Freestyle Snowboard Lesson, Copper Mountain, Colorado
I've been riding for many years, having the equivalent of approx. three full snow seasons under my belt, but I thought it would be a good idea to take a lesson to improve my skills. I'd classify myself as an all-mountain rider, confident on double black diamond runs and hiking to off-piste bowls but lacking a little in freestyle skills. Therefore I thought a great place to start would be a freestyle lesson offered by Copper Mountain through their Woodward program. I've only taken one previous snowboarding lesson so this particular learning experience was well overdue!
Why Woodward and a Freestyle Lesson?
I looked around the Summit County area for snowboarding lessons and although many of the resorts offered advanced level lessons, none specially targeted freestyle or park skills apart from Copper Mountain. Don't get me wrong, at 45 years old I have no ambition to become a park rat but I felt my freestyle skills were my greatest weakness. And the program at Copper and Woodward looked great - a full day (09:30-16:00) with lunch included, a maximum of eight students per instructor, and an excellent format of time shared equally between the park and The Barn. The Barn is an indoor training facility, which includes trampolines, foam pits, skateboard bowls and ParkBoards. Please see more information about The Barn and ParkBoards below.
Pricing was really good too. With a lift ticket, the whole day lesson costs $197, or $177 without a ticket. Also if you book one day in advance you get 20% off. I was lucky enough to catch a flash sale which offered 35% off so my ticket cost me around $130 which I thought was an absolute bargain considering a daily lift ticket already costs $94!
On the day
We arrived pretty early at Copper Mountain on the day of my lesson as we wanted to make the most of the free parking Copper Mountain offers Subaru owners (we have a Subaru Impreza). They have eight and four designated Subaru spots at Beelar and Chapel lots respectively, and as we wanted to save on the $10 parking fee, we arrived early enough to secure our spot!
Ticket & lesson passes were collected at guest services at the West Village and you meet your instructor just outside guest services in front of the Woodward flags. I met with my instructor, Kevin, and the rest of the students at 09:00 - there were six other students. Kevin spent about 30 mins establishing what each student wanted to work on and achieve from the lesson. My objectives were to improve stability in the air on larger jumps and front/backside 180's. After all the necessary paper work was completed, we strapped in and were on the Union Chair by 09:30.
Our first run was through the 13' halfpipe and the Playground so Kevin could get a feel for our ability and level. As I have next to no experience in a halfpipe and limited time on boxes, I have to admit I was pretty nervous hitting all the features first off in front of a bunch of people I didn't know! Of course there was no need to be nervous as the lesson caters for all abilities but I was nervous none-the-less.
We stayed on the Union Chair all morning, running through techniques to improve confidence in the halfpipe, boxes (50-50 and board slides), rails and jumps. We also worked on carving, pressing (tail and nose) and buttering. Kevin ensured we started small and slow and progressed at a sensible rate.
We stopped for lunch at around 13:00 and then headed to The Barn.
Wow, this place is nothing like I've experienced before - massive trampolines, foam pits everywhere, jump boards (like a snowboard you strap onto bare feet or joggers and use on the trampoline to practice tricks), Burton ParkBoards (a board with snowboard bindings and plenty of wheels, designed to be worn with your snowboard boots), pump track, skateboard bowl and large jumps into foam pits, which can be used with either the ParkBoards or skateboards. This place rocks! If you want to learn how to spend some time in the air, practice spins or flips, this place is a great way to build confidence in a relatively safe environment.
Back to the lesson - as on the slopes, Kevin started out by teaching us easy techniques and then followed a natural progression. I appreciated his method because I hadn't done any type of gymnastics since school and even a simple front roll / somersault got my head spinning! Luckily my dizziness settled after about five tumbles. From the somersaults we progressed onto back and side rolls, jumping into the foam pits, the trampoline and then backflips - into the foam pit to begin with then progressing onto the trampoline. Kevin was also kind enough to teach us how to keep our knees from hitting our head during flips!
After the gymnastics, it was time to strap on a ParkBoard and hit the pump track - much harder than it looks! You can't really turn a ParkBoard so correcting once off line is somewhat difficult. With more practice (I plan to do much more practice!), I'm sure the foreign feeling would dissipate and I can really see the benefit of spending more time on the pump track. After the pump track we hit some small jumps with the ParkBoards, landing into a foam pit. Jumping with the ParkBoards is a great way to get used to air time and for practicing your spins and tricks. Finally we progressed onto one of the larger jumps which took some psyching up to drop into the ramp for the first time but was great fun once you were in the air!
One thing to keep in mind is that The Barn is very physically demanding so bring shorts and a singlet/t-shirt or else you'll be roasting! Bring your snowboard / ski boots and pants too for the ParkBoards. We spent about two hours there which left me spent - one of the hardest parts is climbing back out of the foam pits!
You can drop into The Barn for $39 per three hour session, buy a Barn 5 Pack for $159 or a season pass for $319. I plan on buying the Barn 5 Pack as I feel extra time at The Barn will have a dramatic affect on my air time on the slopes.
Check out the video below which shows highlights of the day and some great footage of our instructor showing how it should be done!
Takeaway - what did I learn?
So was it worth it? Well if you've read everything up until now it will be of no surprise that I will say a resounding 'Yes'! After the instructor points out a few things, it's amazing how thinking about these aspects can make a massive difference to your riding. Personally I learnt to keep my chest up - being a little inflexible, I tend to bend over at the waist rather than bend my knees to get lower. I also learnt to 'pop' more off jumps which increases stability in the air and on landing. I look forward to practicing these skills to improve my riding.
In summary, no matter your experience or age, I feel everyone can benefit from a ski or snowboard lesson. You can go riding everyday and not be aware of the bad habits you've developed or some skill you're missing that's holding back your progression. And don't worry about your skill level or ability as everyone can take something away from a lesson. We had seven students of varying ability, with some students just happy to clear the knuckle of a small jump for the first time, to a rider who wanted to get his 360's down-pat. From my perspective, it appeared as if everyone took something positive away from the day.
I'm very happy to have done my lesson and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their riding. If you have any comments or questions, or you've had a similar experience, please leave me a note below!
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Mick is a lover of speed runs and hitting every feature on the mountain. Ex road bike and motocross racer with plans to dabble in mountain bike racing. Spends a lot of time looking at fast cars and bikes. Jen’s instagram model and selfie camera holder due to long arms. Sometimes an optometrist.