A day in the life of a Woodward Copper summer camper
Woodward summer camps
Woodward at Copper is the closest camp this side of Oregon’s Mt. Hood to offer on-snow instructions during the thick of summer, with on-mountain jumps and rails made just for campers and visiting pros. Pricing ranges from $899 to $1,799 for weeklong day-only and overnight camps.
July 12-18 — Burton, Anon and Analog Week
July 19-25 — Ride Snowboards Week, with Brandon Davis, Seamus O’Connor, Spencer Whiting and Jessika Jenson
July 26-30 — K2 Snowboarding Week for ages 8-12
July 12-18 — Anon Ski Week
July 19-25 — Joystick Skis Week, with Banks Gilberti
July 26-30 — K2 Skis Week for ages 8-12
When I stepped foot in Woodward Copper on a breezy July morning, I was giddy with excitement.
I mean, how could I control it? Just behind The Barn doors — that’s what Woodward calls its central playground — were skate ramps, trampolines, foam pits, tumble mats, a pump track and just about anything an adrenaline junkie craves, almost like candy you can ride on. And that’s not all: Up on the mountain, dug into the final remnants of late-May snow, were jumps, boxes, rails and, for the cherry on top, an inflatable airbag at the end of a kicker. It’s the on-snow equivalent of a foam pit, and it’s the only one in Colorado once Memorial Day hits.
Spread between the ramps and jumps were nearly 200 kids and teens. It was the last day of session four at Woodward’s youth summer camp, and these little rippers had come from across the country for a taste of something that’s within easy biking distance of my house. By Saturday they’ll head back to real life, making way for the next round of campers.
But for one more day, Woodward was theirs. And they invited me to come out and play.
Central Terrain Park, 9:30 a.m.
The day started early at Woodward, beginning with breakfast around 8 a.m. at The Edge, Copper Mountain Resort’s employee housing in winter and Woodward’s camper bunkhouses come summertime.
After a hearty, camp-style breakfast with their coaches and counselors — coaches teach the skills, counselors lead the activities — the campers split up and went their separate ways. More than half were already dressed in ski gear for the post-breakfast bus ride to Central Terrain Park, where they spent the morning with coaches like Giri Watts.
Watts has been a snowboard instructor since Woodward’s first summer in 2009, teaching kids everything from ollies and Indy grabs to inverted 540s and backside lipslides. It’s similar to his winter gig with the Copper ski school, at least on the surface, but he admits that spending summer afternoons on the snow with five thirsty, ready-to-rip campers is a completely different experience than never-ever beginners.
“We basically run the days like a session,” said Watts, a Virginia native who, like a lot of campers, had never seen a Woodward park until arriving in Summit County. “The coaches are giving them tips on how to clean their tricks, get them thinking in a new direction, and the counselors they spend the nights with are out there sessioning at the same time.”
Like me, Watts still gets giddy at Woodward. It’s fueled by the campers: He coached five kids during session four, all of them younger than 17 years old and all of them lifelong skaters like he is. Some want to learn 10 new tricks in a week, others are just stoked on spending time in the mountains, but all of them enjoy simply hanging out with kids who love extreme sports. Unlike summer school, the sessions are rarely rigid or structured. It’s why they’re called sessions.
“At the top of a jump, it’s not like you just have a coach telling them what to do,” Watts said. “It’s a buddy, someone they trust and can ask, ‘What’s the speed like?’ or, ‘How does my style look when I tweak this out?’”
The Barn foam pit, 10:30 a.m.
From snow to skate to cheer camp — yes, those trampolines are used for more than fine-tuning corked spins — progression is the name of the game at Woodward.
“Some of the campers are pretty high-level and we’re working on rotations, combining those with flips and getting inverted,” Watts says. “For the coaches, we’re just trying to create a safe progression for the campers, so they have an environment to explore new tricks and get guidance along the way.”
The Barn is progression central. Sure, there’s the on-snow airbag, but only so many campers are interested in snowboarding and skiing. The remaining kids in session four were on wheels, including a group on scooters.
And they were killing it.
About halfway through the morning, the scooter squad (my term) took over The Barn’s main foam pit, a massive, pool-like pit filled with blocks of blue foam. The concept is simple: Foam hurts less than concrete, making it the go-to material for learning new and dangerous tricks.
To be honest, I have no clue how to ID scooter tricks, just as I’m sure non-snowboarders have no clue what a backside lipslide is. I heard triple and quad thrown around — I’m pretty sure they were referring to the number of tail whips in the air — but when one of the campers asked if I wanted to drop in on one of three ramps, I was a bit hesitant. What if my years of skateboarding didn’t translate to scooters? I didn’t even know the trick names.
“But come on, this is so fun,” said Brett Abel, an 11-year-old from Minnesota attending his first-ever Woodward camp with a buddy, Joshua Tourville. “It’s way better than Disney World. Disney World doesn’t have a foam pit.”
You’re right, I thought. Disney World doesn’t have a foam pit, and if Brett and Joshua only get a few more hours to enjoy Woodward, I should take a chance.
So I did. And even though I caught much less air than the groms — yet another extreme-sports term, this one for a pre-teen who’s better than most adults — it was a blast. I wanted to try it again, maybe this time on a wheeled snowboard or skis, but there was more to explore.
The Barn street skatepark, 11 a.m.
The foam pit is buttressed on both sides by two features: a tumble area with trampolines and a street skatepark with rails and ramps.
A group with Keystone Science School had taken over the tumble area, so instead I went to the skatepark and met two more groms, 12-year-old Autry of Denver and 11-year-old Ash from South Dakota. Autry had been to the camp once before, but Ash was there for the first time, and although the two were ready to head home — even an extreme sports camp comes with a touch of homesickness — they were lost in a game of SKATE, sort of like HORSE for skateboarders.
This time, I knew the names of the tricks. Ash was perfecting his kickflips, taking the bread-and-butter trick from flat ground to ramps and spines. He had only landed them occasionally before coming to Copper, he told me, but after just a week at camp he could land them on command.
Autry was working on something a bit more advanced: the heelflip sex change. (The trick is worse than it sounds. The “sex change” bit refers to spinning your body in a 180 over the board.) He had never even tried one at home, and shortly after admitting they were still hard, he stuck one.
“Nice!” Ash said, and after shooting a few photos of the boys’ kickflip session on a spine ramp, I left The Barn for a bit of fresh air.
The zipline, 11:30 a.m.
With foam pits, terrain parks and the like, I was beginning to think the Woodward campers had all the trappings of an amusement park without, well, the actual rides.
But I was wrong. In the afternoons and near the end of the week, Watts says kids tend to get a little worn out. Skating and riding for seven hours a day sounds like a dream come true, but after four days, it’s time to unwind.
I was searching for a group riding through the village on longboards — Never Summer donated an entire fleet to the camp — when I stumbled across another group of young skateboarders ready to do anything but skateboard. Luckily, Woodward gives them access to just about everything Copper has to offer: the go-kart track, the bumper boats, the zipline over West Lake.
Andrew from Atlanta and Nick from the Denver suburb of Westminster were strapping into harnesses when I came to the zipline platform. Both were skateboarders, but even though they’d spent the past week hucking off ramps and sliding on metal rails, Andrew admitted he was just a bit nervous. After all, it was his first time ever on a zipline.
“I’ve never been anywhere like this before,” Nick said before crossing the pond via steel cable. “Woodward is probably the coolest place I’ve ever been.”
Disney World, you’ve met your match.
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