Olympic snowboarder says halfpipe 'dangerous, crappy'
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – With snowboarders voicing strong criticism about the condition of the halfpipe at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, pipe builder John Melville blamed the weather and time restrictions put on him by the Olympic Broadcasting Service.
Riders have complained that the flat bottom of the pipe was comparable to moguls and nowhere near adequate for Olympic competition.
American Hannah Teter, a two-time Olympic medalist in halfpipe, said she's been unable to practice new tricks here because training has not been good.
"It is a little dangerous," Teter said. "I saw more people fall today than I have all season. It's just dangerous because it's crappy, you know?"
Teter said Monday that riders have been talking about the poor conditions. "I think if all the riders get together and push that it's not rideable yet" maybe organizers could change the schedule, she said. The women's halfpipe competition is Wednesday.
After spending 16 hours working on the pipe overnight, Melville said their concerns were fair and that his company, Development Snowparks, was working to get the pipe ready for Tuesday's men's competition.
Melville said his crew was told by OBS that they could not use machinery on the pipe while events were going on at the neighboring moguls course.
"We feel totally disappointed about not only that decision but also the decision that they gave us was very short notice and we weren't able to do anything about it ," he said. "We're just really gutted."
OBS released a statement when asked if it limited time spent working on the pipe. "We are unaware of any restrictions suggested by OBS that would impact course construction and are completely surprised by this report," the statement said.
Melville said his crew cut deeper into the base of the pipe to remove loose snow. Temperatures, which at times Monday topped 50 degrees, made for difficult conditions but rain in the forecast could firm up the pipe, he said.
"Even at the time that we had to leave the halfpipe, we knew that it was not to a standard that the riders could even train in unfortunately," he said. "It's in adequate condition, however, we are still dealing with a particular type of snow condition."
Several riders had complained about the conditions of the course throughout the first few days of the Games.
"The first day, the walls were a little over-[vertical], so everybody was doing airs, and then landing like pretty flat," Shaun White said after practice on Sunday. "Today, they made the walls better so everybody lands [correctly], but in the flat bottom, where they cut it, it's like a bump, so everyone is riding along and then hits the bump, and that's really not very good."
American Taylor Gold posted a photo to Instagram with the caption, "Pipe here is better for a slash than anything else. #mogulfield #roadtoSPT," referencing Snow Park Technologies. The Nevada-based company is widely considered by riders as the best in the business and cuts the pipe for events like the X Games and the Burton U.S. Open.
"It's not very good," said American Danny Davis. "It needs a lot of work because they hired the wrong folks to do it. It's a shame because it's bumpy. When the pipe is good, snowboarding is really fun but when the pipe is bad, it's not fun."
On TODAY, U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said, "Overall the athletes really like the course. … We actually have been hearing really good feedback from our athletes about the course."
Contributing: Lindsay H. Jones