Thursday, January 13, 2011

So you want to build a superpipe?

Okemo's Superpipe is slated to open this Saturday, January 15th. This will be great news for skiers and riders and the completion of a big project by Mountain Operations. Believe it or not, this project got underway about 21 days ago!

A lot of people don't realize that the pipe gets it basic shape from the ground below. The earth is actually dug out to form the basic template of a half pipe. Snow is then used to build up the walls and create the bottom of the pipe.

Once the snow is made up to the sides of the earthen pipe, the guns are shut down and work begins on phase one to "push in the pipe". The walls begin to take shape and snow is moved from top to bottom and bottom to top, as the basic structure comes together. Barry Tucker (VP Mountain Operations) and Eb Kinney (Mountain Manager) then take some readings with a laser level to determine the line and get a feel for where the walls will eventually be. After this first session of pushing and measuring, then it is back to snowmaking. Okemo works to maintain 18 foot walls with a 17 degree pitch on our Superpipe, and that takes a lot of snow!

After another round of pushing and shaping with groomers, the "cutting of the wall" begins. This work begins with an excavator for basic shape and is finished with the precision of a Zaugg pipe cutter. The Zaugg is kept in line with a laser level and a winch cat to help the machine travel up the pipe. Normally it takes a couple of passes to get it "race ready".

At this point it becomes all about letting riders take their turns so we can dial in the fine tuning of the walls. The grooming team gets on a schedule of cutting the pipe and touching up the walls a few times during the week. It is important to not cut the pipe too much - as every time it is cut we are a few inches closer to the earthen walls. As the season progresses, this can also cause the transition to become too far between the walls.

Many thanks to everyone who has helped get the pipe up and running this year. It has taken a little longer than we had expected, but we feel the final product will be well worth the wait...

Ride on,
V.P. & G.M.

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