Halfpipe snowboarding happens mostly in resort built Halfpipes around the world. There are a couple of places where Halfpipes occur naturally, but they are never as perfectly straight and enticing in shape as the perfectly sculpted super pipes built by today’s incredible cutting machines. Resorts use these machines to build and maintain the Halfpipes on their mountains. They usually do maintenance between 3 and 5 times a week. There are many kinds of Cutters, including the original “Pipe Dragon” followed by the bigger ”Super Dragon”, the HPG (Halfpipe Groomer), made by Bombardier, and the newest and currently most highly desirable, ZAUGG. All the bigger machines are designed to cut pipes from 16-22 feet deep. Wow, that is amazing. When I started riding Halfpipes, around 20 years ago, they were around 6-10 feet deep and were basically just a pair of banks with some jumps or “highway hits” scattered along the high edge of the banks.
A Halfpipe Riders' Set-Up may be just slightly different than that of a Slopestyle setup. For Halfpipe snowboarding, the primary effect a pipe rider needs from their boards, boots and bindings is the ability to effectively edge across the halfpipe, pump transitions and to generate and maintain speed. Speed and line is everything in Halfpipe. That being the case, the important board characteristics of a halfpipe set up may include:
Slightly stiffer boots for more effective edging. While they are a little stiffer towards the edge, they may still be softer side to side to allow for high tweak-ability.
A little bit narrower stance can tighten the base of triangle made by your legs and the board, making it easier to pressure the board fore and aft in landing and pumping motions. A narrower stance also increases the height of the triangle and thereby the range the rider has to work with from hips to board, which is the range you use to pump transition, pop into tricks, then land tricks.
Use of some forward lean on the highbacks of the bindings can make it easier to hold an edge and a good line up your backside wall.
Since edging and line is so important in riding Halfpipe, a slightly more forward stance, (more forward angle on the front foot) can make it easier to learn to ride that line and get amplitude out of the pipe. Of coarse, once the rider gets good enough to be riding the pipe switch, they may want to back of on the more forward stance to allow for more comfortable switch riding.
Most pipe boards have a nice medium shaped sidecut, preferably radial and not progressive, because a progressive shape with a flairs shape in the tip and tail can create drag and be a bit slower going up the wall.
A stiffer flex between the feet and a softening of the flex in the tip and tail out side of the feet can really enhance the way a board rides halfpipe. The stiffer midsection helps the board hold a good edge, while the softer tip and tail release away from the wall of the pipe more easily.
Good board control and carving skills are essential for Halfpipe snowboarding. Learning to pump, just like you would on a skateboard in a mini-ramp is vital. Then learning to find the rhythm of any given Halfpipe to ride it and get a feeling much like swinging as high as you can on a long chained swing at the park. Riding halfpipe, like riding Quarterpipe is very unique and different than any other type of riding. It requires years of practice to become proficient and comfortable with it. But oh man, the better you get, the more and more fun it gets. So stick with it.
Many of the worlds’ best Halfpipe snowboarding riders have a racing background, where they learned to go fast, hold a good line and go fast. Seriously go fast. So if you were observing the setups at the top of a halfpipe contest you would see more angles and forward lean on bindings, slightly narrower stances, and more tip and tail on the boards, since a longer board is faster. These differences to a certain extent add to the appearance of different style that is created by focusing on the different skills required in the halfpipe. Besides the stance and skill differences, pipe riding shares a lot of the same apparent styles
Halfpipe clothing style falls into the freestyle snowboarding style realm. Not as ghetto as Urban, not as technical as backcountry or extreme gear. Stylish though. Flare, bling and mystery reign supreme.