Powder to the People

Woodward Park City Is a Sports Wonderland

The year-round action sports playground offers activities for every age and skill level.

By Jené Drennan December 23, 2020 Published in the Winter/Spring 2021 issue of Park City Magazine

In a town where outdoor recreation is already a huge part of the lifestyle, it takes a lot of innovative thinking to create something that truly ups the ante for the active set. But that’s what Woodward Park City did when it made its debut in December 2019. The 125-acre campus, which encompasses the outdoor Woodward Mountain Parks and indoor Woodward Action Sports Hub, offers a cutting-edge home for a variety of action sports ranging from parkour to BMX to snowboarding and much more—available 365 days a year.

What started as a gymnastics camp in Pennsylvania 50 years ago has evolved into a leader in the action sports realm, with 13 Woodward destinations across North America, including one in Mexico. Woodward Park City is owned by locally based POWDR, an adventure-lifestyle company with media entities; heli-skiing operations; and ski resorts such as Snowbird, Copper Mountain (Colorado), and Killington (Vermont). Although POWDR had operated the former Gorgoza Tubing Park on the site that Woodward now occupies since 1999, the property was built entirely from the ground up.

“Each time we get to build a new Woodward, we think, ‘What worked this time? What didn’t work? How do we want to do it differently? What’s the trend right now?’” says Phoebe Mills, Woodward’s director of programming and a 1988 Olympic bronze medalist in gymnastics. The company’s designers, led by an internal “innovative environments team,” took their learnings and best ideas from other locations to inspire the creation of Woodward Park City.

Mask up! Photos were taken before Covid-19

Something for Everyone

To the uninitiated, Woodward might seem like the place where 13-year-olds go to huck backflips into a foam pit—and sure, that’s a part of it. The indoor facility has a range of zones for patrons to test and enhance their skills: a parkour area; a tumble track; seven trampolines (including five Olympic-grade and two custom SuperTramps with three times the bounce strength); and ramps that launch into airbags, foam pits, and a patented resi landing. Oh, and that 10,000-square-foot concrete indoor skate park? It was designed by legendary California skate-park and ramp builder Nate Wessel—and it’s his only site in Utah.

But the unexpected side of Woodward is that it’s truly built for everyone. Brand-new athletes, pro riders, toddlers, families, and aging adults can all find their place here. Every intro session starts with a 45-minute Experiential Tour, where newbies learn how to jump on various trampolines, roll, navigate a skate park, and properly fall, in addition to garnering general safety tips. “There’s nothing else like this—it’s pretty specialized,” Mills says. “So we want people to feel comfortable about the different surfaces and environments and get to know our staff, because they’re so passionate about what they do.”

After the Experiential Tour, visitors are free to do an open or drop-in session to try some of their newfound skills, with Zone Coaches standing by to help with tips along the way. For a more intensive learning environment, there are private or group lessons as well as multiday camps available during certain times of year. Class offerings vary based on season, but skateboarding, cheer and tumbling, and ninja—think spins and flips on a trampoline—tend to top the popularity list with kids.

Image: Jane Gendron

Personal Development

A huge part of the everyone-is-welcome spirit is Woodward’s philosophy on safe progression and intuitive growth. “Progression is key to what we do,” Mills says. “We look through that progression lens with everything we build, operating at a scale from never-ever to professional athlete, and we make sure that we have facilities and tools that can help you as an athlete wherever you’re coming in at.”

Picture this progressive example: For wheeled athletes (think scooters, skateboards, and Woodward Parkskis and Parkboards), the “street corner” area features ledges and rails that first land into an airbag. Once you’ve done that successfully on repeat, you can move on to the same ledges and rails but onto a hard landing, connecting those dots in a single session.

“The first thing I said when I walked into the facility was, ‘Wow, how would it have been to grow up with this?’” says former pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones, who is now the snow manager for Woodward Mountain Parks. “Every single adult in my generation that I take through there says that same thing. My response is always: ‘Well, you have it now.’ The way it’s built protects even a 44-year-old. I’m in there learning tricks onto the resi on a BMX bike right now. I wouldn’t be learning these things if the facility didn’t offer me the safe learning environment.”

The same philosophy extends outside, where the Start Park and Progression Parks offer skiers and snowboarders the opportunity to test out mini pipes and small features on flat grades before gradually advancing to the next level. Coaches are available to help guide riders through foundational skills.

Image: Jane Gendron

Soft Landings

Although you can still get sore and beat up while attempting tricks, Jones points out, you can learn how to do them without the fear of serious injury that he faced as a kid. “Just to be able to get repetitions in on a back flip in a safe area and then take it to snow—you’re going to do the back flip on the first try, because you know what the feeling is, and you’ve done it perfectly 20 times into a foam pit first,” he says.

If the idea of these activities still sounds intimidating, consider going for a tubing session—Woodward’s most popular offering—as an intro. “Tubing is what’s always been here and what the spot is known for,” Mills says. “It’s an activity that anyone can do and have fun. There are so many lanes, it’s a fun pitch, and we’ve got lights out there.”

Design Inspiration

Woodward intentionally brings together experts from a variety of disciplines to encourage sport-crossover thinking as an overall approach to design. For instance, a skateboarder might look at a snow terrain park and approach features in an entirely fresh way, or vice versa. The results are part of why Woodward is known as such an innovative player in the action sports category.

“I take my snowboarding approach to mountain bikes, and we start crossing designs to see what will land in other areas,” Jones says. “Our team has BMXers, snowboarders, skiers, and mountain bikers who are all pros at some level, and when we start bouncing stuff around, it leads to some of the most inspiring meetings.”

A perfect example of that Woodward crossover thinking is in the design of the mountain bike trails, which were revamped and expanded in fall 2020 to feature a wide, rolling trail with a simple lane for beginners and offshoots and jumps for the advanced rider. “You sort of give it to the user to level up instead of having the feature level them up,” Jones explains. “We turned what’s normally a single-track downhill trail with jumps and all sorts of features and created kind of a Peace Park in dirt, so two or three people can be side by side hitting different stuff.”

The concept also maximizes the space, giving riders four or five options of features to choose from on the same trail. In the spring, the trails “will really be able to tell that story,” Jones says. “We’re going to open really strong for mountain biking [in spring 2021]—it’s something that we’ve never really seen.”

Athlete Influence

Given that higher-level athletes have been a big part of Woodward’s history and legacy, Mills says it’s important for them to have access to the facilities for training, event practice, or even the occasional film shoot. Pro athletes have played a role in the creation of certain features, such as Red’s Backyard, a freestyle section of the Mountain Park that’s inspired by Olympic gold medalist Red Gerard’s actual backyard rail garden in Summit County, Colorado.

Woodward also turns to its top athletes to help innovate and tweak existing elements. “Those relationships are so cool, and that feedback helps us improve our product,” Jones says. “We offer a real listen—a real ear to the pros—and we take their comments and apply them in as real time as possible.”

One of Woodward’s most notable winter offerings stemmed from the mind of Danny Davis, an X Games gold medalist and U.S. Olympic snowboard athlete. In 2011, Davis created the Peace Park, a fresh take on the freestyle experience that emphasizes flow and creativity, with inventive terrain and transition combinations. Woodward Peace Park continues to build on Davis’s vision, and that concept has even bled into other sports in unexpected ways.

How to Access Woodward

There are a variety of ways to visit Woodward depending on your area of interest, and reserving in advance is strongly encouraged. Options range from one-off evening parkour or scooter classes all the way up to the All Access Membership, which grants purchasers mostly unlimited access to indoor and outdoor venues for $139 per month (less for kids under 7). Memberships come with other perks as well, such as discounts on lessons and camps, and they include buddy passes.

New for the 2020–2021 season is a Mountain Park Membership ($89/month; less for kids under 7) that includes the lift-accessed ski and snowboard terrain in the winter and mountain biking trails in the summer, as well as access to the outdoor pump track and skate parks (tubing and indoor facilities not included). If you’re visiting for at least a few weeks, consider the All Access one-month pass ($229; cheaper if younger).

Or maybe you just want to entertain your 2-year-old for a little bit (Micro Open Gym drop-in, $15), play on the trampolines for 90 minutes ($45), or go sans kids for a night (Adult Shred on Thursday evenings, $15). Mountain Park daily lift tickets can be booked for three-hour windows for $54.

Image: Jane Gendron

Elevated Bites

Woodward levels up your sports game, so why not your food, too? “We’ve tried to put as much thought into the services as we did into the activity areas, so we have a great chef and we try to be craft-minded and locally sourced wherever we can,” Mills says.

On the main floor, The Hive serves up refined versions of the basics, like seared ahi tacos; loaded mac and cheese; and sourdough grilled cheese with bacon, heirloom tomato, fried green tomato, and a balsamic reduction. Upstairs at The Grind Café, parents can relax with a hummus plate or charcuterie board and a glass of wine or specialty cocktail (Woodward has a full liquor license), all in view of their kids playing down below. As of press time, a QR code ordering system was in place for touchless ordering and pickup.

Covid-19 Considerations

Mask up! Photos were taken before Covid-19

Image: Shutterstock

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, as of press time indoor sessions have been reduced to 90 minutes, with a limited number of guests allowed inside the facility at a time. Face coverings are required for all guests and staff, more hand sanitizing stations have been placed throughout the facility, and common areas are cleaned frequently with products approved by the EPA for fighting the virus. Woodward has also started offering an outside ticket pickup and outdoor grab-and-go snacks and hot chocolate for winter guests. “We’ve been going above and beyond since the beginning so we can stay open for the long term,” Mills says of Woodward’s Covid-19 precautions.

Woodward by the Numbers

Days per year Woodward Park City is open

Square footage of the indoor concrete skate park

Cost of a Woodward-branded skateboard deck, found in the rental shop

Sports and activities offered on campus

Number of trampolines, including 5 Olympic FlyBeds and 2 SuperTramps

Number of tubing lanes

Length in feet of the longest tubing lane, Utah’s longest

Acres of property

Opening year of Woodward Park City

Number of Progression Parks for learning how to tackle features

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