Woodward copper ain’t just for the kiddos—grown-ups can learn to become superheroes on skis and snowboards at the resort’s freestyle training center, too.
Here I am sweating like a chica de la noche in church on Christmas. My helmet, blue plaid button-down, and jeans are more waterlogged than the Titanic. It’s July but I can’t blame the summer heat. The reason for my perspiration? I’m standing atop the drop-in of the big jump at Woodward Copper’s Barn, an indoor facility that is the snow/skate equivalent of a superhero-training warehouse. The place is the perfect combination of X-Games meets X-Men: There are ramps, tramps and even a viewing area from which spectators watch action-sports ninjas twisting, flipping, and launching themselves like human rocket ships into foam pits.
The only person looking my way, however, is an eight-year-old who yells at me to “Go, already!” But I don’t budge. I’m clicked into four-foot skis that have skateboard wheels on the bottom. I’ve been nervously counting down from three for about five minutes now and I keep going.
Woodward Copper is a year-round mountain sports training ground, the gem of which is The Barn—a nearly 20,000 square foot funhouse. In 2013, Copper sunk half a million dollars into improving the facilities features here. Skatelite ramps mimic the feel of snow for skiers and snowboarders and also allow the use of bikes, scooters, skateboards, Roller Blades, or anything else with wheels. (My request to try a rolling office chair was, however, unfortunately denied … some nonsense about setting a good example or something.) The trampolines are made from Olympic-grade Flybed and, yes, the 14-foot-by-14-foot super tramp will in fact launch you super, super high. Additional features like spring floors, a pump track, a street course, and a skate/bmx bowl make the Barn irresistible to a child—or really anyone who likes to have fun.
Colin is a 43-year-old father of three from Chicago. He tells me his wife issued him a hall pass to attend “Dad Camp.” Colin decided on Woodward’s weeklong summer adult program because “I’ve plateaued, man. During the winter, I hang out at the terrain park with my daughters and see the things the kids can do these days. I’m like ‘I gotta try that!’” He is by far the most enthusiastic person I have ever seen literally land on his face. He has a high-five and a smile ready every time he picks himself up off of the trampolines. We both laugh when we simultaneously say, “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying.”
For Mike and Samantha, a couple in their mid-twenties from Florida, progression of their terrain park skillset is only part of the reason for traveling all the way to Colorado. “We don’t get a lot of summertime snow in Tampa,” Mike jokes. “We take one or two trips every winter. This seemed like a great way to improve and not get too rusty.”
And their decision is paying off. Both are landing new tricks in The Barn before they test their mettle at Pipeline, the summertime terrain park—a 1,000-foot swath of manmade snow containing three large booters and a peppering of ride-on boxes, rails and wall-ride features. But more importantly, Mike and Samantha are comfortable. “It’s awesome here,” Samantha exclaims after I ask her how her time has been. “Other camps are really intense and intimidating. Woodward is laid-back and the coaches are great.”
Woodward coaches are employed year-round, instructing everyone from little groms to adults of all ability levels. Summertime camps run from June to August and focus on improving the skills and confidence of skiers, snowboarders, bikers (BMX and mountain), skaters and scooter-ers. There’s even a video production camp for the aspiring Warren Miller-types. During the winter, day lessons and multi-day freestyle programs are focused on the steps of progression, beginning in the morning with in-air bodywork and muscle memory training at The Barn before heading to the mountain in the afternoon. New to this winter is the all-access pass, which allows ma and pa unlimited skiing and riding at Copper Mountain and The Barn all season long for $559, the kiddies (ages 6-12) for $389, and those adorably overly emotional teenagers (13-17) for $469. Silencing that little voice that tells you that you’re too old to be doing this is free of charge.
“No, man. You go ahead. You got this,” the eight-year-old waiting on me and my sweaty nerves on top of the drop-in retorts after I suggest he may want to go ahead. At first glance, many would not think me a graceful fellow. I tip the scales at well-over two bills and lumber at the height of most ceiling fans. But get me on a wedding reception dance floor or a pair of planks and I prove initial judgments wrong. I like to think I possess the grooves of Kevin Bacon in “Footloose” and the moves of Jerry Cramer from “Ski Patrol: The Movie.”
Right now, though, I am shaking like a newborn deer trying to walk on a frozen puddle. I feel completely out of my element. I’m nervous I will lose my balance after dropping in, speed wobble in the flat, and slam into a bloody pulp on the metal ramp. But if this kid gives me any more words of encouragement, I’m going to have to unscrew my mustache and turn my certification back into the Manhood Office. Peer pressure, even from a tiny human (I mean, I own t-shirts older than this pipsqueak for crying out loud), is a great motivator.
I drop in, glide smoothly at speed, pop off the lip of the ramp, and hit a cruising altitude somewhere between 20 feet and the stratosphere. If not for The Barn’s ceiling, I would surely soar into space. As I fly through the air like a skiing Han Solo, exhilaration replaces apprehension. Before I land in a soft whoomp of blue foam blocks, I have decided that I want to launch off the ramp again—as much as possible. I am a skier, after all, which means I am really just a big kid looking for big grins. And Woodward Copper has my smile reaching behind my ears.
Paddy O’Connell is a freelance creator, focusing on storytelling and multimedia production. His mustache can only be described as out of this world.