‘To recreate what a contest can be’: Dew Tour superpipe designer describes inspiration behind re-imagined course
Elliot Cone and the team at Snow Park Technologies hope they are reimagining what halfpipe contests can be with their new plans for the Dew Tour superpipe.
Come Dec. 13-16 at Breckenridge Ski Resort, the annual superpipe event will have a different look and feel compared to previous competitions thanks to a double-sided spine at the top of the superpipe. This non-traditional, freestyle feature will allow skiers and riders to execute one freestyle trick before landing on a traditional jump that then leads into the actual superpipe portion of the course.
“This is a one-of-a-kind pipe that we’ve created for the Dew Tour,” Cone said. “It kind of matches the vision Dew Tour has handed out to a company like us, to re-create what a contest can be.”
“I think this pipe contest offers some elements that we’ve seen recently in slopestyle contests,” Cone added, “because, over the course of the past five years, they’ve put transition features into the slope courses, and they have had a lot of success with slope athletes. Now, we’re going to take these transition features, and give halfpipe athletes their chance. Which, in my mind may be most natural competition for these features as a whole.”
The superpipe itself will be 300 feet long this year after that initial spine-to-traditional jump start on the new superpipe course. That’s about half the length of a traditional Dew Tour superpipe, such as last year’s, Cone said.
Then at the bottom of the 300-foot stretch of superpipe, Cone said the current plan is for the course to flatten out from a traditional 18-degree superpipe slope into “tombstone” features. This means athletes will have the chance to execute one final trick from that flat slope to a traditional wall to a traditional landing. As of current renderings, which are subject to change, there are two traditional landings on either side at the base of the pipe. This, as opposed to the more traditional halfpipe course, is where skiers and snowboarders complete their final trick on the superpipe wall.
“It kind of goes back to the outsides,” Cone said.
This isn’t the first year Dew Tour has taken a fresh approach to what a superpipe course can be. Last year, Dew Tour’s superpipe was as traditional as traditional can be as the event also served as a qualifying event for the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic team. Before 2017, though, the Dew Tour experimented with adding features such as jibs to the actual top of the halfpipe walls.
Thinking back, Cone said that strategy inadvertantly affected the flow, amplitude and speed of the tricks athletes attempted on the superpipe.
“To me,” Cone said, “halfpipe riding is big air — really fast and incredibly big tricks. When you put jibs into the halfpipe, where you have to hit the brakes, it kind of changes the dynamic.”
In total, Cone said the current plan for the full superpipe course will push 850 feet of rideable features, which is longer than a traditional superpipe.
Cone is no stranger to Dew Tour or Breckenridge. He’s been a part of every winter Dew Tour since the event’s inception, helping as a builder and designer. He also worked for Breckenridge Ski Resort for a dozen years — an original member of the resort’s terrain park crew — and at Keystone Resort for three years — where he worked as terrain park manager — before he became a full-time employee with Snow Park Technologies based out of their Denver Tech Center offices.
A former head builder at the Breckenridge terrain park, Cone said he and his Snow Park tech team is tasked annually with taking the concept from Dew Tour and figuring out what is feasible in the actual snow. He then presents it back to them before several modifications are finalized. Cone also said Breckenridge’s terrain park manager, Greg Davidson, and members of Davidson’s team play a crucial role in the process.
And, of course, the elite athletes influence things, too.
“We pay attention to all trends,” Cone said. “We spend a lot of time in terrain parks, talk with a bunch of athletes regularly. We watch them more than we talk to them, go on their social-style feeds, see what they are making look really cool, really cutting edge. These guys kind of start the trends whether they know it or not. And I figure out if some of the features in the backcountry can be incorporated.”
Cone added that this year’s slopestyle course will more go back to how it looked two years ago compared to last year, when the event complied with Olympic-qualifying standards.
Rather than one slopestyle run that combines jib and jump features, this year’s slopestyle competition will be separated into two different sections: a three-jump section and a four-jib section.