The best ten halfpipes in North America. Great pipes don’t just appear out of the blue. They’re meticulously planned out, sculpted, and maintained by experienced, professional shapers.
~ Note: don’t expect the pipe to be ready by the holidays; most don’t get going until late January. Check ahead with the resort to be sure. ~
1. Mammoth Mountain, California
“The pipes at Mammoth have always been a staple for progression,” says resort team rider Mason Aguirre. “Whether you go back to Trevor Andrew’s part in Amp or Danny Davis’ winning run at last year’s Grand Prix, it’s a place where people always seems to step up their game. It truly is pipe paradise here.”
If you pay attention to snowboarding at all, you’ve seen shots of Mammoth pipes-lots of them, in the videos and on magazine covers. And it’s not just because Mammoth gets lots of snow and 300 days of sunshine a year-those facts do help-but the best halfpipe riders in the world ride come to Mammoth for a reason. Lots of reasons, actually. Reason numero uno hits you as soon as you look uphill from the Main Lodge. The 22-foot deep, 550-foot-long, Zaugg-cut pipe is the site of all the major competitions. Last year it saw lots of action, two Grand Prix, one where Davis did “the best pipe run ever” and the other which landed Shaun White on the Olympic team. The Roxy Chicken Jam and the TransWorld Team Shoot Out also went down in this monster. There are two other pipes here, too. The eighteen-footer is 450-feet long and also sits front and center in Main Park. The mini pipe is over in Wonderland Park and built to help beginners and groms get stoked on riding tranny. Mammoth even builds a spring pipe way upslope when the warm-weather comes. This keeps your pipe dreams alive well into summer.
For the rest of the 2011 Top Ten Pipes, click the page numbers below.
2. Buttermilk, Colorado
Even if you’ve never been to Buttermilk, you know the pipe is extraordinary. Why? Because this is the very spot where Shaun White smashed his face on the lip last season, only to come back and stomp the double McTwist, and where Gretchen Bleiler edged out Kelly Clark by a mere percentage of a point to take the gold in front of her hometown crowd. And you probably saw it all.
As the celebrated stage for the X Games, this snow sculpture is truly top of the line. SPT special-agents Frank Wells and Mike Binnell show up in mid-December to help Buttermilk pipe cutters Yannick Rioux and Dylan Cox build it out in time for the Christmas crowd-and that cold high-country snow makes great pipe-building material. Once built, it sits at an impressive 570 feet long and 22 feet high. Few resorts can swing dimensions like this-they demand the kind of big-league resources that only come with an event like Winter X. However, the X Games only eat up two weeks-the rest of the winter, this baby is yours for the taking.
3. Snowmass, Colorado
Sure, the X Games pipe is just down the road at Buttermilk, but Snowmass’s tube stands up to the same stringent competition standards. This is the local pipe of Gretchen Bleiler, after all-plus, the resort dedicates a whole crew just to the pipe. Opening at the crack of January (just in time for Buttermilk’s pipe to close down for X Games training), this 500- foot-long beast serves up smooth, eighteen-foot trannies cut nightly by the devoted Snowmass pipe cutters Jason Peake and Dylan Cox. “Pipe riding has been very popular here, and we want to provide as much of an opportunity for progression as possible,” says Terrain Park Manager Isabelle Falardeau. Good to its word, Snowmass is adding a second pipe with thirteen-foot walls to the beginner park this season.
4. Breckenridge, Colorado
Consistently cold temperatures, early-season snow, and precision cutting are the ingredients to Breck’s pristine pipes. Their 22-foot Superpipe at the base of the Freeway Park hosts loads of pro-level contests, and it’s backed by a dirt foundation. The smaller, fourteen-foot Country Boy pipe is tucked away from park traffic and provides the perfect jump-off spot for pipe aspirers.
5. Park City, Utah
The Eagle Superpipe hosted one of the greatest Grand Prix pipe contests ever witnessed last winter. This Zaugg-cut, 550-foot-long, 22-foot Superpipe is the training ground for both 2010 Olympic gold medalists Shaun White and Torah Bright. Lap the pipe using the Three Kings double chair (and get a run through the park, too).
6. June Mountain, California
Lots of natural snow followed by warm, sunny days makes riding pipe at June an absolute blast. Their fifteen-foot deep pipe is 500-feet long and cut nearly every night. Taco Tuesday is a good day to session June’s pipe-ride their taco and eat a taco-not a bad day on the hill at all.
7. Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia
Whistler is so vast and offers such diverse terrain that pipe riding there is slightly overlooked in lieu of the incredible freeriding options. The park crews aren’t overlooking the pipe scene, though. Last year Whistler stepped it up big time by upgrading to the 22-foot Superpipe. Adding this to their world-class resort, epic nightlife, and parks, and Whistler truly has it all.
8. Copper Mountain, Colorado
The Main Vein Superpipe that has hosted the USASA Nationals for the last two seasons, and the first Grand Prix of the season is getting a facelift-a four-foot facelift to be precise. Look for the brand new 500-foot-long, 22-foot Zaugg-cut pipe to be open early season in time to host the kickoff Grand Prix December 8, 2010. First!
9. Northstar-at-Tahoe, California
From high-stakes contests to private pipe shoots, this 420-foot-long beast can handle it. It’s backed by rudimentary dirt walls, which help maintain its shape and get it going early in the season. It’s sheltered in the trees, so wind is never an issue, and its lower elevation means it never gets too icy, either. You’ll find riders like Danny Davis riding these eighteen-foot transitions-they’re primed and nearly perfect every day.
10. Boreal, California
Boreal builds one of the best pipes in the country, but they don’t stop there. They fire up the lights and keep the big U-jump cranking into the night. Centrally located under the Accelerator high-speed chair, Boreal’s pipe is in prime view and easy to lap from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. And it’s easy get your fix of pipe hits late into the evening, since Boreal is located directly off I-80.