Colorado's Woodward at Copper reopened on Saturday after taking a three-week hiatus and dropping more than $500,000 to overhaul its 19,400-square-foot indoor training facility, known as "The Barn." The updates finished just in time for skiers and snowboarders to begin summer training for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Copper Mountain serves as the home of a U.S. Grand Prix stop that this winter will double as an Olympic qualifier. The resort also hosts the United States of America Snowboard Association Nationals.
The renovated Barn at Copper will now feature the same Skatelite hard surface and wheeled park skis and snowboards currently used at the company's Woodward at Tahoe facility in California, replacing the previous Snowflex surface. The new surface opens up the facility to skateboarders, BMX riders and mountain bike riders for the first time.
Skiers and snowboarders say they're happier with the new surface. "With the new roller skis you can carry so much more speed on the Skatelite than you could on the Snowflex they used to have. It's much more like actual snow skiing," says freeskier Jaime Melton, who has been training at Woodward at Tahoe and came to Colorado to help test the recent improvements before opening day.
Melton says the increased speed makes the foam pits at the Woodward facility more useful, both for elite athletes and for anyone looking to try new tricks. "That's what it comes down to: You need these developmental tools to push the limit because these tricks are so high-consequence," he says. "I'm constantly learning new tricks over the foam pit before I'd even think about taking them to snow."
Benji Farrow, a member of the U.S. Snowboarding halfpipe team, lives in nearby Breckenridge and has been helping with testing prior to the reopening. "As an Olympic hopeful, I plan to be on the trampolines and foam pits at Woodward a lot this summer," he says. "It's a great place for anyone with competitive ambitions to get their aerial awareness down, try new rotations and fine-tune new tricks before taking them to snow."
Danny Vogel, general manager at Woodward at Copper, says he's hoping the new features will be as appealing to riders of all ability levels as they are to athletes chasing X Games dreams or aiming for the Olympics.
"We have progression levels throughout all of these new features so that a beginning rider could come in and take their first-ever jump into the foam pit from a takeoff as small as 2 1/2 feet before working up to 4-foot, 6-foot, and 8-foot jumps," Vogel says.
The renovations were finished just in time for the start of Woodward at Copper's seven-week summer camp season, which opened on Sunday with ski, snowboard, skateboard, BMX, slopestyle mountain bike and digital media camp offerings.