The Case for the 12-Foot Pipe

How halfpipe skiing can become relevant again

Matt Berkowitz. PHOTO: GREG KEELER

Words: Ryan Dunfee

It was a beautiful Saturday during a February thaw in 2000, a prime day for my home mountain of Attitash. Their pride and joy, a brand new 500-foot halfpipe, New Hampshire’s longest, had opened two days before Christmas that season. It was a feat of East Coast terrain park construction made possible by a summer of dirt work. On this particular Saturday, a group of kids from the University of New Hampshire hiked from the base of the mountain to the pipe because they were too broke to buy passes.

James McGlynn alley-oop flair. PHOTO: COURTESY JAMES MCGLYNN

By noon, at least two-dozen additional skiers were hiking the pipe, the skis slung over shoulders an even blend between the first line of Salomon 1080s and Hart F17 flat-tailed mogul skis. Skiers dropping in from the left wall were hucking the first 900s any of us had ever seen in person. At the bottom, Matt Berkowitz—now Fischer’s Director of Marketing—was boosting giant alley-oop mute grabs eight feet out of the small transition. People were still hiking for runs well after 5 p.m. It was the golden era of amateur halfpipe skiing.

But then the Winter X Games served to fuel an arms race of halfpipes. With action sports biggest event constantly upping the size of their pipe’s walls, resorts threw hundreds of thousands of dollars in to dirt work, snowmaking, and pipe cutters to build the highest, biggest, longest, or steepest halfpipe in their region. Families with kids, middle-schoolers getting into park for the first time, and old guys—pretty much everyone who didn’t have aspirations of being a pro skier—stopped going to the pipe. Souring at the expense and the lack of interest from customers, many resorts scrapped their pipes, replacing them with cheaper and friendly jib parks. Attitash’s pipe has sat idle for years now, two dirt piles all that remain from those memories of sessions past.

It’s time for the return of the everyman pipe. If the “sport” of halfpipe skiing is going to grow or hold any place in skiing beyond the hyper-competitive sphere there has to be something between the mini-pipe, which is now often a barely-vert pair of banked walls for rank beginners, and the super-pipe, built for aspiring Olympic champions only. If we’re going to ever see amateurs hiking the pipe again—which I witnessed at Woodward Tahoe’s opening weekend and struck me as a sight as rare as seeing the aurora borealis—we need pipes that people will actually want to ski. So, resort guys, let’s dust off the old, tiny Zaugg in the attic and get to work. It’s time for the return of the twelve-foot pipe.

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  • Charlie

    Sugarloaf/USA has been carving their extremely fun 12 footer for the past couple years, after a pretty decent hiatus. Good call Powder, this definitely needs to happen a lot more, all over the country.

  • b

    Mammoth’s had one for ever. Even during this shitty winter the 12′er was up.

  • william

    I couldnt agree more. stratton use to have a fun 10-12ft pipe but since ditched that for the 22ft monster that no one rides because its always super hardpack ice.

  • Pipe Smoker

    If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen! Super pipes are the best thing going for skiing right now. The freakishly boring super jock all-star image is fresh and safe. Long live rich kids with private training facilities and long live organized bull shit.

  • Mack

    Keystone usually has a 12 or 13 foot half pipe. Lots of fun! I wish moar places had them!

  • pipe jock

    Charlie, the Woodward Tahoe grand opening pipe was a full size 22ft and it had a full on hick sesh going down. That was a rare sight to see so many hicking a full 22…but totally agree we need more 12-14ft pipes bring bring new blood back to pipe riding.

  • @brodyleven

    Great point! There are small, medium, and large jumps. You can start on a 2-footer and work your way up to a 120-footer, never having missed a single foot of tabletop. With rails, you can start on a 1′ flat box on the ground and work your way up to whatever-the-heck-Wallisch-is-doing-nowadays in 10,000 increments. The mutual goal here being self-taught development, from the fundamental principles of balance to near-suicide. This is how our best skiers and built and needs to exist for half pipe skiing.
    Or, pipe skiing could disappear altogether and no one would ever notice.

  • Bill

    This point is great and all but its kind of invalid… the 22 foot pipe is only safer than a 12 foot… bigger transition means a bigger landing area… so why risk riding a 12 footer with a smaller transition… you dont have to go 20 feet over the deck like the pros do… u can still have plenty of fun just getting a foot of air and in many cases thats all u even need to do the intermediate tricks… i say we push to have super pipes everywhere and educate amateurs on the benefits…

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