It has hosted ski swaps and community barn sales. Now, the so-called Sagewillow Arena or Dumke Barn in Elkhorn is hosting a young clientele in high energy training sessions.
They call it the “Air Barn.”
Air, as in elevation.
It’s filled with a 32-foot-wide halfpipe along with a 12-foot-tall roll-in ramp that takes kids into a quarter-pipe jump that sends them safely into a foam pit. Throw in a trampoline and “Fit Wall” and you’re working on some cutting-edge fitness.
Those are the kind of challenges that Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation snowboard and freestyle team skiers are using to train for the outside winter air at the nearby Dollar Mountain terrain park.
“Skateboarding is the best thing you can do for our sport,” said SVSEF Snowboard Team head coach Andy Gilbert. “Every sport seems to be imitating skateboarding. It’s a huge thing in trying to get kids more comfortable with air.”
He said, “During the winter, we can go to the ‘Air Barn’ in the morning and then go out on the terrain course afterward.”
The “Air Barn” is another offshoot of the partnership between the Community School and SVSEF that has taken on new energy since the founding of the Sun Valley Ski Academy a couple of seasons ago.
It’s not all ramps and air at the Community School-owned “Air Barn” facility located between the soccer fields at the Sagewillow school complex. Gilbert said the horse arena portion of the building has been dedicated to use by a variety of SVSEF ski teams.
There’s a trampoline set up next to the foam pit that cushions your return to Idaho earth. There’s a “Fit Wall” that “kicks your butt,” said Gilbert. There have been proposals to add a weight room and rock wall.
Alpine skiers are also using the “Air Barn,” Gilbert said. “This place is amazing. The kids are thriving with it.”
The “Air Barn” is not a new concept.
Some five years ago, SVSEF top-level freestyle and snowboard athletes Scotty Pike and Kaitlyn Farrington benefited from the use of an indoor arena south of Bellevue for training.
Despite the initial SVSEF purchase of $20,000 in ramps and tramps, accessibility to the Bellevue facility became an issue because of its distance from Sun Valley, Gilbert said.
He added, “We had the skeletons of that equipment from Bellevue in storage for three years. Last December we started to set them up in the Dumke Barn and they were functional by the end of the winter season. This summer, the kids were using it.”
SVSEF Freestyle head coach Andy Ware had a lot to do with the current "Air Barn” set-up.
Currently, Gilbert said he and Ware are trying to integrate training and get freestyle and snowboard kids working together in “Air Barn” groups.
Gilbert said, “We rotate through the stations and have a half-an-hour free-for-all at the end. The training has been well attended. Kids who are coming aren’t missing any sessions. They’re using fitness equipment and doing core work. They’re getting a workout.
“It’s gaining some momentum. Five or six kids have joined the team in large part because of the new facility.”
And it’s not just the younger team members.
Wood River High School senior Ryan Roemer will call Gilbert and ask if he can come up and use the ‘Air Barn. Roemer was 16 last April when he won the Open Men’s overall title of the USASA National Championships at Copper Mountain, Colo. He was also King of the Wasatch and Mt. Baker Banked Slalom winner.
Gilbert said, “Ryan is working on a CAB Double 1080—a 1080-degree spin, flipping twice and going into the foam pit backwards. Some of his jumps are sketchy and he lands on his back. Some are over-rotated and he lands on his front.
“That’s why you practice.”