Summer is for snow tricks at Copper’s Woodward
COPPER MOUNTAIN – For freestyle athletes seeking a snowy fix in the summertime, it used to be that a trip to British Columbia, northern Oregon or even South America was in order. But Copper Mountain has brought Colorado onto the summer training scene in a big way with Woodward, an indoor/outdoor ski-and-snowboard training center.The jumps and rails of the resort’s Catalyst Terrain Park are still white as can be and covered with athletes, even though wildflowers are blooming just a few steps away. The indoor facility, too, is hopping with dozens of skiers and riders of all levels, from beginner to pro. And that’s grabbing global attention from the current and future leaders of the sport.”Absolutely, this puts Copper on the map,” said Olympic snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, who showed up this week to ride with campers and give them some pointers. “I think it’s so great to have a summer camp like this in Colorado. I know if this had been in my backyard when I first started going to camps, I would have been here for sure.”Now in its second year, Woodward is expected to serve a total of 450 campers this summer – triple the number that showed up to bounce on its trampolines and ride its rails during the 2009 summer camps. Since its opening in February 2009, almost 10,000 people have honed their skills at Woodward for about 25,000 sessions. The average age of a Woodward guest is 15, but the training center has hosted kids as young as 8 and kids-at-heart as old as 53.
Woodward at Copper has its roots in Pennsylvania, home of the original Camp Woodward, a state-of-the-art training center known worldwide in gymnastics circles. Top-level snowboarders have been taking advantage of Camp Woodward’s foam pits, tumbling strips, spotting belts and trampolines for years, but the opening of the Copper location created the first-ever opportunity for athletes to take skills from the gym directly to the slopes within a matter of hours.In many ways, “the Barn,” as athletes and coaches call it, is much like a terrain park – just a lot softer and squishier. The 35-foot-tall indoor jump replicates the largest jump in Catalyst Terrain Park. However, instead of landing atop snow, athletes gently plop down into a pit of thousands of bright blue foam cubes. Launching tricks into the pits and on trampolines before taking them to snow gives athletes a head start on critical aerial awareness and timing. This changes the learning process from “the huck-and-hope method” to a safe progression that begins with fundamentals and builds from there, according to Woodward director Ben Brown.Campers rave about their time in the Barn and its effect on their confidence.”It’s been really helpful,” said 10-year-old Gabriel Malley of northern California. “The trampolines help you learn your flips and spins. I’ve been doing misties into the foam pits and 540s on the tramps.”Michigan resident Brenn Olsen, 14, was similarly enthused, having pulled his first 900 on snow this week.”The foam pit is the best part – you get your tricks down, and it makes the rotation easy on snow,” he said.
In addition to serving as a top-notch training center, Woodward is becoming a potent tool for enhancing the Copper brand. The camp doesn’t have a huge advertising budget – most of its marketing is Web-based, taking advantage of alliances with organizations like United States of America Snowboard Association. But Woodward’s appeal has proven to be surprisingly broad geographically, extending well beyond Copper’s target markets. In its first summer, Woodward attracted a mostly-Colorado crowd. But this year, it’s far easier to list the states that aren’t represented among its campers than the ones that are. Campers have traveled from places as far flung as Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, Australia and Manitoba, Canada.”I heard about it, read all about it, and I said, ‘This looks really cool,'” said 11-year-old Daniel Shoup, who lives in Indianapolis, Ind. “I signed up, and now I’m here shreddin’ it.”Woodward also draws competitive freestyle teams from throughout Colorado and out-of-state, since the program can adapt to meet any range of needs. A high-level team from Toronto visited early in the summer, and the terrain crew built up the jumps for more advanced training.And Woodward doesn’t just lure campers’ business. Since most of them are under 18, they’re part of a package that includes their parents and siblings. Many of the campers interviewed said their parents were staying in Copper, enjoying more traditional summer activities.”It’s great – I drop them off at 8 a.m., and I’m off riding my bike,” said Liz Wilson, whose two children were enrolled in the camp this week. “They’re having a blast all day. I pick them up at 9:30, and they’re exhausted.”Campers’ enthusiasm over the Woodward experience seems likely to generate return visits – a key business strategy industrywide.”I would love to come here for the winter. It would be so much fun. I’m going to tell my dad, ‘Hey, for spring break, we should come here to Copper,'” Shoup said.SDN reporter Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or email@example.com.
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