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Tasting Vail’s new halfpipe

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
SPT Halfpipe Opens DT 1-23-08
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VAIL, Colorado ” Building a halfpipe is like producing a fine wine.

If you want a tasty product, you need to start with the freshest snow.

Just ask vintner, er, Vail’s terrain park designer, Stephen Laterra.



“The key to making a really good halfpipe is to work the snow,” Laterra said. “You’re looking for a uniform consistency in the snow.”

Then, comes the crushing and grinding.



“You need to work the snow with the cats ” you really want to tear it up,” Laterra said. “You get all different kinds of snow ” some days it’s heavy, some is wet, some is dry and some is a mix. You want to take all those and mix it up and make it

uniform.”

And if it’s quality you want, by golly, you can’t rush these things.



“It took us longer than usual because we had that awesome bad weather,” Laterra said. “We got hammered with snow for a month, but it was bad because you’re building something 450 feet long in whiteout conditions. You can’t see what you’re doing. But the great thing about Vail Resorts is they understand it takes a lot of time to construct this.”

Wednesday, Laterra’s Vail 2008 blend ” his biggest ever ” debuted at Golden Peak.

Before dropping in to the pipe, some riders gave it the visual test.

“It looks gigantic,” Darsh Watkins said. “I can’t wait to get a piece of this. I’ve only dropped in a couple times to a pipe this big.”

And there was the customary cleaning of the palate.

“There was a lot of powder in it this morning, but we slipped it,” said snowboarder Tyson Pollard.

So when it finally hit the lips?

“Pretty sick for the first day,” Pollard said.

Swish it around a little.

“You get another two hits,” said snowboarder Fredo Velasco, referring to the extra length. “And the decks are pretty good.”

Clearly, there are always a few adjustments that can be made to bring out the flavor.

“A few more cuts and it will be better,” said Dillon McDonald, a freeskier. “It needs to be a bit faster in transition.”

While others may have unveiled their blend a bit earlier in the year, Laterra knows that the harvest depends on the land you’re cultivating.

“The biggest factor involved in that is the difference we have in elevation compared to those other mountains,” Laterra said. “(Copper Mountain) is about 1,500 feet higher in elevation where there pipe is. If they are getting those cold temperatures, especially at night ” that’s the main reason why (they open early).

“But this is worth the wait.”

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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