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Big park booters are intimidating. You could land short and blow up on the flat tabletop, or flail in the air and land on your face. It’s like the payoff line from an infomercial: “There has got to be a better way.” And there is. It’s called the Katal Landing Pad and it’s the new park-centric invention of a couple Vancouver engineering students.
The Landing Pad is a cross between a Slip ’n Slide and a bouncy castle. Anchored near the kicker on a tabletop jump, the 90-by-50-foot, five-foot-thick air pad covers the top, knuckle, and transition of a jump. If you stick a trick on it, “it feels like you’re landing on a cushion,” says Jake Cohn, a park skier and friend of the inventors who recently tested out the Landing Pad on Blackcomb Glacier. Miss the landing and, say, land on your head, as Cohn did, and the Landing Pad “feels pretty soft. There’s no impact. You just slide down and ski away.”
The inspiration came from injury. Aaron Coret, one of the inventors, ended up in a wheelchair after a jump went awry. He then partnered with Chris Coret and Stephen Slen, both snowboarding engineers, to develop the pad. With a team of riders, they tested their product on the Blackcomb Glacier for the last two summers; last season, it attracted 365 riders to Lake Louise, Alberta, for its public debut.
This winter Aaron Coret’s taking the original pad and a smaller “beginner” version on the road around North American ski hills to drum up sales. He says the plan is for resorts to buy the pad, rope off the hit, and charge an additional fee for using it.
But is it worth it? Says Cohn, “You can’t put a price on sticking a trick you’ve been afraid of.”