It’s a side-effect of parenting. Once your kids get close to 10 years old, you are suddenly the least cool person they know. No matter what you were before becoming their mother or father, you are now the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher anytime you try to talk to them. A remedy to this hopeless uncoolness is to take them on a trip to one of the 12 Woodward extreme sports campus locations, perfect for family adventures, spread across North America. There, you can drop from the lip of a wooden half-pipe, feel your body whipped up by gravity as the tube curls back and launches you, spinning, flying, into the air, after which your kids will finally realize just how awesome you really are.
OK, this might not be you but the guys and girls who broke their bones in the 70s and 80s, trying to land those types of tricks on skateboards or bikes, who crashed into the merciless concrete of empty pools, are all grown up now and have kids of their own. Like most parents, they want to teach their children what they know but they also want to protect them from being hurt. The solution is Woodward, the most state-of-the-art, indoor-outdoor extreme sports park.
Woodward Park City, Utah
Woodward began 50 years ago in Pennsylvania as a gymnastics training facility, the extreme sports of those days. Its program naturally progressed to include BMX biking and skateboarding, the newer extreme sports gaining popularity in the 80s. The idea was to offer kids a safer way to learn those skills. Woodward invites all types of kids into their camps and classes, from the never-before-tried-it to the Olympic and X-Game competitor. Today, Woodward facilities offer workshops in skateboarding, scootering, BMX and mountain biking, cheerleading, parkour, tubing and snowboarding. The different areas around their facilities are divided into what they call Zones. Each Zone has Coaches responsible for training the kids in each of the offered activities. Zone Coaches offer tips based on their own extensive experience to progress safely and efficiently to their goals. Woodward also offers classes in digital media for friends to get those stunts in action.
I took my 11-year-old son, Kaleb to the grand-opening of Woodward’s newest indoor-outdoor campus in Park City, Utah on December 14, 2019. Kaleb is just now getting into scootering and skateboarding with Knox and they both love to watch the Woodward-based show, Camp Woodward on YouTube. Camp Woodward follows the lives of young, extreme athletes as they test their skills and friendships at that first Woodward location in Pennsylvania.
There, you can drop from the lip of a wooden half-pipe, feel your body whipped up by gravity as the tube curls back and launches you, spinning, flying, into the air, after which your kids will finally realize just how awesome you really are.
Action Sports Hub
On opening day, we walked into the indoor section of the 125-acre Woodward Park City campus called the Action Sports Hub. My friend, Lexi Rohner, who had recently moved to Park City from Los Angeles, told me the community had long anticipated the kickoff of this new entertainment and fitness complex, so lines formed early. As a gift to the surrounding cities that day, Woodward didn’t charge admission on opening day and donated 100% of their earnings for other things to local charities.
First, we joined a group gathered inside the Action Sports Hub for a tour. We watched pro athletes Tony Hawk, Tyson Bowerbank and Lyn-Z Pastrana, as well as some of the kids from the Camp Woodward show, Zion and Roman, do skateboarding tricks in the Concrete Park. Parents and guests observed all the action from a viewing platform set right above. There they oooohed and ahhhhed while the athletes pushed their limits. Alcohol laws are tight in Utah but there’s a bar a few steps from the deck where visitors can order food and drinks while being impressed by the daredevils.
We headed over to an exhibition at the other side of the facility where athletes took turns rolling down what they call the Mini-Mega; five ramps, of various sizes, with a ramp that shoots up at the end, launching the daredevil into space with a forgiving landing into a pit of foam bricks.
Although riders performed many of the stunts on bikes, there were also Woodward-designed snowboards and skis, with wheels on the bottom, to simulate what it would be like to attempt their leaps out on the actual snow in the outdoor park outside.
As athletes completed multiple flips in the air, while holding onto their sports equipment, the throng surrounding the area regularly dropped their jaws, punctured their faces with rounded lips and hooted in astonishment. Even the athletes were impressed.
On regularly opened days, guests can scan their ID wristbands, before and after performing these feats, to obtain video footage of their action. This way they can capture their progress, identify what needs improvement and obviously, celebrate their shredding abilities.
Above the Mini-Mega, bikers and skateboarders raced back and forth on the Pump Track, a length of wood floor undulating like waves with rails and a wall to attempt tricks.
“The whole experience is designed to be a progression,” said Ali Goulet, the legendary pro-snowboarder assigned to be our guide for the day. And that’s the thing. Eventually, these skateboarding and snowboarding pioneers grow up and most have to get real jobs because the younger generation nudges them out of the spotlight. But now there’s another option. Goulet and every coach that works for Woodward has a professional background in these extreme sports. “I get to teach and guide the next generation,” Goulet said.
Goulet called Kaleb over to follow him from the mind-bending ramps of the Mini-Mega over to the training area for it; two long concrete rooms connected by a wall opening. A mini-ramp and foam covered stairs and rail filled one side and two smaller half-pipes dissected by a foam edge sat in the other. There, a pack of tweens practiced tricks on scooters. Goulet found a scooter for Kaleb and after a bunch of my prodding and a hearty invitation from the older boys, my not-usually-shy guy finally joined them.
He watched for a while and then took off from the top of the little ramp toward a wall that curved up from the bottom. He stopped himself before his momentum took him up the wall. He did this a few times between the flips and mid-air scooter rotations executed by the more experienced boys. I walked away because I guessed my presence was embarrassing him as Goulet was telling him ways to navigate the wall once he felt secure enough to get there.
Around the corner, a launch ramp, the size of a large living room, led to a giant air pillow that absorbed the impact after bikers and skateboarders hurled themselves into the air above it, practicing tricks they’d later attempt on the Mini-Mega. I watched for a while marveling at their bravery.
We arrived for a ritual called “First Chair” that involves a history of cows in Switzerland and the cowbells that rang their arrival back at the village after grazing the hills around it at the end of summer. During the winter, the Swiss used these dormant cowbells to cheer on the cow farmers, who were also downhill skiers obviously, as they made their way down the mountain. First Chair ceremonies are used worldwide to celebrate the opening of new ski resorts. After what seemed like hours of preparation for this in the cold weather, but was probably about 20 minutes, the first four riders finally got a chance to put their tush in the chairlift and ride up the mountain. One of the men who got that honor, Kasen Baker, had arrived at 6 am to be one of the first to ride up the new mountain. “I’ve already bought my season pass,” Baker said before his ride up.
A ski lift and magic carpets bring kids and adults of various skill levels up the mountain. Jumps, rails, moguls and snow-packed quarter-pipes presented challenges that athletes had started to work out in the indoor hub and were now ready to try on the real deal. In the summer, this area converts into mountain biking courses.
Woodward: A Place For All Abilities
Lexi brought her triplets to the grand opening and I found them inside the Action Sports Hub on the padded exercise floor. Coaches separated a pack of excited, young athletes into smaller groups to get their first experiences around Woodward and to tour all the other floor Zones: Parkour, Trampoline and Acro.
I watched as one tiny figure, maybe six years old, jumped off a two-story platform into a foam pit. It turned out to be the daughter of extreme athletes, Lyn-Z and Travis Pastrana.
But Woodward is a place for all types of kids, including those with special needs. My friend Lexi’s children were born premature and have dealt with physiological challenges their whole lives, however, her son, Cole, held the hands of a Zone Coach who gently guided him while he jumped softly on a trampoline. Cole’s brother, Chase, flew behind them, on another trampoline, what appeared to be about 20 feet into the air.
The Trampoline Zone offers seven trampolines, two of them called “Super Tramp’s,” the largest trampolines in the world, where jumpers bounce three times higher than on a normal trampoline so they could learn aerial tricks that can’t be taught anywhere else. Around us, cheerleaders practiced mid-air tumbles, kids somersaulted down foam wedges and some ran headlong into more foam pits. A DJ played bumping music above it all on a raised floor.
I found Kaleb still practicing on the scooter, with the other boys rooting for his progress. He went down the mini-ramp, even doing a little hop in the middle of his ride. He got to the wall and twisted his body to carve an arc onto it as he turned his scooter back toward his new friends. The other boys high-fived him when he returned to the line-up. His smile beamed with increased confidence and my heart melted.
Even if you’re not out there, dropping down a five-story platform on your BMX or buzzing around kidney shaped bowls on a skateboard, the fact that you know of a place where you could take your kids to learn to do that, makes you a way cooler person than your kids ever imagined.
Woodward Park City Video
When You Go
Delta and Southwest Airlines offer two-hour non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City. Park City is about a half hour drive from Salt Lake City.
It takes about 10 and a half hours to drive to Park City through the I-15 N.
We stayed at the Hyatt Place Park City which had a jacuzzi, that, yes, we went into just to say we did it with snow around us. The room was clean and spacious and had a L-shaped couch sitting area where you could chill if your kids are in bed. They also provided a nice breakfast buffet and the lobby has a bar that also serves light meals and snacks. There is a bus stop right in front that takes you into the bucolic downtown or anywhere you want to go and guess what? They’re all free.
Kaleb and I got invited by the company that owns Woodward, Pwdr, to the Grand Opening so we could share our incredible fun with other families who like active fun. They are awesome!