The BigAirBag at Windham Mountain:
Europe’s Latest Contribution to On-Snow Hilarity
by Mitch Kaplan
Just when I thought I’d seen everything skiing/snowboarding could throw at me, I heard about this: the BigAirBag at New York’s Windham Mountain Resort.
So wondrous to me was this BigAirBag, that I enlisted by 11 year-old next door neighbor Lucky, and traveled to Windham during a serious snowstorm just to witness its use. People, I was told, would ski/ride straight at it, get serious air off a 10-foot kicker, and land with a dull thud atop this over-sized balloon.
I didn’t expect to actually do this myself. Recovery from a recent injury was my excuse. But, I thought maybe Lucky, a strong intermediate snowboarder, might want to have a whack at it. Or, wing it, so to speak.
First, let’s understand that this thing is:
A gigantic inflatable sack covered with heavy-gauge nylon.
It measures 56 feet long by 33 feet wide, and stands 10 feet tall.
It re-inflates every 10 seconds to minimize waiting time for the next jumper.
It’s manufactured in the Netherlands.
BigAirBags have been installed worldwide, including Switzerland, Germany, Lebanon and Dubai.
Windham’s bag is America’s first.
Windham charges $25 for a "bag ticket," which is not included in your day lift ticket purchase. Frankly, I thought that was a bit much just to attain the right to flop into a bag. Windham marketing director Kirt Zimmer told me that initially management wasn’t sure what to charge. This being the first Bag in the country, there was no precedent for pricing.
The cost for season pass holders—$50 annually—is much more reasonable.
But, Zimmer assured me that the Bag has been extremely popular since it went into action the weekend before Christmas. And, if the line-up of jumpers on the day we visited was any indication, Windham indeed might have something special going for it with this contraption.
Lucky and I approached the Bag with some trepidation. Face it, the thing is large. And, the 10-foot kicker for take-offs is pretty intimidating for we who prefer our park elements size small.
We both opted not to jump.
But, we did spend some time watching the action up close. My observations?
All the jumpers were primariy young—adolescents.
All the jumpers were male.
Some landings were smooth.
Many landings were splattered—flopped sideways, tossed backwards or generally flailed.
Exiting could be comically indecorous, the Bag sometimes spitting jumpers out on their backs with skis/boards flailing.
All the jumpers kept coming back for more.
Laughter was the prevailing language at the Bag.
Jumpers are supposed to listen to a safety talk before attempting the Bag, and soon the resort will replace that with a short safety video.
But, the only danger, it appears, is not hitting the kicker fast enough. Go too slowly and you might land in the gap between the ramp and the Bag; or you could hit the Bag straight-on at its front end. Suffer the latter, and probably you’d just bounce off, with embarrassment being the major result.
I can’t claim to understand the Bag’s attraction. It does give jumpers a chance to practice their moves (tail grabs, etc.) with an assured soft landing. And, it can be used as a training tool by the Windham Freestyle Teams, although team members must be careful not to become overconfident through assured safe landings. But, I still don’t get it.
I, however, am obviously not the Bag’s audience. My traveling companion certainly carried a look that said he’d have loved to take a shot at it after he’s had another season or two to develop his basic riding/jumping skills. And, the kids who were lined up to repetitively launch themselves at/into it were having a great time.
So, add the BigAirBag to the list of amusements that downhill snowsliding centers can now offer. I’m almost afraid to ask what’s next.
For more on the BigAirBag see their website at BigAirBag.com;
and on Windham Mountain at www.windhammountain.com
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...... Mitch Kaplan
is the author of The Unofficial Guide to the Mid-Atlantic with Kids, The Cheapskate’s Guide to Myrtle Beach and The Golf Book of Lists. He is a contributor to The Unofficial Guide to New England & New York with Kids and to the annual guide Ski America & Canada.