Gym, then slopes

On a recent evening inside Mismo Gymnastics, off West Broadway, in Missoula, 17-year-old Thomas Arndt of Florence repeatedly bounces high in the air off a large yellow trampoline with a red cross in the middle, like a helicopter's landing pad. Arndt spins and twists through the air, pulling off a "double cork 1260" and a "backflip 720."

Missoula's Tyler Thorson, also 17, takes to the trampoline and nails similar tricks. "It helps with aerial awareness," Thorson explains. "We're learning the basics of the trick before trying it on snow."

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As ski season approaches, Arndt and Thorson are two among a half dozen teenage boys at Mismo practicing ski and snowboarding aerobatics with Gregg Janecky, a certified aerial coach and trampoline coordinator for High Cascade, a summer snowboard camp in Mt. Hood, Ore.

Janecky says more kids are joining his classes every year and they're coming earlier in the season, reflecting a growing interest in aerial stunts and, more generally, getting in shape for ski season well before the snow flies.

It's not only kids jumping around the gym. While Janecky isn't currently working with adults, instructors at Missoula's Bitterroot Gymnastics, on Cooper Street, are. Co-owner Mara Lee Stark says Bitterroot's open gym sessions have become so popular among adult skiers that it's looking to expand so it can add more trampolines. "It can't grow much more in our current space," she says.

Skier Erik Samsoe is one of the open-gym regulars. "I'm 31 now, and it's easier for me to injure myself," Samsoe says. "At Bitterroot Gymnastics, and I imagine at Mismo as well, it's just the ultimate adult playground for me."

Over the past few months, Samsoe says, he's been practicing front, back and side flips, mainly to improve his "general air awareness." Just as important, he says, is getting in some pre-season crashes—"which I think is something that people don't take enough opportunity to do...You know, Bruce Lee-style: Let the water flow around you and keep rolling."

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