More than just a new coat of paint, the renovations at Woodward at Copper are what staffers there consider to be revolutionary approaches to extreme sports training.
The $500,000 facelift is nearing completion, and Copper Mountain and Woodward management say plans are on schedule. They expect the renovation to be finished in time for summer camps on June 16. It will also reopen to the public for drop in sessions on weekends throughout the summer. Plans for season pass options are currently being evaluated.
Woodward’s biggest focus is skill progression, and the new design for ‘The Barn,’ Woodward’s indoor training facility, further emphasizes that goal.
“One of the things we’re challenged with is getting people to understand that Woodward is for all abilities,”says Pete Woods, vice president of snow sports at Copper. The range in size of the features is even more progressive than before. Meaning there will be more small features that allow the less adventurous or more novice aspiring dare devil to build confidence before moving on to bigger jumps and more complex moves. Woods hopes that the new set up will be welcoming to people of all ages and skill levels.
While The Barn is the same size as before, the amount of skateboard terrain has doubled with the construction of a new upper-level pump track and expanded lower level city-style skate features. The upper level course will also be accessible to BMX and mountain bikers, as well as skiers and snowboarders.
Likely the biggest change of all is the new technology incorporated in the foam pit jump ramps. The old snowflex system, with Astroturf-like indoor-outdoor style carpeting, is gone. The original jumps have been replaced by smaller, faster jumps with a wood surface finish, the same as indoor skate features.
“The beautiful thing is everybody will be able to use it,” said Woods. Unlike the snowflex jumps, these new designs will open the big foam pits up to bikes as well. Woods believes this is the only place in Colorado where people can practice aerial bike maneuvers with foam pit landings.
The change in surface drastically changes how skis and snowboards will be used on indoor features. The simple answer: with wheels.
“We’re trying things that no one is trying,” said Nate Wessel, a former pro BMX rider and current head designer for Woodward parks nationwide. The idea is something Woodward has a patent on, according to Woods. They’ve pioneered wheeled snowboard and ski designs that will be used on the new indoor features, and are already in use at Woodward Tahoe and the original Woodward camp in Pennsylvania.
“It’s like a new sport,” said Copper Ski instructor J.P. Guardino, who is helping with construction.
“The biggest advantage we have is speed,” Wessel said of the new system.
With the snowflex skiers and boarders would lose a substantial amount of momentum on the up-slope of a jump. Much more so than on real snow, according to Wessel. “Keeping speed all the way through is so much more realistic.”
He also says that the wheeled snowboards make carving turns an easier skill to learn.
“It translates well to snow.”
At the Tahoe camp, which has had the new jump system for a season, Wessel says snowboard students learned how to make true carved turns faster than they would have learning only on snow. The wheeled boards force students to make carved turns rather than skidded ones. Stopping on the other hand, appears to be considerably more difficult, but then that’s what the foam pits are for.
It sounds as though the ski technology may be a small step behind the snowboard system, but Wessel says that innovations in the wheeled skis designs have improved. Experimenting with the designs for both skis and boards will be an ongoing process.
Woodward will be rolling out a Burton line of wheeled skis and snowboards when the facility reopens in June.
Expanded viewing areas are also a part of the new design. As soon as guests walk into the building, they will be able to see jump features previously obstructed by walls. Woods believes this will create a much more welcoming and impressive feel to the whole building.
Time will tell how popular the new ski and snowboard system will be. But both Woods and Wessel say they’ve received positive reviews from Woodward users in Tahoe and at Woodward East.
“A lot of people were iffy at first,” said Wessel. But, he says, they were quick converts.
“The pros really got a taste of it when they came to Tahoe.”
Woods anticipates that the new features will be a popular training option for pros when they come to train on the outdoor half pipe in preparation for the Olympics in Sochi, this winter.
In the past, Woods says, Woodward has hosted a number of pro skaters and snowboarders like Sean White.
Youth ski, skate and snowboard summer camps are slated to start June 16. Also, new this year, Woodward will be offering BMX camps.
“One of the things we’re challenged with is getting people to understand that Woodward is for all abilities.”
— Pete Woods, vice president of snow sports at Copper Mountain