I have been skiing for over 30 years. I have charged through race gates, launched off of 30-foot couloirs and hopped out of helicopters. I thought I had done it all until I went through a Woodward at Copper Winter Camp Day.
The Woodward Barn at [R113R, Copper Mountain] is an action sports playground complete with skateboard features, foam pits, trampolines and Snowflex® ramps. The aim of the Winter Camp Day is to help skiers and riders achieve their freestyle aspirations… even me.
I arrived at the Barn on a snowy February morning. I was greeted by the Woodward staff and began filling out liability forms and jotting down goals for the day—essentially my goal was to not injure myself. I was comforted by the age of the other adults filling out similar paperwork until I realized that they were the parents of the other campers and not my actual campmates.
In the Barn
There were about a dozen campers on this particular day, and with the exception of one fellow adult, the other ten campers were boys ranging in age from 8 to 18. Our counselors, pro snowboarder Ian Smith and pro skier James Alex Johnson, got us started with calisthenics followed by some extended stretching. After that, we began practicing some gymnastic maneuvers on mats.
The day began with backflips on the map as our counselor James looked on. Photo by Tim Shisler.
Once our bodies were sufficiently loose and warmed up, we moved over to the trampolines. We practiced spins and stability on the tramps before launching ourselves off of them and into the gigantic foam pits. The pits reminded me of the ball pits of my youth at Chuck E. Cheese, but instead of being filled with plastic balls they were filled with foam blocks. Getting out of a foam pit proved to be one of the most challenging and exhausting parts of the day.
While some of my younger campmates used the tramps and pits to practice 540 spins and flips, I stuck to more modest tricks like 180s and 360s—again, making sure I left Copper in one piece that afternoon.
The trampolines in the Barn at Woodward had quite a bit more bounce than the one in your neighbor's backyard. Photo by Tim Shisler.
Once our instructors felt confident in our mastery of the tramps, they instructed us to get into our ski and snowboard boots and grab our skis and boards. It was Snowflex® time. Snowflex® is a high performance polymer composite material that is designed to mimic the feeling of sliding on actual snow. The Woodward Barn features three Snowflex® ramps for practicing jump techniques indoors. Think about a scaled down competition ski jump with foam pits used as the landing zone—that’s what the Snowflex® ramps at Woodward were like.
The foam pit below the Snowflex® ramps at Woodward give campers the confidence to try tricks they might not in the terrain park. Photo by Tim Shisler.
This is where the fun really began. After getting a feel for the Snowflex® on the smallest ramp, I graduated to the medium-sized ramp that propels you into the foam pit. This foam pit was even more difficult to get out of since the weight and awkwardness of my skis and boots made it difficult, even with the aid of a rope. With encouragement from the counselors, I tried a few midair grabs on these jumps. After a few jumps, I made it up to their largest jump where I attempted 180s and 360s. I completed a full spin into the foam pit—a feat I didn’t intend to replicate on the snow.
On the Snow
Following lunch, we took our lessons from the Barn to the mountain. We rode the American Flyer lift up Union Peak. James had our group work on riding switch (aka backwards) and making little 180-degree hops on our way down to the terrain park. Over the course of several park laps, we rode boxes and rails, launched tabletop jumps, and skied on quarterpipe features.
Following instruction in the Barn, the Camp Day graduates to Copper's terrain park in the afternoon. Photo by Tim Shisler.
While my younger campmates practiced more advanced techniques like spins, I concentrated on not injuring myself too badly. I did have one mishap when trying to advance to riding a box sideways—I didn’t put enough weight on my front ski and ate it pretty hard. Despite my reluctance about attempting to ride the same box sideways again, James encouraged me to do so and I rode the whole thing successfully.
I left Woodward that day with a sense of accomplishment. I didn’t injure myself too badly and I tried some things I never would have previously. I was pretty sore the next couple of days, but it was worth it.
Since my Winter Camp Day, I haven’t ventured into the park but I have used some of the things I learned—skiing switch more effectively and using better form when jumping off of lips and such. Despite a few bumps and bruises, Woodward is a change of pace for accomplished adult skiers looking for a new challenge on the slopes.