Despite coronavirus, Woodward Copper manifests ski, snowboard experience that rivals past summers

A young snowboarder rides a rainbow rail in the Woodward Copper Central Park terrain park at Copper Mountain Resort.
Chip Proulx / Woodward Copper

COPPER MOUNTAIN RESORT — Even with the difficulties of the novel coronavirus, and despite this year’s decrease in snow from winter 2018-19, Woodward Copper at Copper Mountain Resort is offering a summertime on-mountain terrain park that rivals last year’s.

Although the acreage and features of this summer’s Central Park are the same as last year’s Pipeline Park, several elements of the summer ski and snowboard experience are different in the age of COVID-19.

One-third of the number of skiers and riders are up on snow for a total 50 participants per day this summer compared with 150 per day last year. And due to virus precautions, Woodward has taken a regional approach in terms of participants and visiting pros. Rather than pro riders coming in from across the country for a weeklong camp, Woodward has Summit County-based pros such as Torstein Horgmo and Chad Otterstrom hit the park.

“(Sunday) was one of the more fun days I’ve ever had up there,” Otterstrom said Monday, July 13. “… I am impressed whenever I go up there. It’s a wonderland for old snowboarders.”

This year, Horgmo and Otterstrom aren’t technically visiting pros interacting with campers; they’re participants. Much like previous years, they are wowing youngsters at the park with their soaring tricks on the triple-jump line or creativity on the quarter-pipe at the bottom of the terrain park. But they aren’t interacting with young skiers and riders as much as last summer when they drop into the park.

Considering he hadn’t hit resort terrain park jumps since March, when COVID-19 shut down skiing across Colorado, Otterstrom and his Academy Snowboards crew are enjoying the summer park much like a 12-year-old camper would — for the love of snowboarding. But bringing back the love of skiing and snowboarding was a challenge in creativity for Woodward Copper amid the pandemic.

Adam Kisiel, senior manager for Woodward Copper, said the Woodward crew at the resort wanted to do whatever they could to bring a strong summer park to life. They wanted it to be a statement to the ski and snowboard community that Woodward Copper brings a summer snow venue of a certain standard each year no matter the hurdles. To make it work, Woodward Copper is running single-day sessions rather than campers from around the country signing up for weeklong sessions. Adults are welcome to sign up whether they’re pros like Otterstrom and Horgmo or amateur Summit County shredders.

Whoever chooses to partake in these singular days, they have to pass health and temperature screenings based out of Copper Mountain’s West Village. It’s in West Village where parents drop off children and all participants are organized into groups with a coach to head up the mountain. Participants must register at least 48 hours in advance and wear a face covering — most opting for ski buffs.

Because Summit County public health regulations limit the number of people permitted in a vehicle, Woodward Copper is sending most participants up the hill via the Woodward Express chairlift, which didn’t spin in previous summers. From the top of the lift, it’s a short hike down to the top of the summer Central Park.

Once at Central Park, the relatively wide-open nature of the skiing and snowboarding, compared to other summers, is something participants are appreciating as an escape during a tumultuous time in the world.

A young skier hits a hip at the summertime Woodward Copper Central Park terrain park at Copper Mountain Resort
Chip Proulx / Woodward Copper

“It’s such a gift. It’s awesome,” Team Summit Snowboard Program Director Matty Voegtle said Monday, when Team Summit had 15 youth snowboard and 12 youth ski athletes on the hill. “We were able to get almost every kid up there who wanted to be up there. There’s no line, and it’s a great park with a good build, good rails — everything.”

Voegtle commended Woodward Copper for having the “snow science” down pat. Kisiel said the crew has perfected how to build its big wintertime Central Park jumps well enough to have snow left to create the summer features they want — no matter how dry or warm the winter has been. They do this by farming snow from surrounding areas of the resort into one big pile to cultivate a warm-weather playground.

On that playground, Kisiel said the demand to participate has been strong and that they’ve maxed out capacity for the remainder of this week.

And, out on the jumps, Team Summit athletes enjoy an experience that Voegtle said is part training and skills work and part shredding for fun. Whether they are hucking twice-inverted tricks for the first time or refining their switch (backward) skiing and ride skills, they’re making the most of summer amid the pandemic.

“Even with the most competitive kids, it always has to be fun,” Voegtle said. “If it’s not fun, it’s really not worth it.”

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