Camp Woodward: Not just for kids |

Camp Woodward: Not just for kids

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Summit Daily/Mark Fox

It may have been 30 or 40 years since you’ve hung upside down on a jungle gym during recess, but that doesn’t mean you’re too old to learn a backflip or pull off a 360 on skis.

Older athletes gravitate to Woodward at Copper for three main reasons: to sharpen skills, foster respect and, basically, reclaim their childhood.

“They have a little unfinished business,” said Woodward coach Chris Pappas. “They (say), ‘I didn’t get to do that when I was young, so I’m going to try that (now).'”

But when they see the 35-foot ski ramp for the first time, some people become a bit tentative.

Training adults differs from teaching kids in the sense that adults usually want to understand the process, whereas kids just run and jump right in, Pappas said. Woodward coaches promote safety through a series of progressive exercises and activities.

Within two hours of progressions, starting with trampoline work, it’s not unusual for an older, strong intermediate skier to hit fairly large ski jumps, then land in the cushy foam pit, he said.

“You can try something a little crazy and know that you’re (basically) safe,” he said.

In fact, Pappas, who’s 46, recently tried a double flip off the Snowflex ramp, just to assure himself he can do it. He doesn’t plan to take the trick out to the hard-packed landings on the mountain, but he enjoys the confidence boost of catching indoor air, with soft landings.

Older participants learn about awareness of their body in the air, and it makes them more comfortable with smaller jumps outdoors, he said. And, the training allows for a little fantasy.

“In my own head I’m the world champ … I get to be Shaun White for a minute,” Pappas said.

Woodward at Copper Barn is all about respect – a place to build it, but more importantly, a place to maintain it. And that’s a big reason it attracts a 40-plus crowd, as well as younger generations.

Woodward feels like home to Mauricio Natario, age 43, because he doesn’t encounter what he terms “hate” there, like he does in outdoor skate parks. He says many outdoor parks discriminate against bikes and those who ride them, so he spends four to five days a week both skateboarding and riding his BMX bike at Woodward.

“Woodward is the one company that realizes we are all part of a big orchestra,” Natario said. “We all just play different instruments.”

Mike Sproul, a 45-year-old Breckenridge local, prefers to skate – and take his 9-year-old son to skate – at Woodward, as opposed to outdoor parks because at Copper, he doesn’t run into drunk or hung-over skaters.

“Here, they don’t tolerate that,” Sproul said. “You have to be on your best behavior … It’s like neutral ground. It’s a really positive environment. In skate parks, you don’t have to be on your best behavior.”

The atmosphere of respect extends not only to good manners, but also to role modeling. Older adult skaters are akin to 70- and 80-year-old skiers who ski at least twice a week: They act as an inspiration for younger enthusiasts.

Chris Pates, 50, owns CJs Board Shop in Gypsum, and he has coached his 11- and 13-year old boys, Jake and Cole, how to skate for years. But, he just started “seriously skating” himself three months ago, after pressure from his sons. Now, he uses all of Woodward’s facilities, including the ramps.

Jake Pates said his dad has taken “some really hard falls,” but Cole Pates adds, “Whenever he falls, he just laughs, gets up and does it all again.” And, if dad gets too freaked out, his kids remind him, “It’s just skateboarding,” Cole Pates said. “The worst that can happen is you fall.”

The 13-year-old said Woodward has helped bring his family together. Plus, he appreciates watching older skaters.

“The kids look up to them,” he said. “(They think) ‘Gee, I’m really going to be able to skate all my life. It definitely gives me a way different view. My dad’s the one I look up to. He’s been so inspirational all these years.”

“We are just showing the younger generation how long you can skate, because we’re the first ones skating all our life,” Natario said.

Sproul has been skating since boards had clay wheels with ball bearings, and he’s not about to stop anytime soon. He uses Woodward to hone his skills during the winter so he doesn’t go into what he calls “spring shock,” that feeling of wobbly fear.

“Just being able to skate at this age is a privilege,” he said. “Sometimes I wonder, ‘Should I really be doing this?’ But I can’t stop. I’ll probably never stop.”

He and a group of older guys come for the fun workouts. Many simply use the trampolines and literally bounce off the walls (or the huge pads, as the case may be). He calls Woodward a great gym.

“I’m not trying to get more rad,” Sproul said. “I skate like a 45-year-old – I want to continue to participate (in this sport for a long time), but I can still give the kids a run for their money.”

That’s right. Forget the new saying, “40 is the new 30s.” Natario believes 40 is the new 20s.

“You can compare a 25-year-old skater to a 40-year-old, and they’re doing the same thing,” Natario said. “(But as an older skater), you don’t risk yourself as much … when you’re older, you’re smart enough; you’re wise.”

Pappas said 40-plus participants comprise about 10-15 percent of athletes at the Barn.

“That’s the cool thing about Woodward,” Natario said. “Everybody just feeds off of each other … It’s for just about anyone who wants to have a good time.”

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