Summer Snowboard Camp - the Perfect Summer’s Day
by Mitch Kaplan
Imagine - it’s a perfect summer’s day. The sun rises in a near-cloudless sky. A morning chill will slowly dissipate, giving way to sunshine and warmth. Perhaps there’s a slight breeze kissing the air. And little humidity to cause discomfort. Yes, it’s a perfect day to . . .
. . . snowboard?
Yes. If you’re hanging out at Oregon’s Mt. Hood, it is.
Mt. Hood, that charismatic volcano that rises some 11,235 feet just an hour or so from downtown Portland, holds its rich snow pack year-round. That makes it the perfect spot for summertime snowsliding. And, that’s why each summer hundreds of riders (and skiers) flock here to become summer campers at the Mt. Hood Summer Camp (mthood.com) one of just a handful of North American snowsliding camps.
This year, especially, will bring a terrific summer season. "Hood will have a great summertime," says the camp’s head snowboard coach Mark Stegall, "because there’s a tremendous snow pack. Last year we had only about twenty-five percent of normal snow. This year we’re already at something like a hundred and ten percent of normal - or more."
Not Just for Experts
Okay, you’re thinking, so there’s great snow at Mt. Hood and a kid could have a terrific time at snowboard camp. But, a camper must be some kind of hot shot to make that scene, right?
The camp caters to every ability level, including rank beginners. Ten of their summer sessions offer a Learn to Snowboard Program in which the very basics are taught.
Of course, the needs of campers seeking the skills to conquer the big terrain parks are just as surely met. "Not all of our riding is freestyle, but that’s what most of our campers want to improve - their park and halfpipe riding," says Stegall. "And, all the riding we do relates to that. Even when we’re just out freeriding or on the race course, it still transfers to the terrain park and their ability there."
To learn or hone those skills Mt. Hood holds a park that progresses from five-foot mini jumps to floaty 50-plus feet. That’s an awesome array.
"The facilities are fantastic," says Stegall, who ought to know. He’s been coaching snowboarding for 10 years, and is the current and two-time USASA Legends Overall National Champion and Slopestyle Champion. "We use our own private terrain groomed just to suit the needs of our campers," he adds.
Better Coaching = Progress
Still, the best of facilities doesn’t make for a great camp experience. In the end, it’s all about the people. And, in that realm, Stegall indicates, the coaches and counselors have their priorities in order.
"We have coaches who are year-round snowboard coaches," he points out. "These are people who are doing it for the benefit of the kids, not to further themselves as pro snowboarders. That’s what sets our coaches apart. They’re dedicated pro coaches, whose chief interest is the kids’ progression."
The groups of riders are kept small to best promote personalized attention - and that goes for the snowboard race camps, as well. Video analysis, of course, is also part of the equation. That’s a daily ritual for all riders - race and park - and includes not only riding in the disciplines but freeriding, as well, since freeriding technique - strengths and weaknesses - effect specific performance. Coaches and campers review the tapes and decide what to concentrate on next.
The overall effect can be remarkable, even to those who might expect great progress anyway. "Every camper would pretty much be an individual success story, and we often see tremendous progress," explains Stegall. "Maybe the best way to put it is this: a summer session can be worth a winter season of riding."
The camp’s website emphasizes that other aspects beyond snowboarding create a complete camping experience: "We aren’t a hard core dryland camp, but instead offer some fun alternatives in the afternoons. Our choices include: whitewater rafting, rock climbing, trampoline, soccer, cliff jumping, hiking, mountain biking, volleyball, windsurfing, paintball, softball, golf-cage, unicycle, challenge course and tennis."
"This is an awesome type of summer camp experience," says Stegall. "To go snowboarding every day, and to complement that with things like skateboarding or whitewater rafting, that is awesome."
Adults are welcome, too, Stegall notes. An adults-only camp is run just before Labor Day, but adult participation is welcome at all camps. Indeed, adults are expected to accompany younger children, those under age nine. "The younger kids participate on-hill and in the other activities, but they’re expected to lodge with their parents at night," Stegall explains. Parents may join the on-snow action, or they might just want to create their own vacation in the area.
Asked what problems surface during a camp session, Stegall replies, "Sunburn and dehydration. In June and July, the sun is straight overhead, you’re at eight thousand feet, and everything around you is white! Sunburn is a major issue.
Also, we do an awful lot of hiking [in the terrain park]. So we use a lot of energy, and dehydration is a risk. Typically, it’s pretty cool in the morning, but it warms up to temperatures in the sixties on the mountain. You need to be prepared for changing conditions throughout day."
Needless to say, all campers carry backpacks with water, sun screen, eye protection (sun glasses or goggles) and spare clothes.
Mt. Hood operates camps all summer through Labor Day. So, when’s the best time to do this? Says Stegall, "The best snow conditions are in June. The best weather conditions are in July. And August is still good."
In sum? "Not every day is perfect," is Stegall’s analysis, "but summer-wise the majority of the days are the best conditions you can find for freestyle riding."
Sounds like the perfect way to enjoy the perfect summer’s day.
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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.