Wednesday, July 23, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Shaun White Superpipe draws crowds at Northstar

By
From page B1 | March 19, 2012 |

LAKE TAHOE rider Danny Davis performs aerial tricks on the new 22-foot high Shaun White Superpipe located at Northstar off of Cat's Face Trail. Courtesy of Northstar California Ski Resort

NORTHSTAR — This ominous, 22-foot high superpipe frequently acts as a magnet. Both snowboarders and skiers of all levels are drawn to this portion of the mountain at Northstar California ski resort, where they love to peer down the enormous chute that measures more than 500 feet in length.

Skiers and riders stare in amazement at the enormity of the superpipe for several minutes or more, then the majority carefully descend down the middle, most of them barely touching these huge, manicured walls that people know is the occasional training ground of snowboarding superstar Shaun White.

Once at the bottom of the pipe, practically everyone stops, peers up the hill, and realizes this monstrous snow structure looms even larger from this vantage point, which is located off Northstar’s Cat’s Face trail and accessible via the Vista Express chairlift.

“That pipe was made for Shaun White. Just looking at it your first impression is it’s big and scary,” said Dylan Gomes, a 19-year-old snowboarder from Santa Clarita in Southern California. “Looking down at the pipe is really intimidating. But once you are riding in it and cruising, it’s fine. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Those words are no doubt music to the ears of Andrew Erath, who has the regular assignment of keeping the “Shaun White Superpipe” in pristine condition. And speaking of music, Erath is extremely picky about what’s on his iPod during his nightly grooming ritual in the Zaugg pipe cutter.

“I listen mostly to classical music of all kinds and occasional talk radio,” says Erath, who typically emerges from the superpipe at about 1:30 a.m., concluding another seven-hour shift in pursuit of perfection. “I can’t listen to (heavy) metal – this job takes too much concentration.”

Erath is the envy of most Northstar employees, and not just because he has a slight resemblance to Hollywood’s Ashton Kutcher. He has met White on several occasions, watches him train at the superpipe, and talks to the red-headed snowboarding icon about his impressions of Erath’s masterpiece, one of only seven superpipes in the U.S. with these outrageous dimensions, according to Northstar communications personnel.

Last summer White provided some input regarding the building of the superpipe, which required 700 hours to erect in December. Erath is quick to point out that he had “a lot of help” in designing and building the famed superpipe. Snow Park Technologies, Northstar’s long-time partner in park and pipe program development, also played a pivotal role.

Yet the feedback from White is typically reserved solely for Erath.

“I met Shaun White last year. He and I know each other a little bit,” says Erath, avoiding any personal information regarding White, which Northstar forbids. “I asked him what he thought of the superpipe this year, and he said — ‘It doesn’t need anything.’ It’s amazing to watch someone with that high level of skill do it in person.”

Although his visits are never publicized, the rumor spreads quickly among some Northstar employees when White is training at the resort, which he’s done twice this year. However, many employees have no clue when he is there, that’s how quiet the secret is kept. And if they do know, they’ve been instructed to not reveal any details if they happen to encounter White on or off the mountain.

Erath isn’t star struck regarding his encounters with White — far from it. Snowcat and cutter operators like Erath are artists in a sense. They carefully cut and groom pipes and terrain park features in precise fashion. While Erath admits there is some pressure in helping design, build and maintain the superpipe where White can hone his amazing skills and also develop new ones, the “Flying Tomato” is not the only person he’s trying to please.

“I try to ride the pipe every day. It’s important for me to know how it feels and also watch other people and how they are doing,” Erath said. “It’s great that Shaun White is here and trains on it. But I take great satisfaction in trying to make it as perfect as I can for everybody. It gives our guests a world-class pipe to ride on a daily basis.”

Not everyone feels so privileged.

When White was at Northstar ski resort for a few days of training in mid-February, San Jose snowboarder Joe Hughes was annoyed that the entire area was shut down, which included Logger’s Run.

White’s training sessions are as guarded as a visit from the President. The Northstar trails around the superpipe are closed and reportedly security guards and resort personnel are positioned in the woods to ensure that no one sees or takes photos of what tricks White may be creating.

“I know he’s Shaun White, but I don’t think it’s fair that they shut down everything when he was here,” Hughes said. “There was fresh powder in that area and no one could access it. I don’t like that they were closing runs for him.”

That opinion doesn’t seem to summarize how the masses feel. For many, just to stare at the outrageously large pipe and realize that the world’s most accomplished snowboarder trains on it is extremely cool, regardless of any inconveniences.

“It’s a world-class superpipe that was built for Shaun White. How cool is it that? And we can use it as well?” said Northstar passholder Patrick Kosinski. “But it’s really big and can be icy. I’m pretty careful when I go in there — I don’t go that high.”

Jeffrey Weidel can be reached at skiweidel@yahoo.com. Visit his winter website at examiner.com/skiing-in-san-francisco/jeffrey-weidel

Comments

comments

Jeffrey Weidel

.

News

 
Heard over the back fence: Attorney to warn about scams

By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

Road zone of benefit protester reaches dead end

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Six file for Dist. 2

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1

District 2 candidates forum Aug. 14

By News Release | From Page: B1

 
EID ditch customers get relief

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A1

Veterans receive wildland fire training

By News Release | From Page: B1

 
Market data open for local biz

By Ross Branch | From Page: B1

Volunteers clean up national forest

By News Release | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
.

Opinion

Russian metastasis

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

 
The Democratic-Chronicles: Not invented here

By Gene Altshuler | From Page: A4

My turn: Special interests at EID

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: A4

 
.

Letters

DA hogging Main St. parking

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
CAO and staff hiring friends

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Altshuler’s hypocrisy

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Small Farm compromise

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

EID and Dale Coco

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
.

Sports

Celebrity golf at Tahoe

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Roundup: July 22, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

Dolphins ring up another title

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Sharks defeat Loomis Basin in season finale

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Dodgeball: Not the national pastime but …

By Shane Theodore | From Page: A7 | Gallery

 
.

Prospecting

At a glance: Comets to meteors

By Mimi Escabar | From Page: B2

 
Taste the best at the State Fair

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Amador Fair honors cowboys

By Amador County Fair | From Page: B3

Tractor Supply Store recognized

By Uc Cooperative | From Page: B3

 
Arbor Day book helps to identify trees

By Arbor Day | From Page: B4

Learn about lavender and its many benefits

By Christian Women's Connection | From Page: B4

 
Builders’ Exchange honors scholars

By El Dorado Builders' Exchange | From Page: B5

 
En garde at Silver Screen Classic

By Auburn Silver Screen | From Page: B5

Lee’s Feed appreciates customers

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B5

 
My Time meeting in August

By Senior Day | From Page: B5

.

Essentials

Weather stats 7-22-14

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

 
Crime Log: July 8-10

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

.

Obituaries

Arthur J. Funston

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Walter Vali

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Jean Lachelle Taylor

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
.

Real Estate

.

Comics

Tundra

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Horoscope, Thursday, July 24, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Horoscope, Wednesday, July 23, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Working It Out

By Contributor | From Page: A8

TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Shoe

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Sudoku

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Rubes

By Contributor | From Page: A8

New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Flying McCoys

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A8