Dispatches from the Horstman Glacier: Part 1

Dispatches from the Horstman Glacier: Part 1

In the following series, I’ll be blogging pictures and stories from the three major freestyle summer ski camps at Whistler: Camp of Champions, Momentum, and High North.

Summer camp in Whistler takes the typical mosquito-ridden summer in the woods to a level seen nowhere else. Your options are tremendous and your playground enormous. Your cabin is a four star hotel suite, your baseball field a private terrain park designed by the world’s best, and your evening meal of mystery meat and mashed potatoes is a wooden boat bearing sushi and a pile of pasty green stuff your friends will swear is a rare Japanese ice cream you just have to try. It’s all here, summer camp in the heart of British Columbia.

I start at the Camp of Champions, meeting camp owner Ken Achenbach on the first day of the session, attending to a busy line of teenagers, flat-brims and bandanas abound, waiting to have their ID pictures taken. Yup, ID pictures. To keep their eight-lane highway of jumps and rails fresh and exclusive, COC employs a strict team of bouncers to keep poachers out. As I look around the “lounge,� a converted conference center at the Aspens hotel, I see a handful of coaches watching Long Story Short on an 80-inch plasma and a cluster of kids playing with Photobooth in the labyrinth of iMacs. Oh, the options.

Breakfast Monday morning is just as busy, as the coaches try to locate the one kid who rode too hard the day before to wake up on time (Ken holds a firm “no-ticket-after-8:30� rule). It’s Dance-Move-Monday, and I’ve seen more variations of the robot than I ever thought existed. Whistler isn’t above a little humiliation in the morning; sure beats finding your underwear flying atop a sixty-foot flag pole.

Oh yeah, the reason you came to ski camp: the park is ridiculous. A ninety-two foot step-up, forty-foot up boxes, a twelve-foot telephone pole jib, and a pipe you’d think was cut just for you. The size is intimidating for some; Camp of Champs hosts some two-hundred campers weekly! On any given blue-bird day, you can find at least a dozen photographers and filmers, with the credentials, massive sponsor branding and angling for shots, you’d think you were at the X-Games. But however crazy it seems to the eye, the vibe is still mellow; 80s music can be heard blasting from a box of speakers on top of the park and there’s always something happening.

The coaching is top-notch across the glacier, but each camp does things differently. At COC, you’re assigned a coach for the entire week, but you’re free to ride with your friends or other coaches. If Luke van Valin’s hair smells weird, maybe Steele Spence can help you dial that cork-seven. They’re all here to teach you, in the middle of the summer, on top of the biggest ski resort in North America.

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