Smooth Transition

Pipe Dragon creator talks about his invention.

Cutting and grooming halfpipes by hand is merely a faint memory thanks to the the Pipe Dragon-an ingenious cutting machine created by Doug Waugh. It’s the most widely used pipe groomer on the market, today, but how did it come about? SNOWboarding Business asked Waugh about the history as well as the future of this notable device.

SNOWboarding Business: Why did you decide to create a pipe-cutting machine?

Waugh: The request came out of a meeting of the Colorado Snow Groomers spring seminar. I heard what people wanted and worked on it.

How did you come up with the design?

I worked on a series of ideas with my boss at the time and we came up with one that worked. That was back in 1990.

Did you ever think it would be so successful?

No. I knew it had some potential, but I only had a few contracts to groom early on. It went from a couple times a month to a couple times a week. As interest in pipe riding grew, people realized you had to groom on a regular basis to have a good pipe. Resorts started to realize they needed to have their own machine. We’ve sold 100 to date.

How is the Pipe Dragon different than some of the other machines?

Ours has a specific process of cutting, it moves the snow up the transition rather than cut and blow like some of the others. There are machines that will cut down the wall and blow it out, but that doesn’t allow you to mend the walls as easily. We can fill holes and maintain the transition a lot easier.

Any new plans for the machine?

We always build to the standard halfpipe. But there’s the question of whether pipes are going to get bigger. But then you’d have something like a super pipe. I don’t really know what’s going to happen, but halfpipes have stayed around the same specs for a while. We’ll continue to improve, but stay within the standards for the World Cup FIS halfpipe.

What was it like, being responsible for cutting the Olympic halfpipe?

Oh, it was pretty exciting. It was steeper than any pipe I’ve ever groomed. The job wasn’t difficult because the Japanese were so well prepared. They could have done it without me in the way they’ve always done it, with guys on skis sliding down. But when you groom that way you end up with a lot of ruts and it’s not that smooth.

And what did you do with the machine after the Olympics?

I shipped it over there and sold it. We do some business in Japan, so now there’s another machine over there ready to work.

What do you think of snowboarding?

It’s a great industry. There seems to be a lot of excitement around the halfpipe. It’s definitely an area that’s going to stay. I do snowboard and I’ve been enjoying it for about three years. I don’t ride in the halfpipe- I’m happy if I can connect my turns.

Where would you like to see the Pipe Dragon in the future?

I’d like it to continue to be the leader in the industry.

-Robyn Hakes