Halfpipe is one of the most anticipated events in the Winter Olympics and X-Games—and it’s a ton on fun for riders of nearly every ability level. While pros are spinning more and getting higher, even advanced beginner snowboarders can learn Halfpipe basics and have a great time riding pipe.
You’ve got to learn three skills in basic Halfpipe riding: dropping in, keeping speed in the transition and riding up the walls.
Before heading to the halfpipe, you should be confident linking smooth turns on intermediate terrain and know the rules of Smart Style.
Snowboard half pipe terminology:
Flat Bottom: The flat bottom of the pipe is the flat part at the very bottom (in between the two walls).
Halfpipe Transition: The transition is the curved part of the wall (between the flat bottom and the vert). Sometimes called the trany, this part of the wall has a gradual, upward curve that transitions into the vertical part.
Halfpipe Vert: The vert is the vertical part of the wall (towards the top between the transition and lip).
Lip of Halfpipe: The lip, or very top, of the wall is called the coping (after the coping that runs around the lip of skateboard half pipes).
Halfpipe Deck: The deck is the flat space on top of each wall. You may ride down a portion of the deck when dropping in, but otherwise you don’t want to ride this part of the pipe. It’s more for hiking, observing and filming.
Frontside Wall: Your frontside wall would be the wall you approach on your toe edge with the front of your body facing uphill. Many riders feel more comfortable riding on their frontside wall.
Backside Wall: Your backside wall is the wall you approach on your heel edge with the back of your body facing uphill. This could be either the right or left side of the wall—depending on if you are regular or goofie.
Halfpipe Drop In: Most Halfpipes have a drop-in ramp so you can generate speed. Start at the top of the ramp and call your drop to be courteous to fellow riders. It’s usually easiest to drop in off your backside wall so your first hit will be frontside.
Tips for dropping-in
For your first time, sideslip down the ramp a bit until you’re comfortable. Point your snowboard toward your backside wall and use a toeside carve to drop-in over a small part of the lip. Use your knees to absorb the lip and avoid getting air. You’ll carve on your toe edge down the backside wall, across the transition and up your frontside wall.
Tips to ride Halfpipe walls
Don’t be too concerned about big air your first few times. You just want to get the feeling of riding up the walls and carving across the transition. Carve up your frontside wall on your toe edge, when you run out of speed, put pressure on the heel of your front foot to point the nose downhill. Transfer onto your heel edge and carve across the transition. Same thing on your backside wall. As you run out of speed, press on your front-foot toes to point down the wall and transfer to your toe edge.
When this is easy, add a slight hop and turn your head and shoulders to point the snowboard back down the hill.
Now, you’re not going straight up the pipe wall. You should be approaching from a 45 degree angle. This allows you to maintain your speed. As you become a better Halfpipe pipe rider, you’ll think of both getting air OUT of the pipe as well as traveling down it. Quality over quantity: you’ll get about 6-8 hits in instead of 20, but you’ll look so much better.
Half pipe body alignment
Body alignment is very important in the Halfpipe. You want your knees bent, shoulders parallel with your stance and level with the terrain. This can get tricky when going up the walls. Often, riders collapse over their front leg as they go vertical. Imagine a pendulum. You want everything to stay level, lined-up and smooth…even as you go vertical.
To avoid crumpling forward, imagine pressing weight over your back leg going up the wall. As you go back down, think of shifting the weight over your front leg.
Now that you know the basics, we’ll talk about pumping, getting more speed and reaching the coping in the next episode.