Big Air, Backies, Bonks & Butters: FREESKIER taps Woodward Copper for its annual park-specific ski test

Big Air, Backies, Bonks & Butters: FREESKIER taps Woodward Copper for its annual park-specific ski test

If you enjoy performing extreme stunts on skis, like corked-out 720s or slow-rotation switch 360s, pay close attention. If the idea of high-flying acrobatics makes you shudder, you can go ahead and skip ahead to the all-mountain skis. Bye! Move it. Skedaddle. Ciao.

For those who’ve remained, did you know that we host a ski test completely separate from the big show at Aspen—a test dedicated entirely to jib-centric skis? Indeed, we do. We orchestrate this sub-test annually, and we do it just for you. We’ll take this opportunity to share the details of said ski test, including the steps we follow to rank the best skis available for those who spend their days jumping, grinding, pressing, bonking and so forth.


Ski tester Cottie Gorham puts Armada’s ARV 86 through the wringer. Photo by Erik Seo.

From our home base here in Colorado’s Front Range, it’s just a 90-minute drive to Copper Mountain, home to 2,601 vertical feet of thrilling skiing spread across 2,465 skiable acres of land. The resort is also home to Woodward Copper, the world-famous action sports training grounds. Its facilities consist of on-mountain terrain parks—both in winter and summer—and also the famed “Barn,” a 19,400 square-foot wonderland where top-name athletes and the greater public alike enjoy five Olympic-size trampolines and one 14-foot-by-14-foot super tramp, along with foam pits, jumps, skate ramps, bowls and pump tracks. Naturally, it’s here that we gathered in April of 2016 to test skis designed for folks who have a penchant for getting inverted.

For the purposes of our ski testing, we utilized Woodward Copper’s numerous on-hill terrain parks: Central Park, Playground Park, Gee Whiz, Hidden Vein, Eagle Jib Park, Green Acres, the 22-foot Olympic superpipe and the 13-foot beginner halfpipe. Between these zones are snow features of all shapes and sizes, catering to all ability levels. Having this variety of terrain at our disposal made things easy when it came to determining which skis best suit the various needs of a jibber. We ranked and reviewed the skis paying mind to different skiers’ specific goals, whether that be stomping massive airs like McRae Williams, boosting huge out of the halfpipe like David Wise, flowing through the park with the style and grace of Jossi Wells or buttering up a storm like The Bunch.


This ski tester is very, very hard at work

Among the 20 testers who made the rounds at Copper were local pros like Cody Cirillo, Mark Nowakiwsky, Lucas Evans, Brooke Potter and Nadia Gonzales. These guys and gals adhere to the same testing protocol followed in Aspen: The same custom ski testing app is used; skis are still ranked on a scale of 1-10 in categories like carving, stability, versatility, swing weight and playfulness (no “float” scores for this discipline); on-site brand reps provide technical and informational support; and expectations for performance and deliverables are high. We suspect our testers will have fun, yes, but we also count on them to provide consistent scores and critical feedback regarding the skis’ performance.

At the end of the day, though, that word “fun” comes to the forefront of our minds when we recount the experience at Copper. After all, how often do you get to partake in a 20-skier-strong, tightly-grouped, fast-moving train through one of the country’s most beautiful terrain parks, watching folks spin, flip, grab and grease all around you? It’s a scene previously and appropriately described as “our own version of a Cirque du Soleil performance on snow.” Rest assured, the positive energy of these moments is channeled into the rankings and reviews of the 11 skis we nominated as our top park picks. So, for those who don’t see nothin’ wrong with a little jump and grind, go forth and browse our Editors’ Picks in the park category; these are the planks that will elevate your skiing, both literally and figuratively.

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