Copper’s new pipe is a wise decision |

Copper’s new pipe is a wise decision

The move that could seal the deal to bring the OLN Winter Gravity Games back to Copper Mountain next March was cheap, by industry standards.

It will cost Copper about $250,000 to build a superpipe at its Burning Stones Plaza base area, a decision that was announced at the annual state-of-the-resort meeting on Saturday. As expensive as ski resort additions are these days, this is about as well as you can spend your money.

Understandably, the resort is billing the base area pipe as an addition primarily geared toward its everyday customers ” “the regular guests and riders that come to the resort daily and weekly,” Copper senior vice president of operations Gary Rodgers said.

But the structure will draw more far-reaching results than that. It will put Copper on the forefront of Western resorts, very few of which have built halfpipes at their base areas. Most notably, the pipe will make Copper a more attractive potential host to top-level competitions.

And this is where the Gravity Games come into play. Ever since last year’s edition went smoothly ” yet unspectacularly, due to the marquee halfpipe competitions requiring spectators to hike 15 minutes up the snowy mountain ” there has been a corporate cloud shrouding the event’s future location in mystery. Neither OLN nor Copper will confirm or deny whether the games are returning to Copper this season.

It’s been an entertaining timeline, nonetheless. In April, Copper’s general manager at the time, Steve Paccagnan, said the two parties had agreed on a two-year contract extension that would keep the event at Copper until 2007. That same day OLN spokesperson Amy Phillips said the network was “still assessing ’06.”

Copper and OLN are on the same page now; both say nothing has been decided and that negotiations are ongoing. Still, I talked to Winter Gravity Games competitions director Dave McKay on Thursday, and he assured me that “no other resort is being considered.”

All of which leaves me thinking there’s some hot financial wrangling going on behind closed doors. If so, chalk up a point for Copper with this new halfpipe deal, which has undoubtedly left the resort in a better bargaining position to get the Gravity Games back for year two.

The pipe will be built where the big-air kicker has been located in recent years, skier’s left of the American Eagle lift and in full view of everyone hanging out at Burning Stones Plaza. Rodgers said the big-air feature wasn’t getting enough use to justify its central location, and that the pipe will better utilize the snow there.

The new pipe (Catalyst Terrain Park will continue to feature a pipe of its own) will be about 150 feet up from the actual base area, and will feature all the dimensions we’ve come to know of “superpipes” ” 18 1/2-foot walls included. It will also be 500 feet long, with a 16.5-degree slope.

At the Gravity Games in March, pro snowboarder Andy Finch, who took sixth in the men’s superpipe event, was one of a number of competitors who lobbied for Copper to move its pipe to the base area for future events.

“This is the way the sport is going,” he said, “because we learned quickly that less spectators are willing to come and find the sport.”

Should the Gravity Games return to Copper next March, as I’m betting they will, we’ll see what Finch was talking about. And more than likely, so will thousands of other spectators.

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