Graystone Action Sports Academy opened its doors to the public this weekend, and Gareth Vogan took the opportunity to explore the brand-new facility. 

Rob Taylor and I were able to run a Futures Session at Graystone with over 30 young, aspiring freestyle athletes from the Snowsport England Park & Pipe Academy, Moguls Academy and the Futures Project testing out the Graystone Action Sports Academy.

Fun & Friendly Environment

Entering Graystone, the first thing that hit me was the warm and welcoming atmosphere. I’ve spent a lifetime visiting skateparks where there’s an air of uncertainty, it’s all set in a sketchy warehouse and the only chill-out space is a lumpy sofa and a vending machine. At Graystone, you’re at the other end of the spectrum. A bar upstairs offers you a panoramic view of the park, a wide selection of hot and cold food, and a refreshing collection of beverages. The décor in the bar sets the tone, with breath-taking shots by Victor Daviet lining the walls.

Before I even set foot in the park, I felt confident and relaxed – 2 key elements for progression and enjoyment in any sport, but particularly action sports.

After a safety briefing from the Graystone team - we and took our first tentative steps into what we’d soon realise was paradise.

Ruled by the riders


Graystone has been created by the riders for the riders, with a huge street-plaza-style skatepark welcoming a whole maze of lines for athletes to get creative on. The only limit to the number of possibilities in the street-section is your own creativity.


Off to the left, as you look from the viewing balcony, is a perfectly-sized mini-ramp section with a spine which had GB Snowsport athletes James Barnes-Miller and Billy Morgan tearing up, whilst just behind it is a beginner-skatepark, complete with a range of features for beginners to get to grips with the art of riding rails.


To complete this skateboarder’s playground, a figure-of-eight bowl sits next to the street-section with more rhythm than a swing orchestra. It’s the dream spot to practice your bowl-riding, and your ability to ride and pump transitions. There’s even a sneaky transfer into the big-air ramp if you back yourself.


Going for Gold


The big air ramp, with both foam and resin landings, is perhaps the most game-changing aspect of Graystone Action Sports Academy for the local and national scene. The UK has long been lacking the facility for skiers & snowboarders to get to grips with the riskier inverts in a reduced-risk environment – but all that has now changed.


On the international competition circuit, riders as young as 13 & 14 have double-corks and triple-corks in their bag of tricks – risky tricks with 2 or 3 inversions whilst spinning 3 or 4 times.


Young and up-coming GB Park & Pipe athletes now have the facility to learn the key components of these key tricks in a risk-reduced environment. They will still need some mountain time to properly dial in the tricks – but they can head to the hills with the knowledge that they’ve already established the essential mechanics and aerial awareness of the tricks, and are much more capable of landing the trick.


It’s come a long way from the old days of just hucking tricks and hoping for the best – but the sport has moved forwards. The tricks are bigger, the courses are gnarlier and the competition is much fiercer. But the facilities at Graystone give aspiring GB Park & Pipe athletes the tools to compete and succeed at an international level.

There are many more snowsport facilities in the UK. Take a look at our info and advice pages!

Freedom to fail


Failing is a core element of action sports. Only by trying and failing can participants correct their technique and succeed in the end. But failing in the right environment is essential to progression. It’s no use trying a completely new trick for the first time on the 60ft pro-line kickers in Laax when there’s a bulletproof landing – the mental and physical damage from doing so can be catastrophic. Instead, there’s a journey that these bigger tricks often need to go through, where smaller failures can be eliminated one-by-one along the way.


The first step of the journey is usually on a trampoline, and Graystone’s gigantic super trampoline makes this part easy. Athletes can develop the aerial awareness for the trick, and begin to understand how different movements in their body affect the trick whilst they’re in the air.


When they feel comfortable with how the trick is initiated, and whilst the movements are still fresh in their muscle memory, they can move on with their journey and here it’s straight to the big air ramp and foam pit. And right next to the foam pit there’s a resin landing ramp – which provides the opportunity for athletes to land their trick and roll away from it, whilst still providing a forgiving landing for any falls.


Repetition is a fundamental aspect of learning a new trick in skiing & snowboarding. The more times you can go through the motions of a trick in quick succession, the more ingrained the trick will be in your mind and your muscle memory. At Graystone, the possibility to take a trick from the first stage of development on the trampoline, to being able to actually land it in the same session is a huge step forwards for young athletes wanting to progress in the park & pipe world. It’s also a prime opportunity for those who just want to learn a few tricks for their own validation.

Fun for all


But most importantly, the Graystone staff and coaching team have created a friendly environment that keeps action sports fun. Having fun should always be the primary goal for any session – no matter what your ability level, and it’s amazing how just having-fun can contribute to progression.


Whether your passion is skateboarding, snowboarding, inline skating, skiing, scooter-ing, bmxing, free-running, trampolining, gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, photography, videography or yoga – there’s a spot for you at Graystone. And that’s the benefit that you may not see straight away – the variety of sports you can try. To be a top action sports athlete in one of these sports, you can draw on elements from the others. Skills learnt in skateboarding or trampolining have positive transferability into snowboarding. And the variety helps prevent young athletes from burning-out or getting bored with their sport.


Graystone isn’t just about elite athletes being able to train in a reduced-risk environment either. It’s about opening up the world of action sports to a whole generation of young (and old) enthusiasts. Even if you just want to learn to backflip to please those crowds, then that’s now easier than ever.


As you might have guessed, I was blown away by the facilities that Graystone Action Sports Academy offered and I was even able to give backflips another go for the first time since I broke my back. I’d highly recommend calling in sick to work soon and heading up to Manchester for a session – there’s a strong chance I will see you there.

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