To be

labeled ‘extreme’ these days doesn’t require much effort.  Applying the right deodorant or drinking Mtn. Dew is

sufficient exertion in the eyes of many of America’s finest advertising

executives.  We are far removed from a

time in which fringe sports athletes flew under the radar, all but ignored by

mainstream media unless one of their brethren perishes in pursuit of their

passion (RIP Andy Irons you will be missed).

However, there remains a select

group of individuals who remain unenchanted by the siren calls of the deep

pockets of Fortune 500 companies eager to sink their teeth into the latest

trend to grip the omnipotent 18-34 year old male demographic.  These athletes chase their dreams when

conditions are ripe, yet what sets them apart is neither desire nor motivation

wane in the off season.  These athletes

are both the future and the backbone of the Jackson ski and snowboard

community.  To them, there is no off

season.

Jeff Moran, Head Snowboard Coach and Program Director at Jackson

Hole Ski & Snowboard Club (JHSC), stated, “In a time

when young athletes’ ski and snowboard goals are driven by X-Games images and

perpetually updated webisodes, trailers and sneak peak videos, part time

training is no longer an option.  Young athletes with dreams of becoming

the next big thing are realizing that in order to keep up with the Joneses,

they must have a year round training routine that enhances their primary focus

of skiing or snowboarding.  In the JHSC Freeride Program we encourage

athletes to fill their off-snow seasons with activities that directly correlate

to skiing and snowboarding such as water ramp, foam pit, skateboard, mountain

bike and gymnastics training.” 

            Carpet bristles attached to a 23

degree slope act as artificial mountain and ski slope at once.  Skis are waxed with an old iron well past its

prime.  A man-made lake or pool act as

the landing pad, and bubbles are blown from the depths to break the surface and

reduce the slap factor.  75 steps in

soaking wet ski boots await each athlete after their jump.  All pause for a few minutes at the takeoff to

receive feedback from coaches present before once again beginning the climb to

the pinnacle of the wooden ramp.  As in

mainstream sports, video review is an important part of the learning

process.  It’s an instantaneous method

that gives immediate feedback on what could be the minutest of changes.  This could mean positioning the hips a few

inches forward on a double back flip, or beginning a left side corked 720 rotation

.5 seconds earlier.

            Although an effective means of

training in the off season, and without a doubt a creative use of space, water

ramps are not the only means in which JHSC athletes enhance skills away from the snow

filled slopes. 

            Air and spatial awareness are two

essential building blocks in the freestyle and freeride worlds of skiing and

snowboarding.  Building muscle memory is

an essential part of the learning progression, and varies widely from person to

person, as the repetitive process of ingraining a learned skill into the

cerebral cortex has as many variations as there are codes of DNA.  Some athletes simply have ‘it’.  For the majority of others, it takes years of

hard work to achieve the ability to have an absolute awareness of where one is

in the air while doing multiple flips and spins.  The manner in which this was achieved in the

nascent days of freestyle skiing involved more luck than planning and

skill.  Skiers simply built a jump

anywhere they could find the space, and proceeded to put their feet above their

heads in all manner of back and front flips and the numerous variations

within. 

            Fortunately the sport has evolved to

include much safer and well supervised activities to enhance aerial

skills.  In addition to water ramp

training, JHSC athletes often use trampolines and gymnastics routines, which

have both been employed for many years.  One

feature that has not been around for quite as long is the foam pit.  The name leaves little to the imagination, as

it is exactly as it sounds, a space carved out of the floor and filled with square

foam blocks 6-8 inches long and wide. 

Jackson Gymnastics is in the process of installing a foam pit feature

for athletes using the facility.  The use

of a trampoline involves three successive bounces from one end of the

rectangular device to the other, the third of which sees the jumper set their

maneuver while spinning and/or flipping into the foam pit.  Another way to enter would be a similar

structure to the aforementioned water ramps, whereupon skiers and boarders

descend the man made jump and launch into the pit. The cushioning of the foam

blocks allows athletes to land imperfectly yet not break their necks or cause

any spinal damage, something that becomes a real concern as skiers and boarders

take their tricks from water and foam to snow. 

With practice, air awareness and muscle memory are enhanced with each

successive jump.

            Making the most out of where one

finds themselves either seasonally or geographically is neither a new nor novel

concept, nor does it stop at skiing and snowboarding in the summer months.  Scuba divers make use of inland lakes to

improve their skill set and satiate their passions while awaiting the next trip

to the Caribbean.  Surfers find waves

several hundred miles from any available coastline.  It seems far fetched, yet the sport of river

surfing is one that has taken hold enthusiastically in white water normally

reserved for kayakers and fly fisherman. 

Outside Jackson, Wyoming, land locked surfers find space on the Snake

River, at the affectionately named Lunch Counter Rapid.  Imagine being on a wave for rides that could

last 10 minutes.  This is about 9 minutes

55 seconds longer than your average ocean wave ride.  While getting tubed or busting airs off the

river wave are not realistic possibilities, numerous cutbacks and slashes on

the wave that knows no end indeed are.

            One only has to see the stoke factor

on the river surfer’s face as he races off to work, or the absolute pleasure in

the posture of the high school athlete that has both mentally and physically

stomped a rodeo 720 into the foam pit, to know that these individuals will not

let the most minor of details like geography curb their craze in the ‘off

season’. 

Haven’t you heard? 

There is no off season anymore.


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