Center in Eagle becoming model for freestyle training centers
The proposed freestyle center at Keystone would not be the first of its kind in Colorado.
Down the road in Eagle, 30 miles from the closest ski area, a freestyle center has been up and running for almost a year now. Upward Athletics, complete with gymnastics center and skate park, is becoming the model for freestyle training facilities around the state. Founder Steve Teien hopes his idea goes national soon.
Keystone has taken notice. Team Summit’s John Dowling, a strong advocate of the proposed freestyle training facility in Keystone, will be making a trip to Eagle soon to check out the giant facility. Copper Mountain’s also sending over representatives to see how and why this place has been so successful.
Let me shed some light on this. Maybe I can save some folks some time.
I had a chance to check out this facility days before it opened. I bounced on the three built-in trampolines and ran around the skate park. The foam for the 30- by 40-foot pits hadn’t been delivered yet, but I had more fun in the hour there than in the hour I would have spent practicing on hard packed ice or stubborn concrete.
As one of the developers of the project, Paul Wertin has seen the facility attract athletes like pro freestyler Seth Morrison.
“If you want to do it right,” Wertin said, “you need the right environment to learn. You don’t want to bust yourself up every time you try to learn a new trick.”
For kids learning tricks, coaches have developed an Air-Sense Academy, which provides the step-by-step progression needed to learn maneuvers like rodeos, 720s and back flips.
To start, a kid climbs onto a pile of mats, leaps off, hits the trampoline, performs the trick and hits the foam pit with a nice, soft landing. As the young athlete becomes comfortable in the air, Teien turns the student loose with full ski or snowboard gear.
Soon, they’re hucking 7s in the backcountry.
“It sounds pretty similar to the program we want to start (in Keystone),” Dowling said. “I talked with (Upward Athletics). There’s about 500 families using that facility up there for gymnastics.”
On the Summit Daily Web site, 280 people weighed in on the freestyle center. Over 80 percent voted in support.
As Upward Athletics began, however, the center did hit some snags. Local gymnastic groups felt like a big machine was moving in and would steal their athletes.
Teien and his co-owner asked the local centers to make Upward Athletics their main training center. They had superior equipment, much more space and were willing to share floor time.
The centers reluctantly agreed. A year later, they haven’t looked back. The presence in Keystone may not have such reluctant gymnasts. Multiple gymnastics organizations in Summit have already said they want the facility at Keystone.
So, would the proposed center benefit Summit County? As Dowling said, if we don’t get this center, someone else will. And down the road about 60 miles, smack between Aspen and Vail, someone else beat the entire state to the punch.
Ryan Slabaugh can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 257, or at
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