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  • Why Summer Camp?

    By Tammie Thompson

    Photo courtesy Phenix Kids have been flocking to summer camp for decades. It used to be about camping, hiking, maybe a little horseback riding. But the trend towards specialized camps has proliferated over the years.

    Summer ski camps have been around for a long time. Alpine ski racers would descend upon the frozen ice fields of Mt. Hood, Europe and New Zealand. They would run gates from dawn till noon, then head back to camp to work on skis for the next round of training.

    Such ski camps have morphed into full-blown summer camp programs that include racing, freeride, freestyle, and snowboarding. There's no shortage of camp programs to choose from. In the U.S., most are based at Mt. Hood, which keeps its snow all year long. Whistler has been pumping it up with a variety of camps as well. More extensive programs to Europe's glaciers and New Zealand's snowfields are also offered.

    Our first experience with summer camp was two years ago. At age ten, Jake was young for Mt. Hood's Summer Ski Camp program. But he went with a buddy, prepared for a week of skiing and fun. We got a couple of tears when we dropped him off - this being his first real camp experience. But he bucked up, anxious to hit the snow in July.

    Mt. Hood Summer Ski Camp has been hosting summer campers for over 25 years. Proud of their racing heritage, Mt. Hood Summer Ski Camp has trained several past Olympians and U.S. Ski Team members. A bit more conservative than other "freeride" camps, Mt. Hood Summer Ski Camp prides itself on keeping kids under control and in a safe environment. They've branched out to freestyle, freeride and snowboard sessions as well.

    We heard from a homesick Jake three days into camp. He was mildly impressed with the skiing, more impressed with the afternoon activities (river rafting, rock climbing) and quite impressed with the food. By day five, he informed us that he was skiing fast, making his own lunch and even BBQ'd his own burger. That's my boy, keeping his priorities straight.

    After a week of camp, we picked up Jake surrounded by his new buddies, a more mature, worldly ski racer. Jake came away from camp with a bundle of new experiences, plus a new focus on what he loves, ski racing. One week of daily training got him further than half a winter season. He was able to work on one task at a time, refining it, and then moving on. His skiing improved immensely. The other big plus was the experience away from home, instilling a bit of independence in a controlled environment.

    The next year, after a season off due to injury, Jake once again attended summer ski camp at Mt. Hood. This session was about getting back on skis, getting his head in the game, and just enjoying summer sliding. An old pro at the camp thing, there was no more homesickness, only a few phone calls home, and much more independence.

    Would I recommend summer ski camp? No question, it's a valuable experience for any dedicated slider - freeride, racing or snowboarding. And hey, they have adult camps too!

    For more on summer camps see:

  • Summer Camp Index

    For more on Mt. Hood Summer Ski Camp see mthood.com .

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