A former competitive ski racer turns her skiing on its head at Momentum Camps
WORDS • ERIN SPONG | PHOTOS • MEGHAN LAHATTE
Before I identified as anything else, I was a skier. The first time I watched my older brother’s junior race practice through the window of Hyland Hills’ chalet—our local ski area in Bloomington, Minnesota—I was hooked. It only took a season of leaving tiny hand and nose prints on the lodge’s bay windows for my mom to realize she was going to have to teach her wild-haired toddler how to ski. A brave woman. Not long after my third birthday, the snow began to fall and Hyland opened for the season—my first. After one lap on the bunny hill together, I ditched my struggling mother and the magic carpet for my first ride up the lift system, all on my own. By the time I was five, I was competing in the junior race league and continued bashing gates through my senior year of high school.
Twenty-three years later, skiing is still my biggest identifier. After chasing snow and a career to Denver, Colorado, I was lucky enough to land myself a gig at FREESKIER. While attending Outdoor Retailer this past January, making my rounds and learning about the latest and greatest innovations in ski gear, I took a seat at the Liberty Skis booth where team manager Colin Sutherland introduced me to a man named John Smart.
After a few minutes of friendly banter, Smart told me about the camp he owns and operates with his wife in Whistler, British Columbia: Momentum Camps. Focused entirely on freestyle skiing, Momentum Camps has operated on the Blackcomb Glacier since 1992, offering campers, from freestyle up-and-comers and national team athletes to adult-aged amateurs, a unique, high-quality learning experience in moguls and the terrain park. Bonus: all of this taught by some of the best freeskiers in the sport.
Joking, I commented on how funny it would be to put an ex-ski racer like myself in the park. To my surprise, Smart responded that “We have an adult-specific week for anyone over the age of 19, you should come!” Plans were solidified in the following days. I was going to summer camp. That was fast.
Having spent nine summers at ski racing camps in both Mt. Hood, Oregon, and on the opposite side of the glacier in Whistler, I pondered, “Besides the style of skiing, how different would this camp really be?”
The skiing options in Minnesota were limited, so it wasn’t until I moved my life west that I realized big-mountain skiing was even an option. Season after season I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone in a constant pursuit to be a better skier. While my intention was never to become a rail-greaser or the next big-air champion, I had a lot to gain from spending a week in the park with Momentum’s legendary coaching staff.
On my first ride up the “cool kids T-bar”—what I called it as a ski racing camper—scanning the various sized jumps and rails that kinked and curved in all directions, the growing lump in my throat reminded me how unique a challenge this would be. From my first lap on day one with film star and camp coach Sandy Boville, I understood Momentum’s biggest differentiator is its coaching staff. I was fortunate enough to have Boville, X Games competitor Noah Morrison, former Olympian Matt Margetts and former FREESKIER cover athlete Max Morello as my coaches throughout the week.
On my first day, with zero experience in the terrain park, I was placed in the beginner group with Boville as my coach. Not only an incredible freeskier, but teacher as well, the Line Skis athlete took my group of park novices, step by step, through the approach of popping off of a jump and sliding sideways on a two-foot-wide box dubbed “the dancefloor.” By the end of the day—not without my fair share of crashes and burns—I secured my Japan grab, polished my switch landing and progressed to hitting narrower boxes. On day two, covered in bruises but riding an addicting high from the previous day’s successes, I had Noah Morrison as my guide. By lunch I had my 180s and box sliding dialed, but before I tried busting out a 360 on snow, Morrison took me to the gigantic airbag to safely get a feel for the rotational maneuver. After three jumps on the bag I was ready to take my objective to the five-foot jump I had been working on with Boville the day before. On the very last lap of the day, I stomped my very first 360.
By the third day, my body was riddled with bumps, scrapes and midnight-blue contusions, but each and every one was worth it. Matt Margetts, sporting swim trunks and a barely-there, unbuttoned shirt, was my coach for the day, and after hearing about my successes, he wasted no time in challenging me. After landing several 360s, Margetts sent me over to the airbag to go bigger. A successful 360 and 540 later, Margetts and I locked eyes and mutually decided it was time to crank up the send meter. It was backflip time. As soon as my feet left the takeoff, I extended my hips and started the inversion, taking my eyes from the bag to the sky and back around. Landing on my butt and hearing the screams from the audience below, I realized I just successfully attempted my first backflip. Adrenaline, boosted.
After a much-needed rest day, I clicked back into my skis for day four with Max Morello as my coach. Morello had been keeping tabs on my progress over the first three days and knew exactly what my goal for today was. One, two, three, four backflips on the airbag later, Morello, Margetts and Boville all agreed it was time I take it to the snow. I—along with my cheer squad—headed to the top of Momentum’s lane and one of the mogul jumps for my first-ever on-snow attempt. After a few practice jumps, gauging how much speed and airtime I would need to avoid digging my tips or slapping my back, I had Morello to my right, Margetts to my left and Boville behind me, all telling me I could do it. I had an insane amount of positive energy coming my way—these guys would never let me try something I wasn’t ready for. So I calmed my nerves, took a deep breath and went for it. Using my hips to initiate the pop and my arms to start the inversion, I watched as my skis rotated over my head and back around to the snow. Above my own screaming I could hear my coaches and fellow campers hootin’ and hollerin’ from the top of the jump; I actually landed my first f#cking backflip! For the last two days of camp I continued to improve my backflips, ending the week on a perfect seven-for-seven streak.
If it weren’t for the superior coaching staff, their genuine interest in making me a better skier and that wild-haired attitude I’ve held onto since my days as a grom, this wouldn’t be the success story featured in this magazine. Between Boville’s ability to break down the basics, Morrison’s infectious good attitude, Morello’s unwavering calm demeanor and Margetts’ no-bullshit, no-fear approach, I was able to accomplish more than I could have ever imagined in six days on snow. I didn’t just land a backflip, I left with the nickname “Backflip Queen.” I’m not only more confident in the air, but I’ve also got a whole new bag of tricks to keep the fire inside of me stoked for seasons to come. Of all the summer ski camps I’ve gone to, Momentum Camps was the best damn experience of my entire life.