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Sixteen invited snowboarders are getting their first practice sessions today in advance of this weekend's Red Bull Double Pipe competition at Buttermilk in Aspen, Colo. The spine ramp, designed and built by Snow Park Technologies (SPT) and the Aspen/Snowmass park crew, has been taking shape over the last week on the same site as the X Games Aspen SuperPipe competitions.
"We're all staying right at the base of Buttermilk so we could see it when we first got here, and it's definitely massive," confirmed Louie Vito. "It looks super sick."
Red Bull spokesman Ryan Snyder says this is the first 22-foot spine ramp ever built. The side-by-side superpipes are each built to the same specs used at the X Games, the Olympics, and other top-tier events. They are over 550-feet long, with a 4-foot-wide, 22-foot-tall spine connecting them. There will be several transfer channels and spine rails to help riders connect lines between the two as well as multiple rails and tombstone-style extensions on the opposing walls for creative trickery.
"We think it's going to provide a nice juxtaposition to what's been going on with halfpipe contests in this Olympic year by getting back to more of the creative roots of the sport and showcasing the talent and style of some different riders," Snyder says. "This isn't necessarily an event where double corks are going to win you the contest."
Re-thinking the halfpipe has been a recent trend in snowboarding, beginning with Danny Davis' Mountain Dew Peace Pipe sessions last spring, and continuing with Terje Haakenson's Arctic Challenge last week in Norway, which Davis won. But Davis, who also won gold in the X Games Aspen 2014 SuperPipe and competed in Sochi, will be sitting this one out in favor of a powder mission to Baldface Lodge in British Columbia.
Riders on the invite list include brothers Ben Ferguson and Gabe Ferguson, Louie Vito, Christian Haller, Alek Oestreng, Kent Callister, Benji Farrow, Scotty James, Nathan Johnstone, Markus Keller, Scotty Lago, Jake Pates, Greg Bretz and 2014 Burton U.S. Open winner Taylor Gold.
"I always get motivated and inspired watching everybody ride. I'm looking forward to seeing what all the guys bring since this is shaping up to be a super fun, laid-back spring contest," Vito says. "The biggest challenge is going to be figuring out how to make the spine transfers work smoothly so you land in the transition on the other side. Fortunately we have three days to practice and a cool jam format for the contest, because everybody's going to be figuring this out from scratch."
The contest semifinals are on Saturday, followed by finals on Sunday. Spectating for the contest is free and open to the public; the footage will air on NBC on April 12 as part of the Red Bull Signature Series.
"They've been out there doing the build-out night and day for the last two weeks and it's looking awesome," says Aspen/Snowmass spokeswoman Meredith McKee, noting that Buttermilk is opening it to the public on Wednesday and will maintain it through the end of the season. "We're excited that everybody's about to descend on Buttermilk and reinvent what is possible in the halfpipe."