Words: Olivia Dwyer
Last spring, two Woodward at Copper employees traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to test a trampoline the sports camp had bought for its Colorado facility. They sessioned the 14×14-foot bed of the tramp. "This thing's sick," one of them said. His co-worker turned to Paul Hagan, the 51-year-old gymnastics coach who wove the trampoline by hand, and explained: "That means he really likes it."
He's not alone. Woodward Tahoe also installed one of the 14×14 trampolines made by Hagan's company, Tramp Squared, and Sammy Carlson put one in his backyard. North of the border, Dave Ross, coach of the Canadian trampoline team, designed a similar 10×20-foot trampoline and helped Canadian freeskiers with aerial tips. Now, one of Ross's trampolines resides behind national halfpipe coach Trennon Paynter's house in Squamish, B.C. Both products are commonly called Super Tramps, and they offer a higher bounce and softer landing than Olympic standard 7×14-foot trampolines.
This is good news for halfpipe and slopestyle skiers, who can train more on the softer tramp without wearing their joints and muscles while developing better air sense for tricks on snow. Hagan says his square construction also creates a larger landing area for athletes who shift left and right while practicing off-axis moves. "They've got room to land and rebound and go into a series of tricks or combinations," he says. "They can set up a complete run."
But what happens as gymnastics training tools evolve to fit a skier's needs? Before Super Tramps, athletes needed to develop strength to get the bounce height for complex moves in the air. The higher bounce of a Super Tramp speeds up progression. "You can add another flip or twist at two years younger than your competitors, it's a huge advantage," Hagan says.
Sponsors know it, too. Matt Christensen, a former aerials coach for the U.S. Ski Team who currently works as an air awareness coach for Red Bull, says he uses Super Tramps to help skiers like Bobby Brown, Kaya Turski, Nick Goepper, and Grete Eliassen improve on-snow performance. "Paul made a really good product for action sports," Christensen says. "There's less risk on a trampoline, and it makes you bounce higher with less energy. The more time you spend in the air, the better you get." When Christensen and Turski started training on trampolines two years ago, she'd never done a backflip on one before. Now, it's helped her dial in a rodeo 5 and she's tried landing double corks on a throw pad. "Freeskiing is set to take off right now," Christensen says. "But I don't want to see it become gymnastics or aerials. I like the style factor, and seeing an athlete's personality."
Hagan believes his trampolines will spur that progression. "You're going to see two to three more twists, and more flips," he says. "Once they figure it out on trampolines, they're going to be able to go bigger and bigger. The athletes are going to get stronger and quicker. When they go off these jumps they'll have all the time in the world." But the gymnastics coach, who grew up throwing helicopters, daffys, and backscratchers at his local Midwest resort, doubts skiers will ever be mistaken for gymnastics. "They're more innovative," he says.