Dropping In: Jib Skills at Woodward
When the snow begins to melt, that does not mean that you need to put away your snowboard and forget about practicing your skills. Instead why not use the summer to keep improving your snowboarding skills and learn tricks to snowboard like the pros, with a trip to one of the coolest places on Earth, at least to improve your tricks and that is Woodward.
I had the opportunity to practice a few of my own skills on the many ramps, trampolines, and foam pits to again practice the skills that I learned as a kid. Not to give away my age, but when I started snowboarding, snowboarders were considered outcasts and it is hard to believe, but yes some ski resorts did not even allow snowboarders on the hill. I am so happy that snowboarding too off as a sport, but I would have loved to be able to have everything I ever needed to take my snowboarding skills to the next level including foam pits, spring boards, ramps and trampolines that make attempting tricks in a controlled environment much safer. Instead, as a snowboarder in the 1990’s, you just had to go out in the backcountry, build yourself a jump and fall many times until you learned the trick. I was one of the lucky ones because after years of gymnastics, I had already trained my body to perform certain tricks. Having a background in gymnastics certainly helped my progression, Once you learn the basic skills, it is just one more step to take those skills and transfer them onto your snowboard. At my time, it took trial and error on the snow to figure out what would work, but the skills I learned with a gymnastic background made twisting and flipping on my snowboard much easier.
Back when I was a punk snowboard kid, our tribe made our own rules. Resorts were not yet embracing the idea of snowboarders, so I remember joining a group of friends that would go out and build our own snowboard jumps in the backcountry. I remember joining a bunch of guys who would spend half the day building the perfect kicker in order to get enough air to spin, flip or twist. After hours of crafting these jumps, the guys would get it down to perfection.
As the evolution of the sport has continued to grow and now is accepted around the world, you can get a professional job of crafting snowboard / Ski parks designed exclusively for those looking to improve their tricks. The ski community in Europe is still behind the times, but in the United States, you can find incredible parks created for jibbers. In the past when you wanted to learn a new trick, such as a backflip on a snowboard, I remember having to tape up the edges on my board and get on a friend’s trampoline. At first the sensation feels strange. You have to get use to the extra weight on the bottom of your feet. When you jump it is important that you bring you feet up. What because a challenge is learning how this extra weight would effect your rotation. How could I make it all the way around especially when I am facing sidewards. That is when the real skill comes into place. As you jumping and in preparation to perform the flip, you must take off on a side angle. It is important to bring up your knees to your chest so that it takes less energy to flip over the board. Jumping on a trampoline with your snowboard takes balance and coordination while strapped into your snowboard. It takes some time to get use to the sensation, once you get use to the extra weight, then it is perfect to practice skills like 360’s, tail grabs and back flips.
It was over 25 years ago when I got on my first snowboard. As a kid, we were just out to have fun and figure out how to use this thing on the bottom of our feet. The moment you get on a snowboard, it is a different sensation. And just like other board sports, you learn to use the natural environment to learn tricks. Rail slides would be done on tree branches or handrails, table tops on snow covered picnic tables and flips off cornices or handmade kickers. Today, kids have it easy to to enhance there jib skills with manufactured objects and features that can be found at the Woodward training facility in the summer and at many current snowboard parks.
A day at Woodward reminded me of a morning gymnastic practice. You first warm up the body by stretching in order to prevent any injuries, then you start a slow progression working easy tricks and eventually, by the end of the day working up to more complicated tricks off larger features. Most of the tricks that were learned in the beginning of the day, were done with the help of spotters that would assist in moving your body in the right direction. A successful trick is like placing your body into a rhythem, but most importantly making sure that your head and body move in the same direction. When you practice these tricks in a safe supportive learning environment, transitioning to the slopes makes it so much easier.
In my training group was a range of individuals from all different backgrounds. Those in their 20’s along with a group of guys who were spending their bachelor party at Woodward. I thought what a great idea! The truth is there are many people from beginners to professionals that train at Woodward, but you do not have to be a kid to play like one at the indoor training facility, you just have have the desire to want to learn and train your body how to improve your snowboard / skate / surf skills.
DAY AT WOODWARD
The most intimidating part of my day was dropping onto the snowboard ramp for the first time. The artificial snow surface does not ride the same as a normal snow surface, so it takes sometime to train your mind and adjust your weight distribution to the new terrain. The indoor facility uses a type of carpet that allows the board to slide but you do not have snow to stop yourself. The instructors helped each of us in the group to understand the process and would only allow you to advance once you could show the instructors that you had a good understanding on how to utilize the new terrain.
As I look back on history, it feels good knowing that we were the pioneers of the sport of snowboarding and based on our own passions for the sport, places like Woodward exist today. You are never to old to learn new tricks, so if you have always wanted to learn how to perform tricks on your board, Woodward is the place for you. However, a small part of me wishes I had a video camera to watch over my skills over and over or train in a place where I could advance my skills to the next level. When something new comes along, people do not understand it. I remember when skiers on the chairlift would asked me “What’s that on your feet?” and even be afraid when I would get off the chairlift. At that time, snowboarders were not accepted into society. It was like we were outcasts breaking free from the norm. At first ski resorts shunned the sport, until they realized the money that could be generated from the sport. Instead, we formed a tribe and made up the rules as we went along. We were just about having fun even if it meant hiking in the mountain to get our run.
As you grow older, a strange situation happens in the brain that says, “That’s only for kids or if only they had a place that that when I was young.” I say, it doesn’t matter, a trip to Woodward is always fun. You can still be a rock star and learn something that might help you improve a skill. This last summer, I decided to test my jib skills at Woodward. I might have been one of the older females there, but who really cares. As I was waiting in line the guy in front of me asked if I was picking up my child, I responded, not my inner child is coming out to play. Woodward might be directed toward the younger crowd, but if you are young at heart and always wanted to learn new board tricks, why not play like a kid in the massive candy store for snowboard improvement. Woodward snowboard training camps are a big playground and I do not believe you have to be a kid to play, you just have to have a desire to learn. Learning these basic skills will help you in any sport and if you are just learning one trick or taking the sport to a professional level, then you need to learn and understand the way your body moves in the air. No place else in the world can give you this sensation.
Learning to snowboard like the professionals takes time, dedication, years of training and constant motivation. However, no matter what you age or ability, you are never too old or out of shape to still learn. It is true you probably will not be doing front flips off cliffs in the near future, if you are looking to feel like a kid again, then this is the place for you. Who says “snowboard parks” or “snowboard camps” are for kids? I disagree. These places are there to help you learn and if you are in decent shape, push your own boundaries with a trip to a Woodward near you.
If you are interested in signing yourself or your child up for a class at Woodward there are four locations: Woodward at Copper CO, Woodward in PA, Woodward in Tahoe, and Woodward in CA.