Building a half pipe for snowboarding
by Jakob Jelling [July 18, 2006]
Perhaps one of the most exhilarating things to snowboard on is a half pipe. A half pipe is a combination of gracefully arcs and glorious straight stretches that allow you to perform skateboarding tricks with your snowboard. The only other thing that can compare to a half pipe is a snowboarding bowl.
A half pipe is a ramp that is constructed partially with terrain and partially engineering snow placement. For this reason it may not be feasible for most people to build their own half pipe at home. Of course, where there is a will there is a way and for that reason we will look at the basics of how to build your own half pipe.
The first aspect to consider is the location of your half pipe. You wish to find a location where the terrain will reduce the amount of work that you must do. If you are trying to build a half pipe that is 6 feet high on flat ground you will need at least one full dump truck load of snow for each side of the ramp. If you happen to have 6 feet of snow or more you may be tempted to try to dig out your own ramp. Unfortunately the volume of snow you need to remove is even greater than that needed to build the contours.
The ideal solution is to find a spot where a small hill or bank can form one side or more of your ramp. Being able to use an existing detail of the terrain will greatly reduce the amount of work that you need to do. When looking for terrain features to work with keep in mind the basic details of any half pipe. A half pipe should be about 6 feet high, 8 feet across, have a flat surface about 8 feet long and a landing pad at the top of each ramp about 4 feet wide.
One of the most important details of a half pipe is the transition or curvature of the ramp. Getting the right curve is critical to the ride ability of your ramp. If the curve is too tight then your snowboard may not be able to flex enough to land securely and you will tend to fall or be off balance each time you land. If the curve is too gently then you will find the ramp to be slow and you will have a very hard time getting air. Following the edge of an imaginary circle that has a radius of 8 or 9 feet creates the ideal curve of a ramp. This is a fairly standard radius for any ramp regardless of how high the ramp is.
Another important consideration is the final construction of the ride surface and the maintenance of that surface. There is quite an art to constructing the best surface and many companies offer courses and tools for this purpose. The surface of your ramp is a combination of hard packed snow and ice. You want to have a solid surface that will not shift or break up when being ridden on but not solid ice either.
One way to help create a good surface is to layer snow with water and allow it to freeze. Your actual construction process will vary depending upon the type of snow you are working with and the temperatures. Begin by compacting a layer of about 12" of snow and then, if needed, misting water on top of the compact snow. As you mist the water on the compacted snow add another foot of snow so that it will adhere to the layer that you just created. The thickness that you will require will vary but 2 layers is usually a good start.
Building a snowboarding ramp can be a huge undertaking but is possible to do. With a little hard work, some training and the correct tools, you too will be able to build a reasonable half pipe.
About the author
Jakob Jelling is the founder of http://www.snowboardinghelp.com. Please visit his website to discover the world of snowboarding!