Snow Behemoth

A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Buttermilk's SuperPipe

For more than ten consecutive years, one of the world’s biggest halfpipes has loomed large.

By Erik Hesselman November 1, 2014 Published in the Holiday 2014 issue of Aspen Sojourner

1114 buttermilk pipe iryj0o

At 560 feet long, 102 feet wide, and 22 feet tall, it is officially known as a SuperPipe, an FIS-sanctioned designation. Building such a behemoth takes a team effort—and quite a bit of snow. Here’s how Buttermilk brings it all together. 

1. Temperatures permitting, snowmaking begins on Buttermilk by November 17. From the get-go, the main focus is the SuperPipe. Over the span of two weeks, twelve to fifteen million gallons of water are pumped to create the snow the pipe requires. 

2. After the snow has been amassed, five SkiCo crewmembers—working a demanding week of eight-hour days in snowcats—begin to push it into place. Even more snow would be required if the slope’s earth weren’t already shaped for the SuperPipe’s structure. 

3. The snow must now be shaped by a snowcat operator. Starting at the top and working down, the cat plows a mound of snow where each wall will stand over two days. The walls at this point look like tiered stadium-style seating. 

4. The stairlike tiers are evened out manually with the aid of a chain saw. Then a Zaugg Pipe Monster cuts the walls, smoothing them over twelve to fifteen passes. The Pipe Monster also shapes the decks above the walls and grades the bottom of the pipe. 

5. The SuperPipe usually opens by Christmas. It sets the stage for pipe riding’s brightest stars at the Winter X Games

6. The Zaugg recuts the pipe daily after the lifts close. Spring temps soften the snow, which chills to a slick finish by the next morning. The final traces of the pipe—the last remnants of a ski season gone by—melt by midsummer.

Show Comments