Woodward at Copper: ski and snowboard training facilities

Last week, both Rachel and I had the privilege of visiting The Barn at Woodward at Copper to learn more about the facilities and programs Woodward has to offer here in Colorado.

For those that don’t know: over three years ago, the Barn was constructed to house an indoor, year-round training facility for pros to practice and improve their skills in the off-season. Now, kids and adults of all skills and abilities visit the Barn and the camps to get comfortable with the fundamentals and try their hand at complex moves before heading out into the terrain park. Woodward also offers both summer and winter programs that compliment indoor coaching with outdoor sessions.

The Facilities

It’s very easy to find The Barn: simply turn off I-70 and head into Copper Mountain. As you get past East Village, you can’t miss it located opposite side of the mountain (it looks like a big red barn). There’s plenty of parking around the back or you can actually take the Summit Stage right to the stop out front (which seemed very convenient for those that lived in Summit County).

The Barn at Woodward at Copper — Photo Credit: Copper Mountain

The front desk is great and everyone working there seemed friendly and helpful (thanks, Morrison!). There is also a small lounge when you walk in which offers wifi (free if you’re there on a paid session), couches, an air hockey table, and plenty of couches to hang out on. There’s a viewing deck upstairs for friends to hang out and observe.

There’s also a gear storage ‘area’ off to the side of the main entrance and lounge: it’s not much more than some ski racks, wooden cabinets and benches. There are lockers you can pay for to lock up valuables opposite the lounge. The gear area (really an open locker room?) was a bit of a turn-off as there was gear strewn everywhere, people moving in and out constantly, pants being changed willy-nilly. While it was fun to watch it was a bit awkward to try and store our own gear, change into boots, etc.

The Intro Session

We arrived a little before 2 PM on a Tuesday for the required “Intro Session“; if you want to use the facilities you need to go through the introduction, learn about the various areas, safety rules, and so on before you’re able to come back to a “Drop-In” session and practice on your own. The Intro is regularly $59 and you can come back to “Drop In” for $29 (or get a pass or punch card).

For a first-timer, you’ll need to read and sign a waiver (as expected). Once we checked in and handed over our waivers we were greeted by our intro coach. Lindsay helped show us (Rachel, myself, and two others) everything in The Barn and teach some fundamentals in order to get comfortable coming back on our own. Here’s a quick run-down:

Stretching

A great way to start any activity, we did some stretches to loosen up our legs, neck, back, arms and try to make sure we didn’t pull anything. This was also a good idea after already skiing a half-day just hours earlier.

Floor routines, pads, etc.

From the floor we were shown some of the pads to help practice with. We did some simple moves like a front somersault, coupled with a jump turned into a small front flip down a wedge. We did a few “punches” that essentially practiced rolling over one shoulder to introduce the mechanics for a Misty flip (head never goes beneath your knees).

Practicing rolls on the floor mats — Photo Credit: Copper Mountain

Pit from the floor

Once we had a few jumps, rolls, flips, and turns in our vocabulary, we practiced jumping into the pit from the floor. The pit is a bunch of big foam blocks (much larger than ball pit balls) that cushion your fall and completely absorb you. This is the fun part but also probably the hardest part of your day (getting out is not easy).

Trampolines

Having mastered the pit and put some of our moves to the test, we headed over to the trampolines. There’s a large trampoline, transfer, and three that you can practice jumping into the pit from (with a coach required nearby). The entire area is on a delayed video feed so you can practice your moves and then head over to the television on the back wall to watch yourself and make any corrections.

Trampolines at Woodward at Copper — Photo Credit: Copper Mountain

Snowflex features

Arguably the most compelling feature of The Barn is the “Snowflex” ramps and cliff drop. These are a series of ramps with a bristle-like surface called Snowflex that allows you to ski or snowboard with a semi-realistic texture and responsiveness.

Top of the Snowflex ramps

We started on the small slope which has a rail and a small pipe at the end) to get comfortable with making turns (snowboards) and keeping straight (skis). From there we graduated up a level to a drop-off to get familiar with a quick drop-in. From there we made it to the main event: the small and large ramps into the foam pit. Our coach was great at catering her advice to every participant to make sure they “leveled up” once they were ready and comfortable with the techniques demonstrated.

I really enjoyed jumping off the ramp into the foam pit and I know this is the big “game changer” for a lot of folks wanting to practice more advanced moves. You can do any crazy spins, inversions, flips, and land safely in the pit and go at it again. The hardest part, again, is getting out of the pit (with your gear, nonetheless). The staff running the pit are great at helping make sure people can get out and that nobody comes down into the pit without it being cleared, first.

Worth noting, there is a small “cliff drop” you can practice on. This seemed like a novel feature most applicable to me wanting to get better at quickly coming up to a cliff and safely landing. Though I didn’t get a chance to try it out.

Tips:

Based on our initial observations, here are some considerations:

  • Get there about 30 minutes prior to the start of a session. Since there is a regular schedule of sessions, everyone shows up at the same time to get into a session. It took us a while to get through the line to sign in, get our gear sorted out, sign waivers, etc. If you want to ensure you’re out there for the full time, get there early enough to get all the logistics squared away.
  • Avoid loose items (keys/phones in pockets, clips in hair, hats and socks) as they’re likely to get sucked into the abyss of the foam pit and you spend lots of time upside down and climbing around. You don’t want to have to worry about keeping track of these things, and the likelihood of things getting lost or broken is high.
  • Consider bringing a water bottle. We were making frequent trips to the drinking fountain and often wished we had more easy access to water. You do a lot more work than you may think climbing stairs, getting out of the pit, etc.
  • Don’t bring more than you need. There’s not a ton of space in the locker room area and everyone’s stuff ends up co-mingling.

What to Bring

Here’s what you’ll need for an indoor intro session; leave everything else at home or in the car.

  • Long pants and long sleeves are required if you want to go on the Snowflex (falling on the brisles would result in serious rug burn if you fell on bare skin); soft and moveable clothes (sweats or base layers) are the best choice here.
  • Short-sleeve layer underneath your long sleeves for the trampoline and floor portion of the class because the gym can get quite warm.
  • Lightweight (but definitely not your favorite!) ski socks. Rachel wore short running socks, which were not ideal for climbing in and out of the pit as they had a tendency to slip off. Note that barefoot is allowed for trampoline and floor if you want to skip socks altogether, but it seemed that the majority of people went with socks.
  • Gear: helmet required, ski/snowboard boots, skis/snowboard for the Snowflex features (they seemed to have some clothing and helmets available if you needed something)

Here’s what you WON’T need:

  • ski poles
  • ski pants
  • ski jackets
  • gloves, hats, other cold weather gear (with the exception of what you need to walk to and from your car!)

Overall Impressions

We both enjoyed our intro session at The Barn a lot. I’ve done some minor “park” features (a rail, some jumps, a 180) and Rachel has done nothing. So, for both of us to get a lot out of the experience — including some initial pointers, some new techniques to practice — means a lot. Woodward is not just for the “pros”, anyone at any level of experience wanting to do more terrain park activities in a safe environment can benefit.

The crowd at Woodward is a hodgepodge of young kids, older kids, adults, and all with varying backgrounds, skill levels, and social skills. As expected, it’s a “terrain park” crowd. The staff were impressive (they deal with all kinds of people and all kinds of languages). The facilities are great.

We’d recommend Woodward at Copper to anyone looking for a fun, safe way to practice some skills. We’re considering visiting again in the off-season. Learn more at woodwardatcopper.com.

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Thanks to Copper Mountain for hosting us at Woodward for the 2-hour intro session. Our opinions, as always, are honestly and freely provided. Photo Credit: Copper Mountain.