27 July 2007

Perisher Blue’s famous PSP Superpipe is making its season debut today and is longer, wider, higher and steeper than ever before.

Matt Klemm, Grooming Manager for Perisher Blue, said that the Pipe is bigger and slightly steeper than in previous years.  “It’s 30m longer at 125m, 1m wider at 17m, and the walls are now 17 foot (just over 5m) high.  It’s also set on a steeper angle,” he said. 

Each year the Pipe seems to suddenly appear on Front Valley and attract a steady stream of riders from all over Australian and the globe. But how does it happen?  What is actually involved in creating Australia’s favourite halfpipe?

A massive 9000 cubic metres of snow is required to even start building the PSP Superpipe followed by about ten days of labour.  With this seasons’ early snowfalls and favourable conditions for snowmaking, this amount of snow has accumulated quickly allowing the Superpipe to be constructed in good time.

The first step in the process is pushing up enough snow for one wall and getting the top-deck level right.  It is then sighted and marked with blue dye to ensure it is perfectly straight.  The mark line is then cut with a chainsaw.  The wall is then chipped away so that it is straight and ‘stepped out’ to create the vertical wall that the riders use to launch from out of the Pipe. 

Now enough snow to make the other wall is pushed up. The same process is followed as for the first wall.  To ensure the walls are exactly parallel, the cut line is measured at various points across to the other wall. Once this second wall is stepped out, the excess snow in the belly of the Pipe is emptied and the transition (‘trannie’) is created.

A specialized Terrain Park Cat (a specialized grooming machine) is used to shape and step out the transition.  The Cat pushes the excess snow up the walls of the Pipe giving it strength and structure.  The Half Pipe Grinder (HPG) is then used for the finishing touches and a back paddle blends the transition of the Pipe into the flat bottom leaving a nice smooth finish.

Building halfpipes, like building terrain parks has become a specialized field in ski resorts worldwide due to the rising popularity of freeriding.  Perisher Blue has a team of groomers and terrain park and pipe maintenance staff who are dedicated to creating Australia’s biggest and best freeride facilities. 

Once the Superpipe is complete, Perisher Blue will have the stage set for some of Australia’s biggest and most spectacular freeride events for 2007.  These include the Coca Cola Wild Winter Weekend  (4-5 August), Planet X Games (11-12 August), Garnier Fructis Australian Open, presented by Burton (21-25 August) and the Boost Mobile Snowsho (1 September). 

The Australian Junior TTR 1-Star Series’ Slopestyle event (first in a series of four events to be held during the season) is also set for this Sunday 29 July and the AIS Micro-Tech Pipe Challenge involving new technology that measures riders’ amplitude and degrees of rotation in the Halfpipe is set for this Monday 30 July 2007.

Check out the full event calendar at



27 July

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), together with the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA), the Griffith University School of Engineering, Catapult and Perisher Blue are conducting a Pipe Challenge this Monday from 8.30am as part of a research project to test new cutting-edge micro-technology designed to assist judging at elite-level snowboarding.  This will be the first ever Australian Halfpipe Snowboarding event to combine subjective judging and micro technology objective judging to award the best riders. 

The 12 invited riders, including ex-Olympians Andrew Burton, Mitch Allan and current OWIA athletes Holly Crawford and Hannah Trigger, will wear a small inertia sensor device (AIS / Catapult Mini Max) designed to calculate air-time throughout each air and detect the trick being attempted with the degrees of rotation. 

The aim of this technological research, which is an AIS funded project additionally supported by Griffith University and Catapult, are three-fold: the first is to assist the development of Australian athletes in their training for World-Cup and Olympic Snowboarding Halfpipe events, secondly to introduce a more objective method of judging elite-level half-pipe snowboarding; and thirdly, to support Australian Halfpipe Snowboarding at the grass roots level.

According to Jason Harding, an AIS based research scholar working for the OWIA and Griffith University, who has initiated the use of micro-technology based athlete tracking into elite-level half-pipe snowboarding, “While the technology is still in its early conceptual stages, it has the potential to enhance the subjective judging protocols currently used in elite half-pipe snowboard competition by quantifying objective information on variables such as air-time and the degree of rotation.  This will enable judges to focus solely on the execution and overall composition of aerial acrobatics incorporated into a competition run.” Harding insists that rather than replace the current wholly subjective method of judging and place the traditional ‘freeriding’ elements of style and execution in danger of extinction, the micro technology will be used to supplement subjective judging. “It is getting increasingly difficult to divide the top riders in elite level snowboarding events. The technology offers a way to separate riders more accurately,” he said.

The concept event to be held in Perisher Blue on Monday is an exciting part of the development of the technology.  According to Harding, “The AIS Pipe Challenge event is a result of the support shown by Australia’s elite-level half-pipe snowboarders and national level snowboard coaches and would never have been possible without Perisher Blue supporting the project from the beginning and providing exclusive access to their world-class Superpipe site.  We look forward to working with Perisher Blue in the future and aim towards running an annual invitational half-pipe snowboarding event to extend this technology further.”

According to Ben Wordsworth, Head Snowboard Coach of the OWIA, “Having the support of the AIS is a great opportunity to run a very unique Halfpipe event for Australian riders. It is great for the riders to have competition and with this style of event we will be able to test the variables in judging systems. I also thank Perisher Blue for supporting this event.”

Riders will be judged using current subjective judging protocols by World Cup Head Judge Steve Brown and additionally by the AIS technology to award Highest Individual Air-time, Highest Average Degree of Rotation and Highest Average Airtime.  The best rider judged by the athletes themselves will also be awarded.  The event will be staged on the PSP Superpipe on Front Valley this Monday from 8.30 to 10.00am.  Spectators are welcome.