What Went Wrong (And Right) With Mammoth’s Super Duper Pipe?

 

Only four seasons ago, riders skeptically peered down the seventeen-foot transitions and fifteen-foot-high walls of the first Superpipe, which has since gone on to revolutionize pipe riding and become the industry standard. This season Mammoth continued its commitment to freestyle snowboarding and took it to the next level by building a pipe dubbed the “Super Duper Pipe,” with monsterous eighteen-foot transitions and triple-overhead 22-foot-high walls. The lunker measured in at 600 feet long. Bigger is better, right? Well, not always—from the start, riders were complaining.

The pipe was put to the test in January during the Vans Triple Crown. Gretchen Bleiler thought the overall performance in the Super Duper Pipe was lower than it would have been had the contest been held in a Superpipe, and Doran Laybourne said, “You could go as fast as possible and not get half as far out of the pipe. It was a workout.”

Mammoth Unbound Park Manager Oren Tanzer said, “The pipe was extremely difficult to maintain.”

The Zaugg Pipe Monster that Mammoth used is a Superpipe cutter with a four-foot extension, the same one that Sunday River had been using in ’02. The extension allows the cutter to carve four more feet of vert on top of the pipe, but according to Pat Malendoski, Planet Snow Design owner and the man behind the Olympic, U.S. Open, and High Cascade halfpipes, that’s exactly the problem: “When you hit the top of a pipe you want to feel weightless, but if you have an eighteen-foot tranny with four feet of vert on top, you’ll hit your peak speed at the top of the transition and then have to ride up four more feet of pipe wall. The problem with the Zaugg addition is that it doesn’t maintain the continuous arc of the transition, it just changes it and ends up making the transition feel tight.”

Throughout the season, the Mammoth park crew collaborated with local pro riders to try to get the Super Duper Pipe on track. By the end of the season, local riders were stoked on the pipe, which was carved down to a more manageable size. The experiment at Mammoth continues this next season, Oren Tanzer says, “We were the first resort to get the Zaugg Pipe Monster with the new extension and start using it right away. We didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and wait for all the kinks to be worked out by someone else. That’s not how we do it at Mammoth.”

These days, Mammoth shreds are a little gun-shy about the potential for having a Super Duper Pipe, especially after seeing the neighboring Superpipe maintenance neglected in favor of the big ‘un. But is there still hope for bigger halfpipes? According to Malendoski, the answer is yes: “A couple more feet of transition is good—not a couple more feet of vert. The next step is going to be nineteen- to twenty-foot consistent transitions. This would allow the top riders to keep pushing ahead. Resorts need to be able to keep up with what the top riders are doing and allow the evolution to continue.”

He’s got his money on a new Super Dragon machine, which should be able to make a pipe with eighteen-foot-high walls and twenty feet of smooth transition. Get ready for another raising of the bar.Annie Fast

Daniel Franck struggles with the gigantic transitions of the Super Duper Pipe during the Vans Triple Crown at Mammoth—well, not really. Photo: Nick Hamilton