For years now, the White Arena group in Laax in Switzerland’s Canton Grisons has been the Mecca of the international freestyle and snowboard scene and a leading venue for top-class competitions like the Burton European Open and the European Freeski Open. Today’s snowboarders, freestylers and freeriders continue to develop their sport and are always looking to generate still more thrills, meaning they want to jump higher and higher and further and further. Their aspirations have been met in full over the years by the snow parks created at the Laax winter sport resort.
Reto Poltéra, the member of the senior management in Laax with special responsibility for Sport and Recreation, provides the details: “Back in the 1980s, the halfpipes were built manually using shovels, while spider excavators were introduced at the beginning of the 1990s to build halfpipes up to a height of 2.5 m. Then our CEO Reto Gurtner imported the first halfpipe machine to Europe from the USA. In 1998 Zaugg AG of Eggiwil in Switzerland developed its own halfpipe cutter, and we soon invested in one for Laax and have been fully convinced of the benefits ever since. Zaugg’s machines combine perfect engineering with top-quality materials, and the design is always highly intelligent. On the basis of our positive experiences, we teamed up with Zaugg to develop the Pipe Monster 18ft, followed by the Pipe Monster 22ft and now the Pipe Monster 22ft+ for pipe heights of up to 6.9 meters. That is unmatched worldwide.
For the 2014/15 winter season, we used the new mega Pipe Monster to create the biggest all-season halfpipe with a length of 200 meters and a height of 6.9 meters. Basically, our aim is to offer riders an even higher standard of safety and convenience with a halfpipe that permits still higher jumps with plenty of space for landing. So far the feed-back has been extremely positive, because the whole experience is now better. We groom the halfpipe every day, and this attention to quality has made the facility even more successful.”
Following the halfpipe upgrade to the new size, the White Arena has now been made the training base for the Swiss Freestyle Skiing Federation. In order to reduce snowmaking requirements, the terrain for the halfpipe was optimized in the summer of 2014. The basic structure was then filled with man-made snow: “We made the whole thing much wider so that we could start off with more than 3 m of artificial snow along the sides. That means we only have to do the snowmaking once to have enough snow for the whole season,” Poltéra explains. In summer the halfpipe is normally covered in soil and grassed over.
The details of the Pipe Monster 22ft+
The new halfpipe cutter is a further development of the Pipe Monster 22ft. The main difference is an extension, which is also available for retrofitting. Daniel Frutiger, Zaugg’s CEO, fills in the background: “At the request of the management of the White Arena group in Laax we started looking for a way of delivering a pipe height of 6.9 m compared with the 6.7 m available at the time. The extension attachment is a lightweight design in high-grade steel and is the perfect answer as a simple and cost-effective solution.” The Pipe Monster 22ft+ offers 1,800 mm of lateral movement and can be attached to any powerful snowcat using the quick release. The cutter has a working capacity of 500-800 m/h and is operated by the driver in the cab. The vehicle must be fitted with an inclinometer. Halfpipes are constructed with a straight upper margin (known as the vert). This is the actual take-off area for snowboarders or freestylers and is decisive for the height or distance of the jumps. The vert has to be set at a certain angle, which is where the inclinometer comes in. The Pipe Monster 22ft+ has a four-piece swivel discharge chute for a throw of up to 30 m. Accurate snow deposition up to a distance of about 4 m is also possible. The machine has a gross weight of around 1,500 kg.
Olympic halfpipe cutter
Zaugg has been working on the design and production of halfpipe cutters since 1998 and has been an official partner of the International Ski Federation (FIS) since 2008. The halfpipes for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, for example, were created with the help of a Pipe Monster 22ft. Today, Zaugg’s Pipe Monsters or Pipe Designers can be used to build the complete range of halfpipes: “When I came to Zaugg AG as CEO in 1998, we started making a serious effort with the design of halfpipe cutters. We were determined to offer a mature, top-quality product capable of producing convincing results on the mountain. We also wanted to give it a name that would stick in people’s minds, and I personally attached great importance to the right choice. That is a sector in which my brother Beat – with his experience as a Hollywood art director – is always a big help,” says CEO Daniel Frutiger. A total of 300 machines are currently operating worldwide, with North America as the biggest market for halfpipe cutters from the house of Zaugg. Keen interest is now being shown in the Pipe Monster 22ft+, one of which was recently shipped to Calgary, Canada.