Pipe guru cuts to the chase

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Cardrona park and pipe design guru John Melville is taking his cutting-edge technology to the world’s biggest winter sports event.

Melville, who designed the Global Cutter and laser guidance system for Cardrona’s Olympic halfpipe, has been chosen to help build the halfpipe for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Top international athletes are sampling his work at this week’s NZ Winter Games – the freeski halfpipe events are on tomorrow and Saturday, and the Snow­boarding World Cup halfpipe was held on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Melville – a trained “but not qualified” mechanical engineer – unveiled his patented Global Cutter with his company Development Snowparks for the first time this season.

It’s a project he’s spent the past five years designing while doing back-to-back winters – he even helped build the first prototype in a Wanaka workshop.

His super-sized hydraulic pipe-cutting arm attaches on to a snow groomer and together with the laser guide, the perfect pipe is made. “As halfpipes get bigger it gets really difficult to drive a straight line,” Melville says.

“It’s always been a long-time problem – to get a good halfpipe you need a really experienced operator, and you still do, but the circumstances are so with these big, new halfpipes that you just can’t make mistakes.

“It’s so much snow to cut away to fix it. And with that in mind, it was just a matter of time before this [laser] technology was put together.

“It will guide you as you create the halfpipe through all different stages of construction and maintenance.”
As subcontractor to Canadian firm Arena Snowparks for the Olympics, Melville won’t take his new cutter but he’ll have the laser technology on hand.

“The contracts and machinery had been set at Cypress Mountain for quite some time … and the Global Cutter was just being released.

“We needed to properly test a machine like that before exposing it to such a level.

“But we’ve since done that here at Cardrona and we’re here now.”