Picture yourself at the top of a halfpipe at a ski resort, trying to work up the nerve to try a new high-flying trick for the first time.
What if you miscalculate, and slam yourself into the hard-packed snow? What if you land wrong or lose control?
When Woodward opens its sixth sports playground in Park City this winter, it will provide space where athletes can progressively build their way up to skills.
I got a taste of how it works a few years ago, when I skied down an indoor, carpet-covered ramp and into a pit filled with blue foam blocks at the Woodward facility in Copper Mountain, Colorado. (You mean I can launch myself off that ramp without breaking bones? Cool!)
During a trip to Utah last week, I stopped by the busy construction site where Woodward Park City is scheduled to open this December.
Woodward started 45 years ago as a camp for gymnasts in Pennsylvania. Since then, it’s expanded into winter sports like snowboarding and freestyle skiing, plus skateboarding, mountain biking, BMX biking and more. It also operates training facilities in Colorado, California and Mexico.
The 125-acre campus in Park City will mark the first Woodward with its own ski mountain and lift. When finished, it will also include its own tubing hill, BMX dirt jumps, indoor and outdoor parkour space, and a 66,000-square-foot indoor facility where guests can learn the basics of balance and coordination.
We donned yellow hardhats as Olympic bronze medal gymnast Phoebe Mills (who also had a successful career as a diver and snowboarder, then earned a law degree), now director of programming at Woodward Park City, explained more about the facility and Tucker Norred, director of communications for the new park, toured us through the grounds as a light rain fell.
At Woodward, everything is about progression. Athletes learn balance and coordination and boost their confidence indoors, where a crash landing means flopping into a pit filled with foam blocks or airbags, where they’re less likely to get hurt. From there, they advance to a larger version of the same thing, then to the real thing, outside or on concrete.
“We’re a training ground for athletes, whether it’s just learning a sport or wherever you’re at in your career,” Mills said. “All of these progression tools are designed to make learning a trick safer.”
Inside, we tiptoed around welders creating handrails and carpenters sculpting huge curving walls that skateboarders will one day ricochet across. Head designer Nathan Wessel, who has helped design other Woodward facilities, told us that this park will be the first with indoor parkour space.
Outside, eight ski and snowboard runs will fan out from the top of the ski lift, and guests will have access to an array of features, from an enormous halfpipe to terrain parks bristling with jumps, rails and boxes. There’s even a tubing hill. Snowmaking will keep everything frosted in white.
“We take people from never-ever to the Olympics,” Norred said.
Woodward will also offer classes in digital media and video production, for those who want to capture all the eye-popping athletic feats and share them with others.
Woodward is banking on the idea that people coming to the Salt Lake City area to ski at Park City, Deer Valley, Snowbird, Alta and other resorts will tack on an extra day to experience Woodward.
The new park, which will have its own café and bar, will be open 365 days a year and will offer monthly memberships and day passes.