How to Get Air Aware

Here’s what a former American Ninja Warrior contestant, a top snowboard coach and a Hollywood stuntman can teach you about getting air. And what time on a trampoline can do for your ski season.

Maddie Lacy doing dryland snowboard practice at Elevate.

“How’s it going girls? Let’s do ALL the aerials, so many aerials,” Justice Hedenburg shouts to two young clients, Isabelle and Maddie Lacy, at a late afternoon session at Elevate Movement Collective’s outdoor trampolines in Stowe. The girls start by just jumping up and down on the giant trampolines sunk into the ground and surrounded by foam mats. Hedenberg and his Elevate partner, Noah Labow, coach them through flips. Then the girls strap snowboards on and practice grabs.

In one corner, monkey rings, ladders and ramps are set up, part of a parkours routine. Indoors at their Stowe facility there’s another similar set-up.

“When it comes to skiing and snowboarding the best thing you can do when you are not on the slopes is to use the trampoline—it’s a safe, controlled environment and teaches you to land anything, no matter if you are doing athletic tricks or just being prepared to take a fall without hurting yourself,” says Labow.

The coaches work with students on what Hedenberg calls the “six pillars of athletic fitness:” Agility, balance, flexibility, coordination, endurance and strength.

“Our whole premise is if you practice those skills – and we use Ninja Warrior moves, parkours and trampoline to build those — you will improve at any sport you do and are less likely to get hurt,” says Labow. “When you see Johnny Collinson jump off a cliff you don’t know how much training went into him learning how to launch and land,” he adds.

One of the things they focus on is teaching kids and adults how to.fall. “You never want to put your hands or arms out,” says Labow. “Instead you want to absorb the impact and then transfer it out. For instance, land on a shoulder, tuck your arms in and roll.” Hedenberg demonstrates on one of the mats—something he does over and over on movie shoots. “That’s something that will help you if you’re a skier or a football player.”

A controlled bounce on a trampoline gives you air awareness and knowing where you are in time and place, teaching you to look ahead and giving you balance. Plyometrics and squats are also big. “You need to practice that range of motion so you are able to absorb with your whole body—whether you’re going off a small mogul or a big cliff.”  They also work on “animal movements,” scuttling across the mats on all fours. “We’re trying to change that muscle memory,” says Hedenberg.

Elevate is just one of many gyms around Vermont (and the country) that is focusing on this. “The U.S. Ski Team is already recruiting gymnasts, not skiers, for their aerials program. Places such as Woodward’s facilities at Copper Mountain, Colo. or in Lake Tahoe are becoming huge training grounds for athletes of all sorts,” says Labow, referring to the progression gyms owned by POWDR Corp.,  owner of Killington. Ski academies are also focusing on similar training.

The session is almost over when Isabelle and Maddie’s parents show up from Burlington to pick them up. “Man, I wish we had this at our Burton headquarters,” says their dad, John Lacy, who happens to be the CEO of Burton. Burton recently installed an indoor skate park in one of their warehouse spaces.

Lacy, a fit 50-something, then takes his shoes off and heads to the trampoline. He jumps higher and higher until he loses his balance and finally falls. “Hey, pull those arms in when you fall,” shouts Labow.

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A controlled bounce on a trampoline gives you air awareness and knowing where you are in time and place, teaching you to look ahead and giving you balance. Plyometrics and squats are also big. “You need to practice that range of motion so you are able to absorb with your whole body—whether you’re going off a small mogul or a big cliff.”  They also work on “animal movements,” scuttling across the mats on all fours. “We’re trying to change that muscle memory,” says Hedenberg.

Elevate is just one of many gyms around Vermont (and the country) that is focusing on this. “The U.S. Ski Team is already recruiting gymnasts, not skiers, for their aerials program. Places such as Woodward’s facilities at Copper Mountain, Colo. or in Lake Tahoe are becoming huge training grounds for athletes of all sorts,” says Labow, referring to the progression gyms owned by POWDR Corp.,  owner of Killington. Ski academies are also focusing on similar training.

The session is almost over when Isabelle and Maddie’s parents show up from Burlington to pick them up. “Man, I wish we had this at our Burton headquarters,” says their dad, John Lacy, who happens to be the CEO of Burton. Burton recently installed an indoor skate park in one of their warehouse spaces.

Lacy, a fit 50-something, then takes his shoes off and heads to the trampoline. He jumps higher and higher until he loses his balance and finally falls. “Hey, pull those arms in when you fall,” shouts Labow. n

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.

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