Copper Mountain's pipe cutter Deb Caves shares her world between the white walls.
Each year, thousands of boarders careen through the 22-foot Olympic-caliber Main Vein Superpipe at Copper Mountain, and plenty of the world’s elite riders have gone huge off its walls. But what does it really take to build such a gorgeous, gargantuan testament to shredding?
Only one person at Copper knows the full story. She’s stocked with decades of practice, an obsession with perfection and long nights of solitude.
For 10 years, Deb Caves has been the main pipe cutter at Copper, earning a name for herself in the industry and having a great time doing it.
Caves started grooming snow at Copper Mountain in 1995 and, drawn by the challenge, transitioned to cutting the halfpipe about a decade later. As evolving snowboarding competitions called for bigger and more badass pipes, she became one of the industry’s elite pipe cutters.
To Caves and other pros, a halfpipe is a “product,” and she is dedicated to perfecting hers. Night after night, she climbs into her massive snowcat and grooms the curving, vertical rising walls of snow, ensuring they are safe and thrill-ready for the next day’s boarders.
“To me, perfection is hard to achieve because there are so many different aspects to a pipe,” she says.
As for the working environment, Caves finds it pretty peaceful out there on the mountain in the dead of a winter night. She’s generally alone save for the occasional fox or coyote padding down the pipe.
For Caves, every shift is exciting, and she loves being out there in the dark, alone in her snowcat, watching snowflakes swirl as the tall walls loom around her.
“Just being out there is an experience in itself,” she says.
It’s an experience, she admits, that not many women have had. Groomers in general are overwhelmingly male, and pipe cutters are a smaller, specialized subset. But Caves has always been in the construction industry, and this job is a natural fit for her. She’s proud of her work and appreciates the community of mutual respect among all the grooming staff here.
Mostly, she’s thrilled to have the pleasure of cutting the pipe. “We’re so lucky to have those kinds of jobs in the mountains here,” she says.
Air Time with Ronnie Barr
In addition to running the on-snow show at Woodward Copper, Barr helps tip exceptional athletes toward national (and international) wins.
As on-snow supervisor at Woodward Copper, Ronnie Barr, 31, oversees everything from ski and snowboard camps to all of Woodward’s lessons and coaching products. But his real superpower may be training youth athletes to compete at Shaun White and Torah Bright levels.
Barr has worked with Japanese Olympians, United States Snowboard and Freeski Association national champions, and U.S. snowboardcross athletes. Here, he shares two of his favorite success stories: snowboard cross Olympian Trevor Jacob, 23, and pro snowboarder Sy Moran, 20.
Tell me about working with Trevor Jacob.
I met Trevor when he was a 14-year-old skate and snowboard phenom at Mt. Hood in 2007. He was a tremendous talent, but different than most. My main job with him was to remind him that he rode for fun; that he loved snowboarding.
And how’d you do that?
He was into snowboard cross, so it was go out and ride really, really fast—while working on fundamentals. He also worked on strength building and cardio, both at Woodward. We’d have Trevor do intervals on the trampolines; putting a training board on his feet and having him jump around at a high-intensity.
What was the outcome?
He placed 9th in snowboard cross at Sochi in 2014.
Any other athletes you’ve really enjoyed working with?
That’d be Sy Moran. I’ve spent seven years on and off working with him.
And how did you come to train him?
We met through a program called Freestyle Bombers when he was 14. I spent an entire season working with him on his board control, air awareness, and body control. Then we progressed toward getting him comfy flipping—doing rodeos, backflips.
That's where Woodward came into play for him. He learned air awareness by doing double corks and double flips into the foam pits. Being able to start at such a young age led to him executing those on snow at 18.
What’s Sy doing now?
He rides with Burton and Oakley. He still competes, he’s in Australia right now. When he gets back, he’ll go into the Rev Tour to begin building points for nationals in slopestyle.
So will you train him any longer?
He’ll come back to Woodward and train with me when he can. But like all pro snowboarders, his schedule never allows him to stay in one place for too long.