Deep in the heart of the Alps mountain range, and close to the highlands of the Rhine and Inn River valleys, lies Laax Ski Resort in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, a historically Romansh-speaking region. Europe’s first freestyle hall in LAAX is the place to be for beginners, the advanced and professionals – whether on snowboard or skis, skater or biker. Set over 1,200 square metres, the Freestyle Academy provides optimum training facilities.
A short train ride from either Zurich (1.5 hrs) or Milan (2.5 hrs) will take you to the city of Chur, from which you can take a shuttle bus to the Laax resort grounds nestled between the mountain villages of Falera and Flims.
The ski and snowboard area at Laax comprises over 230 km of pistes for both novices and experts, four dynamic snowparks and the world’s largest permanently operated halfpipe, the “superpipe”, with an Olympic standard height of 6.9 meters, width of 22 meters and a length of 200 meters. For a change of pace, guests can ski or ride down to the quaint village of Falera, have lunch and explore the area, before taking the lift back up to the slopes.
Après-ski, Laax boasts a wide range of restaurants and bars both on the mountain and on the resort grounds. It is no wonder then, that Laax has achieved international recognition, and won the title of Switzerland’s Best Ski Resort in 2013, beating other world-class resorts such as Zermatt and St. Moritz.
The slopes at Laax have become Switzerland’s hot spot for freestyle riders - amateurs and professionals alike can test out their latest tricks at the Olympic size halfpipe or any of the 4 snowparks on the mountain. Beginners should start out at the Beginner’s Snowpark while experienced tricksters can head straight for the Curnius or NoName parks.
In fact, Laax was recently chosen as the national freestyle training base for Swiss-Ski, and top athletes from other countries also hone their skills at Laax. In addition to the slopes, parks and “superpipe” on the mountain, one more facility in Laax has been vital to its recognition as a veritable freestyle training haven: the indoor Freestyle Academy found in the resort grounds.
On the Big Air (1), there is a sharp descent, either on snowboard or skis, before the jump over a kicker (jumping platform). Freestyle fans can practise their tricks and jumps high up in the air – and come down to earth safely in the 15- metre-long, 2-metre-deep foam pit (2).
The Snowflex practice area (3) is the ideal place to prepare for the jumps over the kicker. Freestylers can get used to manoeuvring on the carpet-like surface, which is modelled on the snow conditions at the resort. The practice area also features a box for even more fun and the room to let rip.
The Freestyle Academy’s trampoline area (5) is guaranteed to get the adrenaline pumping. This is the place to develop better body control and orientation for future tricks. Air-filled cushions (bag jumps) ensure that training is safe and a soft landing guaranteed. So there is no reason not to try even the most complicated tricks.
Skaters are also more than welcome in the Freestyle Academy. Skating action in a bowl (6) with a variety of heights, angles and corners is sure to put a smile on any skater’s face. A street skate area (8) and a microramp (4) round off the skating area.
The Freestyle Academy also boasts a boulder climbing wall (9) for free climbers, as well as a kids room (10), in which the one- to five-year-olds can let themselves go. On Sunday morning, the entire hall is transformed into an adventure playground for the very youngest guests: all the Flying Ants aged six and under, when accompanied by an adult, are free to let their hair down throughout the whole hall.
Above the trampoline area, a café (7), the hot spot of the Indoor Base, offers a perfect view as well as Italian coffee specialities.
The Freestyle Academy is Europe’s first freestyle indoor training hall, and offers training to not just riders, but skiiers, skaters, bikers, climbers and all outdoor sport enthusiasts alike, in a large, open space of over 1000 square meters.
The highlight of the academy is no doubt the Big Air ramp, designed for skiiers and riders, where one can practice all manner of tricks and jumps with the safe knowledge that a 2 meter deep foam pit lies safely beneath you! Next to the Big Air ramp is the snowflex area, a space of open ground modeled after the snow conditions on the mountain. Here athletes can do the necessary stretches and exercises in preparation for their vigorous maneuvers. For more big air, the academy’s immense trampoline area is another favorite for both casual and extreme athletes, and again, constructed with the highest safety standards in mind. The academy also offers a lot of action for skaters, with a multi-height skate bowl, and a variety of platforms, corners and ramps in the street skate area. Lastly, the academy contains a rock climbing practice wall.
But the Freestyle Academy is not just for elite athletes - it is open to all above the age of six. In fact, the entire hall is dedicated to young freestylers (age 5 and under) on Sunday mornings, where children (nicknamed the “Flying Ants”) are led by top quality coaches. To tackle the Freestyle Academy on your own, however, one must first take part in a compulsory training course, the “Royal Coachman” 2.5 hour introductory course which covers all the training stations at the academy.
Last of all, after a hard day’s work, have a drink, enjoy the company and watch the action from above at the Freestyle Academy café, or enjoy the night’s festivities at the nearby Rider’s Palace, a boutique hotel catered to the needs of young backpackers and travelers. For more information concerning Laax Ski Resort or the Freestyle Academy, please visit www.laax.com and www.freestyleacademy.com.