Valley
Snowboard Team Program Director Andy Gilbert. "Itís going to be great for people
to sit on the deck and watch."
The ski and snowboard halfpipe is located
on the skierís left side of Lower Warm Springs, below Race Arena. The U-shaped
terrain features are about 400 feet in length, 40 feet wide, with walls about 12
The halfpipe was designed by Alpentech, an
engineering company in Salt Lake City.
"The whole idea of a halfpipe is to have
exactly the same feeling replicated at all ski areas," said Alpentech owner Beat
Sun Valley Co. will dedicate a snow cat to
grooming the halfpipe. It will pull a device called a halfpipe grinder, to
maintain the pipeís radius.
How much will all that cost?
"We donít know," said Sun Valley Co. Sales
and Marketing Director Jack Sibbach. "Weíve never maintained one."
Whatever the cost, Sun Valley Co. will try
to recoup part of it by requiring all users of the halfpipe, whether they ride
the lifts or not, to have a lift ticket. Joe Miczulski, recreation and winter
sports specialist at the Ketchum Ranger Station, said the U.S. Forest Service
has authorized that policy.
"Itís a constructed feature, similar to
the lifts," Miczulski said. "Itís an amenity that Sun Valley has put a
significant effort into building and maintaining."
As of press time, the halfpipe was not
expected to be open by Thanksgiving. Sibbach said the pipe requires more snow
than do the ski runs.
"Itís not going to be open until we get
some help from Mother Nature," Sibbach said. "We have to get the rest of the
mountain open first."
Nobodyís more excited about the new
halfpipe than the members of the Sun Valley Snowboard Team. Gilbert said that
until now, the team has been making do by building jumps at various places
around the mountain and by practicing occasionally on the halfpipe at Park City,
Utah. The athletes have also taken advantage of the hour or so of practice time
they get before each competition at other resorts.
"Itís going to help enormously," Gilbert
said. "Weíre probably going to get some young kids taking to it very quickly."
The snowboard team has about 90 members,
about double the number five years ago.
For kids less interested in competition,
the Sun Valley Ski and Snowboard School offers its All Mountain Sports Team. The
weekend program includes snowboarding and skiing on all types of terrain and in
all kinds of conditions. That will now include the halfpipe.
Travis Thelen, the ski and snowboard
schoolís snowboard supervisor, said the first thing to learn about riding the
halfpipe is that the etiquette is different than it is on the rest of the
mountain. He advises riders to give people ahead of them plenty of time, and to
announce their entry as they drop in.
Both Gilbert and Thelen caution novice
halfpipe enthusiasts about going for big air right off the bat. They advise
people to take their time getting a feel for it and to follow proper etiquette
to avoid collisions.
Thelen said initial lessons will
incorporate what people have already learned on the mountain. Then riders will
learn how to maintain their speed and to set up to catch air.
He said novice ridersí biggest
misconception is that they need to push off the wall to get air. The idea, he
said, is to let the pipe launch you, and to land as high on the wall as
"At first you only get about a foot of
air, but you look down 15 feet below you to the bottom of the halfpipe," Thelen
From there, riders graduate to simple
grabs, then a 180-degree rotation. A rider doing a 360-degree rotation in a
halfpipe, unlike on a jump elsewhere, will land backwards.
"What you want is slow, smooth rotations,"
The next big step is to add inverted
"A lot of inverted airs are becoming
standard tricks now," Gilbert said. "Kids are coming up with stuff in the pipe
that people didnít think was doable the year before."
Gilbert is urging local riders to be
careful on the halfpipe, but to get out and use it.
"Sun Valleyís made a big commitment to
this," Gilbert said. "Itís up to riders in the valley to show them this is a
worthwhile thing. "