New Woodward Barn, More beginner friendly
Since it opened in 2009, Woodward at Copper has had an image problem. It gave the impression it was too extreme for the average person. Or at least that was what people thought. It was partly Woodward’s fault: It billed itself as an extreme-sport training ground. Even with foam pits, it was extreme enough that it was likely too intimidating for the skier or snowboarder with modest big-air ambitions.
“People think Woodward, they think Tony Hawk,” said Danny Vogel, Woodward’s general manager.
It’s an image Woodward hopes to reinvent, and is partly why it just spent $500,000 in new construction. Its recent renovation is as much about the first timer as it is the extreme athlete, probably even more so about the former. Woodward wants visitors to Copper to stop thinking, “Oh, that’s where those X Games types go,” and start thinking about taking the whole family to give it a try.
“We can change the perspective from Sochi training ground,” Vogel said, referring to the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, “to a place for everyone, anybody from a little tike to a grandpa.”
For Vogel, getting people interested in freestyle skiing and boarding has become a life goal. Before working at Woodward he helped create the terrain park program at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania, the state that is also home to the original Woodward facility.
The focus of the renovation at Woodward at Copper was progression, said Vogel. The old Woodward “barn” setup jumped from practicing moves on a trampoline straight to a fairly steep and intimidating jump ramp.
“There was no beginner foam pit,” said Austyn Williams, public relations manager for Copper Mountain.
The new configuration includes a large second-story addition with smaller ramps and a much less intimidating beginner jump into a small foam pit.
“It’s where kids can try their first jump ever,” said Vogel. Adults too, he added.
woodward’s friendly future
Vogel sees all kinds of family- and beginner-friendly programs on the horizon for Woodward. He and the rest of the staff now believe they have the best of both worlds. Their vision, of a Woodward where pros practice going big next to kids and adults who may never have dreamed of catching any air at all, seems to be becoming a reality.
It is now a place extreme enough for an Olympic hopeful and tame enough for kids and their parents who want to play.
“The biggest barrier to progression is fear,” said Vogel. “Ninety percent of it is getting people confident.”
Correcting that issue with a focus on more beginner friendly features was key. Woodward now has more steps to make people comfortable and advance slowly with less of a jump from beginner to advanced features.
For a person new to Woodward, the staff starts with the basics. It’s definitely not straight to big ramps and big air. Intro sessions start with stretching on a cushioned gymnastics-style floor that has a little bounce. An instructor will progress to simple summersaults, before even setting foot on a trampoline. Even the most amateur athlete is coached on basic techniques. Next, is getting comfortable on the trampoline. Coaches work on balance and maintaining control of jump size. Eventually the progression goes to bouncing from the trampoline into a foam pit. Even advanced athletes will spend hours practicing maneuvers on the tramps before taking them to the jump pits.
With the new setup people can then take what they’ve learned on the trampoline to the small-jump foam pit, then work up to the bigger features.
The two-hour intro sessions advance only as fast as the person participating wants them to. If that means never even trying a jump, there’s still plenty to do on the trampolines.
For the future, Vogel sees expansion of both the summer-camp and open-session activities. He said there are a lot of ideas they’re throwing around. Among others, he mentioned the potential for a tumbling class for parents with younger children. Currently the facility and all programs require that participants be 8 years of age or older.
Beyond the focus on a more beginner-friendly atmosphere, the new technologies incorporated into skiing and snowboarding on jump features have changed things in “the barn.” The difference? Strapping into skis and snowboards with wheels.
All of the jumps are now lined with a wood-composite Skatelite finish, the same as what’s used at indoor skateboarding and BMX features. The old jumps at Woodward had an Astroturf-like cover called Snowflex. The new Skatelite features make it possible for jumps that were previously used only by skiers and snowboarders to be accessible to bikers and skateboarders, or anything else with wheels.
Most of the response to the new skis and snowboards has been positive. Burton has started manufacturing the wheeled snowboards exclusively for Woodward. The skis are currently independently manufactured. Some say that at this point the snowboard technology is a little ahead of the wheeled-ski technology. And there are skiers who, for the time being, prefer the old Snowflex system. But Vogel says that it is all still very new, and they are continuing to improve designs. He said the new wheeled snowboards are already far more advanced than earlier models.
A crowded summer-camp session Thursday certainly seemed to indicate the potential for the new Woodward going forward. It may still take time for it to shed its extreme-sports image and convince the less daring crowd to give it a shot. But that’s what the staff is working on.
“I can’t wait till my parents come and visit,” said Vogel. “My dad will love it.” He wasn’t so sure about his mother.
Summer-camp sessions are ongoing. “The barn” is currently open to the public on weekends. Cooper staff said they may offer a two-day introductory public session, for all-ages and under $200, later in the summer. In the meantime, they offer two-hour intro sessions for $49 and additional drop-in sessions for $29.
More information is available at http://www.woodwardatcopper.com
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