Despite originating in the skateboarding world, the snowboarding halfpipe has become one of the most iconic elements of extreme sports. If you’re not familiar, here’s a quick explanation:
The snowboarding halfpipe is a semi-circular ramp carved into the snow. This allows riders to jump into the air, performing tricks and stunts. The snowboarding halfpipe became an Olympic sport in 1998.
But that’s just the basics… there’s much more to know. Don’t you dare stop reading!
A Guide To The Snowboarding Halfpipe
Halfpipes are in heavy use in the worlds of skateboarding, roller skating, and of course, snowboarding.
Whilst you’re probably familiar with the pro’s sending their death-defying tricks, halfpipes are totally perfect for skaters and snowboarders of all ability levels.
However, getting started with a snowboarding halfpipe can prove to be pretty daunting!
Now… I’m willing to bet that you are reading this because you want to venture into the halfpipe… but maybe don’t know where to start.
Don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place!
Let’s take a look at the various elements of the halfpipe and how you can get into it.
What Is A Snowboarding Halfpipe?
Luckily, one of the best ways to describe a halfpipe is in the name.
Imagine a pipe that is large enough for you to walk through. Now, imagine that pipe was then chopped in half directly along the length.
That would leave you with half a pipe – hey presto – a snowboarding halfpipe.
Basically, half-pipes are identified by the curved walls that rest on both sides of the pipe. If you’ve seen a skateboarding quarter-pipe – it’s basically two of those in parallel.
The Halfpipe Lingo:
The halfpipe transitions are the curved sections of the “wall” which bring the rider from the flat section, up to the vert.
This is the “vertical” section of the ramp immediately after the transition. This helps to send the rider high into the air.
The lip of the halfpipe is the very top of the vert/ramp section – imagine the coping rail on a skateboard halfpipe.
The Flat Bottom
The flat part in between the two transitions.
The Halfpipe Deck
The flat sections at the top of the verts… this is mainly for photographers and spectators, not for riding.
How Big Is A Snowboarding Halfpipe?
The size of individual half-pipes can vary massively.
I’d highly recommend finding a smaller halfpipe before tackling some of the modern monsters. For example, Olympic snowboarding halfpipes are a massive 22 feet high!
If you’re interested, I went into much more detail here.
What Is A Snowboarding Halfpipe Used For?
Half-pipes allow snowboarders to achieve some major air time. This allows them to pull pull off huge tricks!
They also help snowboarders build up speed and momentum.
Heading up the edge of a half-pipe and then dropping back down into the pipe will create momentum. By “pumping” with your legs, you can get higher and higher up the pipe walls.
As you can see, mastering the halfpipe requires the right knowledge. Let’s take a look at how to approach a snowboarding halfpipe.
How To Approach A Half-Pipe
If you are using a half-pipe for the first time, then make sure to practice under controlled conditions. Preferably in a spot where there are fewer people using it.
If you have the option of starting on a smaller halfpipe – do that! You could even build your own if you have the space.
Begin heading down the drop-in ramp of the half-pipe slowly, using a sideslip.
When you approach the edge, point your snowboard towards the curved edge of the half-pipe. Ride towards the deck.
Tip: You will want to use the backside wall to start with. This is the side towards your back when riding forwards. Whether this is the left or right side of the pipe varies depending on whether you’re regular or goofy.
Drop from the start of the deck into the backside wall. You’ll be landing and turning on your toe-side edge.
At this point, you will want to use your knees to absorb the slight shock that comes from dropping down the lip of the halfpipe.
Heading down the transition of the half-pipe will cause momentum to build up. Use this momentum and head up the opposite wall of the half-pipe – the frontside wall.
This can feel a little weird to start with. You’ll approach the frontside wall of the halfpipe on your toeside edge.
Then put slight pressure on your front foot. This will eventually help you to get enough force to get some air.
Tip: Make sure to start small when riding the transitions for the first time. Initially you’ll just want to carve up the edge of the pipe and then turn back down on your opposite edge.
Once you begin getting air, you can begin slightly turning your body to point the snowboard in the direction of the other side of the transition. This is sort of a 90-degree turn, effectively changing your direction.
Make sure to absorb the shock with your knees!
How Should You Stand When Approaching A Half-Pipe?
Just as important as approaching the halfpipe at the right angle is approaching it with the right posture.
You want to make sure that your knees are bent and slightly loose, and that your shoulders stand parallel to your body.
Keeping your shoulders parallel is useful because it ensures that you are always lined up before approaching the lip.
This will ensure that you can build up power and launch yourself over the lip of the halfpipe. It also ensures that you can land comfortably back on the ground!
Get Ready For Take-Off
When you are heading up the lip, make sure to put some weight onto your back leg, and then on the way down, put more weight onto your front leg.
This helps to keep you from crumpling before you take off and after you land… so that you can keep on shredding downhill after achieving some air!
This helps to make your tricks safer, and also helps you to maintain an even speed, and even push off of the ground with more force!
Beginner Snowboarding Halfpipe Tips
To Wrap Up
There you have it!
While the halfpipe may be one of the most famous elements of the snowboarding world, it can also be one of the most daunting.
I hope that this guide has helped to demystify the halfpipe and prepared you to venture out and send it!
Bonus tip: for extra protection, consider bum or back protectors (as featured on my gift list 2023)
Get out there and have fun.