The “Woodward Effect” is turning Tahoe’s mountain athletes upside down
By: Granite Chief staff


If you've ever wanted to see an adult change into a child right in front of your eyes, take them to Woodward Tahoe. Like the slogan of the ski resort the facility calls home, it's basically magic.

And while adults are welcome, this is a place best left to the imaginations and dreams of Tahoe's outdoor youth.

Woodward Tahoe landed at Boreal in 2012, almost 50 years after the training camp's fist location opened for gymnasts in Pennsylvania.

From handsprings on mats to backflips on skis, the Woodward name is now synonymous with action sports training, and its impact on young athletes in the Truckee and Tahoe region has been unmistakable.

Sean Carey is the Head Coach of the Sugar Bowl Ski Team & Academy freeride team, and formerly held the same position for Squaw Valley's team. He told Granite Chief that Woodward's presence has definitely helped local competitors improve.

"Woodward is an invaluable tool for athletes of all types. Air awareness is a staple in our sport and keeping our athletes safe is a priority," Carey said. "Having a facility nearby that offers safe progression for aspiring athletes is a huge benefit for the Tahoe and Truckee area."

The heart of Woodward Tahoe is the Bunker, a rather inconspicuous, 33,000 square foot warehouse-style building at the base of Boreal. It looks to the uninitiated as if it's home to groomers, plows, or racks of waiting rental equipment.

And while what goes on inside is indeed all about mechanics, the building's purpose is rooted more in imagination.

On Parkskis™, or skis embedded with silicon wheels, similar to inline skates, local freeride team members take to the air in preparation for the competitions that winter will bring. They glide down ramps in a crescendo of wheels-on-wood, and coaches' eyes narrow critically as the tails glide off of solid surface to enter the silence of gravity.

The aspiring comp winner becomes immersed in an invisible, whirling mass of skis, momentum, and gravity, an airborne physics problem that everyone hopes is solved by opening day.

The jump ends in a morass of human-hugging foam, a pool of safety that ensures failed tricks have only emotional consequences.

"There is definitely a couple steps in between the foam pit and landing it on snow," said Tucker Norred, Director of Marketing & Communications for Boreal Mountain Resort and Woodward Tahoe.

"We have patented technology that we have developed with Burton and Marker Skis to build skis and snowboards with wheels. This is another key part of the learning experience of taking the step from just being on the trampoline, to really getting the air awareness by launching into the foam pit on one of these tools," Norred said.

Freeriders also train on trampolines to hone body control and muscle memory.

The Woodward Effect, for lack of a better phrase turn, is not rumor. Area freeriders have evolved into tough, confident competitors, taking on obstacles and course lines with increased levels of confidence and safety awareness.

"As a level 2 USSA aerial coach, athletes are required to successfully complete a trick (i.e. backflip) a certain amount of time before allowed to complete on snow," said Carey. "This goes for almost every trick, and the amount of reps increases as the trick becomes more difficult."

Woodward Tahoe is obviously no stranger to big names, either. Norred shared with us that countless Olympic and X-Games athletes have worked out in the Bunker.

Cody LaPlante and Toby Miller are two noteworthy, local "Young Guns" who have spent time at Woodward.

The Tahoe region is an ideal location for a place like Woodward, as the facility's growth and popularity clearly demonstrate. The depth of natural talent is almost too difficult to measure, and with a place like Woodward to safely nurture it, there's no telling how much its presence will influence the growth of today's aspiring mountain athletes.

"Here in Tahoe we have many families that love the outdoors and we want to be a staple in the community of Tahoe action sports. Our community is very important to us and we always look for more ways to get involved with our locals!" Norred said. "Our vision here is to create lifelong enthusiasts of the outdoors and to create a place for people to enjoy it with the people they love."

And by the looks of things, that vision is becoming abundantly clear.

Even when seen upside down.