Outdoors: Dropping In at Woodward at Copper

March 2013

I was intimidated. OK, I was frightened as I walked into Woodward at Copper’s 19,400-foot “Barn” facility. The indoor ski and snowboard training facility’s trampolines, foam pits, and a 60-foot-tall sheer ski run (it looked like a vertical drop from below) were enough to scare this 36-year-old skier: I’d never jumped on skis.

“It’s actually only 43-degrees,” said Mike, the 20something coach of my introductory class, about the ski run. “But we’ll get to that later.”

I watched a guy in neon green ski pants drop into the run and execute a haphazard-looking misty flip before being swallowed by the foam pit. I balked; I seriously doubted I’d be getting to that later.

It turns out I was wrong. The progression taught during Woodward’s 105-minute Intro session is designed to get anyone (OK, almost anyone) down that steep pitch and into the air. And it works. Everyone in our group of seven, which included three college students on Spring Break and two kids under the age of 12, could do it by the end of class.

We started with the most basic of basics: a forward roll on a plush mat. We graduated to backward rolls, the side roll used for misty flips, and dive rolls. Then we moved to jumping into the foam pits, which were filled seven-feet of large squishy blue cubes that make it nearly impossible to get injured. (Mike told us the most common injury has nothing to do with the pit. It’s taking a knee—your own—to the face.)

To avoid that buzz kill, we learned the “cowboy tuck” landing, which is akin to a cannonball with your knees wide open. Once we mastered the cowboy tuck, front flips into a giant vat of foam were much easier (and safer) than I’d thought. And a heck of a lot of fun—once the vertigo subsided.

Next, came the trampolines. Woodward has six Olympic-grade Flybed tramps and experienced jumpers can rocket off them up to 20 feet. After a few rounds of bouncing—straight jumps, tuck jumps, seat jumps, land-on-your-knees-jumps—everyone in the group could do a front flip, at least from their knees. We progressed to using the trampoline to catapult us into the foam pits, which was arguably some of the most fun I’ve had in my adult life. From front flips to flying superman dives, it seems like anything is possible when there’s a foam pit to absorb the landing.  

Finally, it was time to put on our skis. I had so much adrenaline from launching into the foam that I was no longer afraid (perhaps part of Woodward’s grand plan). Mike had assured us that there would be no high-flying acrobatics on skis today; the Intro session is about feeling comfortable going down the synthetic hill and catching your first bit of air.

The tall, steep incline that grabbed my attention when I first walked in the door was actually one of two, and we started on the small one, which was a less threatening run. It was surprisingly easy to turn my skis on the synthetic Snowflex, which Woodward sprays down with water for maximum glide.

Waiting for my turn on top of the big hill, I had a moment to ponder my fate. Did I really want to try this? At my age, there would be no freestyle career to pursue if I was good at it. And if I wasn’t good at it? Well, it could end badly.

I peered over the edge. The angle looked just as steep from the top. But at the bottom, I spotted an old friend—the foam pit.

I pointed my skis straight down and dropped in. My stomach churned as I descended, and then jumped into my throat as I caught what felt like 20 feet of air (but was actually more like two), before landing on my rear in the foam. I watched my glorious little jump on instant replay, courtesy of a strategically placed screen next to the pit.

Was I a natural? Maybe. Did I want to try it again? Hell yes.  

Editor’s Note: Woodward has partnered with Copper Mountain to offer a new Ski and Ride with Woodward program, a full day that starts outside in the snow and ends indoors in the Barn. Participants will be gauged on their terrain park skills at Copper Mountain, and then taken to the Barn to practice the skills they’re hoping to master. Lunch is included. 

—Images courtesy of Copper Mountain