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New airbag unveiled at Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre

June 10, 2014 : Liberty University News Service

Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre airbag demonstration, Kevin Hoff.

Rising senior snowboarder Kevin Hoff prepares to land a free-fall test jump on Snowflex's airbag Friday.

Liberty University’s ski and snowboard teams already have an edge on the competition by being able to train at a year-round facility on their own campus, the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre (LMSC). Now, a recently added feature, the Bagjump airbag, will give them even more of an advantage in training for freestyle Big Air jump stunts.

LMSC recently showcased the airbag, a 50-by-50 foot pad that inflates up to 11 feet, for local media and will introduce it at summer camps in July before team members have access to it upon their return to Liberty in August. President Jerry Falwell was one of the first to test it out when it arrived in May. (See the video of President Falwell’s jump.)

The specially engineered airbag, which reduces the risk of injury for riders of all abilities coming off a jump, will be open to the public as an added attraction to the facility this fall.

“It’s all about advancing the athletes and advancing them safely,” said Drew Sherwood, general manager of LMSC. “There’s a lot of accidents within the ski and snowboard industry, and they’re constantly looking at avenues of preventing them. Everybody from the first-time Olympian to Shaun White is using airbags for progression, for safety. We’re keeping up with the industry which is good for our facility and good for our team.”

Sherwood said the airbag, which complements the aerial awareness trampoline already on site, will allow people to practice a new trick safely before they try it on the slopes.

“A lot of people are wanting to practice spins as well as flips, anything inverted. With the airbag, it will allow them to land in an awkward position and they can walk away safely,” he said. “We can videotape it and show them what they’re doing wrong, and they can practice and practice and practice before they go attempt it on a jump. Then they can try landing it on the slope and move to a higher level.”

While it was purchased specifically for the ski and snowboard team, the airbag will be available to a wide array of potential users, including members of Liberty’s gymnastics and swimming and diving teams.

“Our first priority is to train our collegiate team, to equip them to go to nationals again,” Sherwood said. “Second, it is for use by our students, third for our (Next Level) summer campers, and fourth for professional athletes to come in and train on.”

Snowflex will set up the airbag below the Rail Jam features at the base of the slope ­— and build a jump in front of it to serve as a launching pad for aerial stunts — in time for about 250 campers to use at its annual ski and snowboarding day camps from June 23-27 and its overnight Next Level Summer Camps July 13-18 and July 20-25.

Funds from the camps, which are staffed by 15 to 20 coaches and counselors, including several members of Liberty’s ski and snowboard team, support the Club Sports program.

LMSC continues to be a popular destination during the summer months. Sherwood said people travel from as far as California, Canada, Maine, and Florida to test out the slopes.

Tube run at Family Fun Day at Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre.
Families enjoy one of the high-speed tubing runs at the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre. 

“Snowflex is the most unique place in North America,” he said. “There’s nothing like it. Everything else has duplicates; this is the only one. No matter if it’s snowing, if it’s raining, or if it’s 100 degrees outside. We’re open, we’re skiing, we’re snowboarding, we’re tubing, and we’re having fun.”

In an effort to beat the heat, the facility has introduced new summer hours this year — from 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, noon to midnight on Saturday, and 2 to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Ski and snowboard lessons for ages 2 and up will be available during those hours.

LMSC holds a series of Family Days throughout the year to introduce the local community to winter sports. A Family Luau is set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday, June 14. Admission is free, though guests are asked to bring donations of back-to-school supplies, such as new or gently-used backpacks and lunchboxes, for Lynchburg-area students in need. Food will also be available for purchase. Besides sampling the slopes on skis or snowboards, visitors can also try out the two NevePlast tubing runs, which opened in October.