• Chris Wolff, Vicenza Outdoor Recreation snowboard instructor, demonstrates how to fly through the air.

    Fly through the air

    Chris Wolff, Vicenza Outdoor Recreation snowboard instructor, demonstrates how to fly through the air.

  • (Left) Chris Wolff, Vicenza Outdoor Recreation snowboard instructor, helps a student learn how to board down a hill.

    Easy does it

    (Left) Chris Wolff, Vicenza Outdoor Recreation snowboard instructor, helps a student learn how to board down a hill.

  • A snowboarder in Alleghe', Italy defies gravity.

    No problems with gravity

    A snowboarder in Alleghe', Italy defies gravity.

  • Jonathon Torres learns how to take a fall during a ODR snowboarding class.

    Sometimes gravity wins

    Jonathon Torres learns how to take a fall during a ODR snowboarding class.

  • Chris Wolff, Vicenza Outdoor Recreation snowboard instructor, flies off a jump.

    Look mom, no feet on the ground

    Chris Wolff, Vicenza Outdoor Recreation snowboard instructor, flies off a jump.

  • Reid Erickson, Vicenza Outdoor Recreation snowboard instructor, lands on a giant pillow after jumping off a 15 foot high jump.

    Proper PLF

    Reid Erickson, Vicenza Outdoor Recreation snowboard instructor, lands on a giant pillow after jumping off a 15 foot high jump.

ALLEGHE', Italy - Flying into the air off a 15-foot jump, doing 360s and other tricks, and landing on what looks like an airbag or giant pillow is a rush that snowboarders like Chris Wolff and Reid Erickson look forward to whenever the first snow begins to fall.

"It's a pure adrenaline rush doing snowboard tricks, but the safety landing airbag at Alleghe' Ski resort is especially nice because it allows you to try a trick you wouldn't normally try," said Wolff, Vicenza Outdoor Recreation ski and snow board instructor.

With the appeal of snowboarding growing and snow parks being integrated into winter resorts across Europe, Wolff said ODR started offering classes for free.

"We noticed that people who were coming out for the first time and didn't get lessons were getting hurt and not having a good time … and were not coming back," said Wolff.

"You can go out there and spend your entire day learning the hard way, or you can take a two-hour class and spend your afternoon improving instead of continuing to wreck yourself on the bunny slopes. Once we started offering free classes, beginning boarders began to enjoy it more and started coming out to the slopes more often," he said.

Surfer Jonathon Torres decided to take advantage of the free snowboard lessons. The experience was one of the best he's had while stationed in Europe, he said.

"Snowboarding is similar to surfing, but is completely inverted," said Torres. "I definitely liked the class and think once you try snowboarding, and you like it, that you can get addicted to it."
"My friends convinced me to try it," said first-timer Andrew Bellegrade, "and I'm glad to check it off my bucket list: going to the Alps and learning to board."

The free snowboardingclasses represent an average savings of , 76 per person, and all ODR ski and snowboard instructors are certified through the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI) or Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA), according to Wolff.

Erickson, a certified snowboard instructor and former semi-pro boarder from Minnesota, said he volunteers at ODR to teach boarding because he feels it's a great chance to provide an outlet and a great experience for Soldiers and their families.

"I love teaching and seeing that big smile when you've taught someone something that they can do for the rest of their life," said Erickson.

Classes start with learning how to fall.

"When falling forward, people naturally want to put their hands out to break their fall and that's how a lot of wrist injuries happen," explained Erickson. "We teach them how to fall using their forearms and when falling backwards how to fall similar to the Airborne PLF (parachute landing fall)."

After mastering falling, participants learn how to glide and do J-turns.

"In the beginning, it felt like I had no control and I went wherever the ground or gravity took me," said Bellegarde.

Soon the class was doing slip-sliding or falling leaf (a move in which the board is perpendicular to the slope) and learning how to go down on the edge of their board (edging). Partnering up, they gained the confidence to go down the hill facing the downward slope and also with the back to the downward slope.

Once the class could traverse the slope, it was time to learn how to get on and off the chairlift and pommel lift with snowboards strapped to their feet.

"The pommel lift is most common on the bunny hills in Italy, and the sensation of being towed up the hill is completely new," said Wolff. "Lessons definitely keep you from eating it when learning the pommel."

Erickson recommended renting equipment before you buy it in order to ensure you enjoy the sport before making the investment. ODR has lots of equipment for those wanting to learn to snowboard, but limited equipment for children under 8 years old; however, Italian facilities are well equipped as many cater to that age group, he said.

Vicenza ODR also does binding testing, edging, waxing, resurfacing and texturizing boards and skis.

"Talk to us, find the best place to learn. Wwe recommend all first-timers get a lesson from us rather than subjecting friends and loved ones to a potentially frustrating experience," said Wolff.

"Don't expect to be Shaun White on the first day. Lastly, snowboard parks are very popular, but make sure you've got your helmet."

Page last updated Wed January 23rd, 2013 at 04:07