I have to admit I’m not a total novice to freestyle, and back in the day, when I too was a seasonaire, I was known to hit the odd jump, even snatching at a quick grab or pulling a very unstylish 360. But, and it’s a very big but, it was a long time ago and I never went inverted, well not on purpose anyway. So on opening the door to the huge Woodward centre there was more than a few butterflies in my stomach, more like a plague of parrots. But my fears were soon diminished, if not totally quashed, by Rick Shimpeno, the centre’s manager, who I guessed to be, like me, the wrong side of 40.
Ever stood on a set of skis or snowboard, peering over the fence of a terrain park, watching the seasonaires and locals flying upside down and round and round, and wondered how on earth do you even begin to start that, without being broken into many, many pieces? Well the Woodward Centre at Copper Mountain is a good, if not the best place to start. It’s basically an indoor soft play area, where the adults can play too.
As I filled in a disclaimer, Rick appeared around the corner on a skateboard, looking very relaxed and as happy to see me, as if I was an old friend.
“Hi Pete, good to meet you and thanks for visiting us, you’re gonna love it today.” He was right, I did.
Every single inch of the centre is utilised to the upmost. There are foam pits for landing, crash mats for breaking falls, trampolines at floor level, elevated skate/bmx ramps, cliff drops, bouncy take off spots and even the odd basketball hoop. Best of all, it’s under one roof and ready for use anytime: come rain, shine or even that dreaded ski free summer season.
Standing in the near empty centre, Rick continued.
“Yes, we get busy on a bad weather days and in the evenings. It’s real funny as the local kids bust the balls of my staff, by trying to sneak in. But hey man; I tell them to chill out, as they’re just kids aren’t they. When we catch them, I just tell them there’s no need to pay the full fee. There are heaps of offers out there, both online and in print:, half price, two for ones, memberships… Look, a lot of the kids we get here - not all, but a lot - aren’t the type to succeed at school; hell, I know I wasn’t. I’m not saying we’re in the Bronx, I mean this is a ski resort, right, but what we do offer is a way for them to express themselves, in a controlled, safe and fun environment. Some parents come in with a look on their faces of ‘OMG, what am I letting my kid in for’ and after a few months they knock on my office door and thank me, telling me how focused their child has become at home and at school. You aren’t getting in any trouble when all you’re thinking about is how to pull a triple cork.”
Rick skates off to his office, which is under a large ski jump, leaving me with one of his staff. All around us in the now filling centre, people are taking to the air - literally.
We start with a warm up before tackling basics – sans board - like front rolls and cartwheels, all onto crash mats. Next we leap into massive 8 foot deep pits, filled with foam blocks to break your fall. The leaping in is easy, it’s the getting out which is hard work. After a couple of goes I’m ready for my first inversion of the day, and try a misty flip, which is a combination of a 360 spin and a front somersault.
“Just drop your left shoulder,” was the advice given to me, and sure enough it worked. I ran at the pit, diving forwards, while throwing my left shoulder downwards; floor, ceiling and walls all merged into a blur and I landed feet first in the foam. It was surprisingly easy, but even with this success there was no way I fancied trying it on my snowboard.
Next we hit the 5 Olympic size trampolines, which are at ground level and surrounded by mats and foam. They were great fun and our small group all got, what felt like, a lot of air. There were even small foam snowboards with foot loops, so we could try grabs and spins. It felt very odd to be leaping straight up and down with your feet in a fixed position, rather than in the forwards direction you’d normally travel when snowboarding. After proving we could show some sort of control on the trampolines, we were let loose on the Supertramp, which rather than being a rectangle is a very large square. The Supertramp gives you much more height, allowing far more time for you to practice new moves. After feeling happy with my air time, I sat back and watched a group of locals cheering each other on while getting ridiculously massive air.
The last challenge of the day was to finally apply what we had learned, to riding on our boards – taking on the large ramp, which dominates the middle of the centre. Now if this was a snow slope into deep powder, I wouldn’t have felt so scared, but it’s a fake snow slope on which it’s near impossible to hold an edge. It’s a case of put the board down flat, point straight for the ramp, and ultimately the foam. In reality it wasn’t all that bad, and I did manage a couple of clean straight air method grabs, which our instructor described encouragingly as “sic”. With more time and encouragement I may have attempted a mistyflip, but in all honesty, I’d probably need a time machine to take me back to my twenties to be stupid enough to try one.
1 ¾ hr compulsory introduction sessions are available to anyone from ages 8 to 108! These cost $49, after which 2 hr drop in sessions are $29.