Safe landings

Colo. facility teaches skiers, boarders how to survive

A snowboarder takes a jump in the Snowflex Zone at Woodward at Copper Mountain. Woodward teaches skiers and snowboarders year-round how to do tricks and land safely in a controlled indoor environment. Enlarge photo

Christian Murdock/The (Colorado Springs) Gazette

A snowboarder takes a jump in the Snowflex Zone at Woodward at Copper Mountain. Woodward teaches skiers and snowboarders year-round how to do tricks and land safely in a controlled indoor environment.

COPPER MOUNTAIN (AP)

When was the last time you jumped on a trampoline? Did a somersault? Leapt off a wall pretending you were Batman?

More skiers and snowboarders – no matter their age – should answer “last week” or “last month,” say the people at Woodward at Copper, the Summit County facility best known as a training ground for terrain park tricksters.

“Some 40-year-old says, ‘But I’m not planning to go off any jumps,’” said Rick Shimpeno, Woodward’s assistant program manager. “I say, ‘If you ski or snowboard, at some point you’re going to catch some air, whether you plan to or not.’

“And when you do,” he adds, “it ends better if you know how to land.”

Shimpeno and the crew at The Barn, Woodward’s cavernous training building across the way from Copper Mountain, spend as much time teaching snowboarders how to fall without snapping a wrist as teaching them to land a double cork.

“We all know what happens when you have one scary fall – you’re less likely to get out there again,” Shimpeno said. “And we’re here to keep people having fun.”

Repetition is key, and during a recent Sunday afternoon training session, snowboarders, skiers, skaters and gymnasts completed moves over and over again in hopes the tricks will become second nature. Coaches who are experts in the disciplines worked with individuals and small groups, demonstrating some moves and critiquing others.

Woodward has a new XTramp, or Super Tramp, a 14-by-14-foot trampoline. It’s twice the size of the other tramps and provides a more fluid bounce and a larger sweet spot. That extra room and “give” boost your confidence when trying new tricks, said a group of teenage skiers and riders bouncing away the afternoon.

Woodward, which opened in February 2009, is divided into skills areas: skateboard and BMX bowl, street skating, tumbling, trampolines, jumps and terrain park features. A dozen people can work in each area without crowding the nearly 20,000-square-foot space, and coaches, including pros such as snowboarder Chad Otterstrom, are ever-present.

Despite the “extreme” label, the atmosphere is laid-back, with everyone from kindergartners to grandparents learning new skills at the same time.

The Barn is open year-round, with weeklong camps and daily drop-in sessions, but the idea in winter is skiers and snowboarders will work indoors on skills for half a day and then head to the slopes or terrain park.

That’s what a group of skiers from Denver did on a recent Sunday, hitting Arapahoe Basin in the morning and then practicing indoors during the afternoon.

They shot down a 30-foot hill covered in Snowflex and then popped off a 10-foot jump, landing safely in a giant pit of foam blocks. Even though Snowflex feels like the bristles of an extremely hard – and large – toothbrush, it’s the artificial surface that feels closest to the snow found in a terrain park, Shimpeno said. Riding it takes some getting used to, but pays off when you try the real deal, riders say.

“This is so fun,” said Matt Gurba of Denver as he nearly ran back up the steps to take another run. Gurba has skied for years but not on big jumps.

“That’s what’s great here,” he said. “With these foam pits, you can try anything.”

Woodward coach Mike Rosenstein teaches 5-year-old Kieran Baker of Park City, Utah, in the gym cross training zone at Woodward. Enlarge photo

Christian Murdock/The (Colorado Springs) Gazette

Woodward coach Mike Rosenstein teaches 5-year-old Kieran Baker of Park City, Utah, in the gym cross training zone at Woodward.

Matt Gurba of Denver practices on a jump at Woodward. Enlarge photo

Christian Murdock/The (Colorado Springs) Gazette

Matt Gurba of Denver practices on a jump at Woodward.

Ethan Swadburg, 16, of Dillon practices on Woodward’s XTramp. Enlarge photo

Christian Murdock/The (Colorado Springs) Gazette

Ethan Swadburg, 16, of Dillon practices on Woodward’s XTramp.

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