What I Learned: Woodward at Copper

Good news for trying to keep up (survive?) with your kids on the slopes. Yeah, you really can teach an old dog new tricks.
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“I’m not so sure about this.” That’s the thought playing in my head as I step up to the thick blue mats inside Woodward at Copper’s vaulted space, known as the Barn. Am I nervous about flying down a 41-degree slope of synthetic snow into a seven-foot-deep pit filled with blue foam blocks? Well, yes. Am I nervous about sliding down said slope in front of a dozen 10- to 16-year-old park rats? Totally. 

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Picture it: a posse of mini bros, all low-slung sweats and 4FRNT hoodies, and myself, a 37-year-old mom of three rocking yoga pants and SmartWool socks. Damn, I think, I should have at least grabbed my six-year-old son as cover—I need a reason to be here. On second thought, there’s no way I’m letting him ski down that slope and fly into a pit of foam blocks. Yep, a mom all right.

Getting out of my own head, I join the group as we form a circle on the mat. This is Woodward’s intro clinic, the one-hour-and-45-minute class all comers have to take before they can use the facility. And what a facility it is. With 19,400 square feet of terrain-park and superpipe training equipment, Woodward at Copper debuted in 2009 as the first indoor ski and snowboard gym of its kind. (A second location opened at Lake Tahoe’s Boreal Mountain Resort last June.) 

The Barn floor is split into three sections: The Cross-Training zone is home to the trampolines, foam pits, and spring floor for perfecting form on tricks; the Snowflex zone boasts three jumps, a jib area, and two pipes, all covered with a bristly polymer composite designed to mimic snow; and the BMX/Skate zone has a bowl, ramps, and a street course. 

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We’ll be focusing on the first two zones, eventually making our way to the Big Air jump. But first, we bounce. Our young but able coaches focus on getting their charges to stay balanced in the middle of the trampoline. Too much lean—forward or backward—and our in-air trajectory suffers. From there, we use the trampoline to launch ourselves into a foam pit. Timid at first, I manage only half flips, landing on my back in the foam twice. On the third try I complete the rotation. Now it’s time to hit the “snow.” 

Snowflex is like a white version of turf, but moister. Campers are advised to wear pants and long-sleeved shirts on the jump, as falls can result in something close to rug burn.

We boot up and haul our skis and snowboards (my group is split about 50/50) up the stairs to the 15-foot-high ramp. First we sideslip down. The Snowflex is surprisingly grippy, like snow on a warm spring day. Next we climb 35 feet to the big jump. I let the kids go before me, partly because I want to watch, and partly because I want to hide. Eventually my coach and I are the only ones left on the launchpad, so I drop my skis onto the Snowflex, click in, and then peer over the lip. It feels like a long way down. My tween and teen bros are all stopped on the stairs, watching me. Awesome. Is it too late to change my mind? An image of a broken leg, or worse, creeps into my head. I have a husband, three kids at home, and a job I’m expected to show up at on Monday morning. I can’t do this!

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Deep breath. My coach is patient. “You can sideslip it,” he says softly. But I can’t. I didn’t come here to sideslip the big one. Resolved, I aim my skis south and push off, making two quick turns to scrub speed before aiming my boards for the kicker. I land sideways in a choppy sea of blue foam, my skis falling to one side and my arms over my head.

Exhilarating. I worried about that?, I marvel as I clutch the thick braided rope hanging over the pit. (Turns out, getting out of the pit with two 10-pound skis attached to your feet is far more challenging than getting in. But that’s another story.) I’m walking on air as I shoulder my skis and climb the steps for my next go. At the top, my little bros nod approvingly. “That was core,” says one. Aw, my first posse.