KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – The halfpipe at the Sochi Games "is garbage," one prominent snowboarder told Yahoo Sports, and the across-the-board backlash against it from riders continued to build as the IOC postponed snowboarding practice Monday morning and tried to salvage the pipe's integrity amid warming temperatures.
American Danny Davis, one of the sport's most respected figures, said the pipe's flat bottom – the area that serves as a transition between the 22-foot-tall walls on each side – is bumpy and full of sugary snow, causing significant problems for riders. Two other sources confirmed Davis' concerns, with one calling the halfpipe "unsalvageable."
"It's the Olympics. It should be flawless," Davis told Yahoo Sports. "What a lame showcase of snowboarding, and what a lame way to treat the athletes."
Temperatures in the Sochi area climbed into the mid-50s on Monday, complicating efforts to reshape the pipe and address riders' concerns. Morning halfpipe practice was canceled and postponed until 7:20 p.m. local time, allowing cutters time to address the issues that are more related to performance – the bad flat bottoms slows down riders and throws off their lines – than safety.
[Photos: Olympic crush Jamie Anderson]
Already officials from Development Snowparks, the New Zealand-based company given the Sochi Games' halfpipe contract, had made significant overhauls to the pipe. Following practice Saturday, riders complained the vertical edges were not up to standard. One source said the fixes made to the edges may have contributed to the troubles in the middle of the pipe.
Even before the Olympics began, riders expressed disappointment that the IOC and FIS contracted out with Development Snowparks rather than the company widely considered the best at building halfpipes, Verdi, Nev.-based Snow Park Technologies. Snowboarders long have been skeptical of the motivations of the IOC and FIS, and the issues with the pipe at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park only validate such feelings.
"The IOC probably didn't want to pay the right guys to do it," Davis said. "I'm pretty sure what they're focused on is keeping as much money in their hands as possible. That's the shame of it all. All these kids, myself included, worked very hard to get here. And then the pipe is just no fun and boring and [expletive]. Halfpipe is super fun. But riding a crappy pipe and having to perform in it is the worst."
At a meeting Sunday night, officials indicated they planned on not treating the halfpipe with chemicals that might help salvage its integrity until the finals Tuesday night. Riders said the halfpipe at the Vancouver Games was iffy leading up to the contest, too, and that while it wasn't nearly up to the standards of X Games superpipes, it sufficed.
"I just hope they can fix this one," Davis said. "Hopefully they can pull it together for a contest. The fact is, everyone will be shredding the same pipe. We all have the same thing to ride. We just want it to be good."
Two FIS spokesmen did not respond to emails seeking comment. A call to John Melville, the Development Snowparks CEO and lead pipe cutter, went unanswered, but the company's marketing and media contact, Sophie Melville, said in an email the conditions in Sochi "sound similar to Vancouver and they pulled it off incredibly there, so I can only hope they can do the same in Sochi."
"The conditions here are pretty challenging, not only for the weather, but also in this part of Russia," Melville told the New Zealand-based Southland Times earlier this week.