WATERVILLE VALLEY — Big air, flips, awesome tricks and cruising through the moguls with precision and ease are a few of the sensations that drive freestylers to practice, practice, practice. And where better to learn freestyle than Waterville Valley's training facility?
The Waterville Valley BBTS Ski Education Foundation churns out accomplished freestylers under the watchful eye of Nick Preston, who has been the director 34 years. Hannah Kearney is the most notable alumni. She won gold in Calgary and bronze in Sochi and this year added another World Cup to her trophy case. Alumni Julia Krass, Annalisa Drew and Devin Logan all competed in Sochi.
Waterville Valley Academy (WVA) offers freestyle training programs for moguls, aerials, and freeride. Its training venues are at Waterville Valley Ski Resort, with dedicated mogul and aerial training sites. There is also a nationally recognized terrain park with its own poma lift for easy access.
Training does not stop when the snow melts. WVA hosts summer camps, with athletes practicing their flips with air bag jumps and outdoor trampolines.
In January, the Tom Barbeau Training Center opened. It will be used by the alpine, snowboard and freestyle programs and includes fitness equipment, two trampolines and a video viewing area.
"It's a beautiful space and we will have a ball training our athletes in it. We are thrilled because of the indoor trampoline," said Preston.
He added: "The advantage of our facility is we have the coaching staff to improve these programs effectively and it's a great opportunity for all of us."
The coaching program focuses on developing strong skiers and skilled competitors. Athletes safely develop and hone their skills on the trampoline before taking their tricks to snow.
The freestyle program has about 80 athletes ages 9-20 and a highly experienced coaching staff.
What is unique is the ability to tailor the program to suit the individual athlete's train desire such as a weekend program, the five month academy or the new eleven month Pinnacle Program.
"The academic program here is outstanding with about 60 students and 30 teachers, so a there is a lot of individualized attention academically and we are able to match that athletically. We have marvelous facilities and everything we need here to create a successful freestyle athletes," said Preston.
Vincent Dorow, 15, of Bedford, has been a member of the WV Freestyle program for three seasons.
"I like being in the air and the creativity the freestyle sport allows," he said. "My favorite disciplines are slopestyle and big air and the most exciting part of the sport is when I land a new trick."
The teen praised the "great coaching staff, the peer support, and friendships made."
"I have done two summers of off-season training with the bag jump and trampoline, and this training helped me improve quickly and to safely practice tricks off snow," he said.
WVA is the only program in the state that offers the full ski academy for freestyle. Mount Sunapee, Loon Mountain, Attitash and Whaleback also have strong weekend programs.
Slopeside runs every Friday during the ski season. Kathleen Humphreys can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.