The 5280 Mountain Guide

November 2011

Defying Gravity

How I learned to get air—by falling on my face.

This is it. My skis are pointed straight down at a jump in Copper Mountain’s terrain park. I stare hard at the jump, willing the laws of gravity to work with me—maybe even bend a little for me. It’s only about four feet high, but I’m going for an actual trick this time.

I hit the jump, stomp down into my boots to get more air, pull my legs up into a tuck, and reach back to grab the tail of my right ski. Victory! But before I can celebrate, I realize with a jolt of panic that I’ve never before been this high off the ground, and my arms start to helicopter. All semblance of balance evaporates, and I catapult forward over my skis when I touch down. Luckily, I land on an airbaglike surface that minimizes the damage when my face breaks the fall. My coaches, Peter O’Brien and Josh Underwood, are cheering from the top of the run as I untangle myself, unhurt—mostly. “I’m gonna look like a badass at work tomorrow,” I say, feeling the sting of a giant scrape across my chin.

It’s the perfect souvenir from my daylong camp session at Woodward at Copper, an indoor ski and snowboard training facility filled with trampolines, foam pits, ramps, and jumps. It’s a playground for newbies and pros alike—Gretchen Bleiler, Colby West, and Louie Vito have all stopped in—to learn and test new skills. I’ve been skiing most of my life, but my terrain-park experience was limited to heckling my friends from the sidelines.

All morning, I’d launched myself off a trampoline indoors; the hardest part was crawling out of the sea of foam after a cushy landing. I’d even managed, despite major bruising of my backside (and ego), to ride the entire length of a 15-foot-long box. Feeling invincible, I’d headed outside to test my newfound abilities on the real thing. Almost. I hadn’t quite graduated to snow—hence the airbag landing—but at least it was a real jump. Which is how I found myself face down after the biggest air I’d ever gotten, a huge smile (and, well, a huge scrape) plastered across my face. But hell, the pros fall down all the time. It’s part of the sport. As I pick myself up, coach Underwood shouts the magic words that make it all worth it: “If you don’t fall, you’re not doing it right!” —Daliah Singer

Try It

Where: Woodward at Copper (the Barn), woodwardatcopper.com

Cost: $169.99 (full day, lunch and lift, indoor/outdoor sessions); $29.99 (drop-in sessions)

Heads Up: By December, Copper Mountain will open the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center, an exclusive, on-mountain downhill training site. Look for celebs like Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn to try it.

Also Try: Breckenridge Ski Resort Park & Pipe, $85 (group, half) to $699 (private, full), breckenridge.com; Echo Mountain, two hours: $45 (group) to $150 (private), echomtnpark.com