Wanaka man leads team building Sochi halfpipe

20:07, Feb 09 2014

The halfpipe being used for the Winter Olympics in Sochi has been built by New Zealanders, using New Zealand technology.

Development Snowparks' John Melville, from Wanaka, and a small team of New Zealanders have been in Sochi building and maintaining the pipe using the "Global Cutter" Melville developed during his time at Cardrona, which has now been patented.

Melville assisted as a subcontractor at the Vancouver Olympics four years ago, but his growing reputation in the snow industry within New Zealand and internationally has seen him step up for Sochi.

Challenging conditions in subtropical Sochi had made for an interesting experience at the Extreme Park at Rosa Khutor Mountain, Melville said.

"It's been good so far. We've had a lot of natural snow, a lot of rain and a lot of man-made snow, we've had a bit of everything. The conditions here are pretty challenging, not only for the weather, but also in this part of Russia," he said.

"We just need a certain type of snow and a certain type of preparation, which we've more or less had. It's been good so far. The weather is predicted to change later in the week, but for now it's looking good."


Melville is working alongside fellow New Zealanders Jamie Kennerley and Scott Shields, who formerly worked for him at Snow Park NZ, near Wanaka.

Training on the halfpipe is due to start in the next few days and Melville said it was shaping up as something special. "The pipe is very long, very big, and the lighting system is amazing. Everything about the place, the site here, is great. We've had a few issues along the way, like you do with everything, but all in all it's coming together just as we'd planned."

His Global Cutter is laser-guided and mounted onto the front of a trail groomer. It's used to shape the walls of the halfpipe and has been manufactured in New Zealand after years of development.

"It's pretty crazy. We've got a machine here from Switzerland and the Global Cutter from New Zealand . . . so we are getting amongst it, that's for sure," he said.

"Snow Park NZ and Cardrona used the machine. We've got several other machines around the world as well. It's a fully patented, proven machine and a high level competition for halfpipe. It's really come a long way."

The Southland Times