Park vs. Pipe: Which Is More Popular?

When it comes to competition, I think the snowboarding halfpipe is top dog. It’s been around much longer than the slopestyle competitions that are based on park features. In the early days of snowboarding, freestyle was centred around the pipe, and therefore so were the comps (forgetting the racing stuff). And if we look at today’s Olympic games, they have a snowboarding halfpipe event, but they don’t have slopestyle.

Halfpipe, Avoriaz

OK, so the Olympics might not be the main event for competitive snowboarding, and yes, the other competitions all have slopestyle as well as the halfpipe. But I still prefer the pipe in this regard. It’s a better competition; more exciting. To me, the halfpipe is a better arena for athletes to compete in, compared with a course created for slopestyle.

But in resorts, I see more shredders lining up for the kickers and rail lines than I do for the halfpipe. Why is that?

Is the terrain park more fun? More varied? Better suited to a wide range of abilities?

Not sure about more fun, but to the others, I’d say yes. Snowparks are without doubt, more varied than the halfpipe. Big jumps, little jumps, hips, rails, boxes… there’s plenty to do. As for welcoming new participants, it’s easier to provide beginner park features than it is to provide a good, beginner halfpipe. What’s more, taking on small jumps in the park is a natural progression from little jumps around the piste; the halfpipe is something new entirely.

As for the UK scene, building a halfpipe is a stretch too far. The indoor fridges can build jumps, rails and boxes, but none of them can make a halfpipe. Likewise, it would be a big, fixed investment for one of the snowflex hills to take on. Sure, there are examples in Europe from both indoor snow and snowflex, but they’re the exception rather than the rule.

Park, Les Diablerets

And perhaps the snowboarding media – productions and advertising – are helping to cement the the trend. Video parts are full of back country kickers, park jumps, street rails, jibbing… and some halfpipe runs. The halfpipe clip can often be an extract from a competition.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, but it’s as if the halfpipe has been set to one side for competition use only. OK, I know that the majority of pro shreds out there can probably all kill it in the pipe, but I’m talking about popularity in the masses.

Has the halfpipe become an older discipline?

From where I’m sitting, the park is more popular than the pipe. What do you think? Which do you like to ride most?

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Comments
5 Responses to “Park vs. Pipe: Which Is More Popular?”
  1. David Z says:

    IMO pipe is mostly a “spectator sport” whereas park/slopestyle is something that is more within reach & ability of the novice, non-professional riders. You mention the difficulties associated with building and maintaining half-pipes, and I think that is probably a big part of the equation, you rarely see a resort with an 8-foot halfpipe, they’re all 15, 16 feet and that’s just a lot to tackle for most people.

  2. A superpipe costs double what it costs to make a terrain park. Plus it really is a specialized niche to ride one. When a little resort is looking at making a pipe they have to weigh the costs/upkeep vs just slapping some rails and making a jump.

  3. Gavin says:

    Good point, I hadn’t really considered the cost for mountain resorts – I’d only considered the cost/difficulty here in the UK.

  4. R120 says:

    It takes years to master the pipe, especially now that 18-22ft is the standard size, which makes it very hard/intimidating for a novice to ride. The consequences in th epipe are pretty big too.

    Riding a f-off icy pipe when you cant get out the lip, is no fun, but hitting a green jump and pulling any air off it when you are learning will always put a smile on your face.

    No matter what level you are, you can have fun on a slopestyle course, but you have to be pretty good to ride pipe.

  5. Gavin says:

    Yeah – I totally agree.