California's Northstar-at-Tahoe closed for the season two weeks ago, but they kept a 22-foot superpipe and an 80-foot jump in perfect condition for a Vitaminwater private team training camp that started April 24 and ends today, April 30.
As the level of skiing and snowboarding continues to rise, private park sessions are becoming more common. Top-level athletes use the private park setting to dial in increasingly more difficult tricks, tricks they often want to keep a secret from their competition, with the help of coaches and team managers.
Two Vitaminwater athletes were in attendance at the private camp at Northstar. Up-and-coming 14-year-old snowboard prodigy Kyle Mack, from West Bloomfield, Mich., made the trip to work on a couple of new tricks. Gus Kenworthy, who's been on a winning streak this season with victories at the Dumont Cup, the Jon Olsson Invitational, and back-to-back wins in slopestyle and big air at the AFP World Championships, also came to the training camp to work on a new double in the pipe and a few different tricks over the jump.
Bud Keene, a former U.S. Snowboard Freestyle coach who is Shaun White's full-time private coach, showed up to coach the two athletes at Northstar. Keene coaches three camps a year for Vitaminwater, which he says involve private set-ups, airbags, pipes, and jumps. "I enjoy the opportunity to work with super-elite athletes like Gus and Kyle," says Keene. "The amount of progression that happens is just amazing. It's really fulfilling for me."
Kenworthy agrees. "It's really nice having a coach here to help," Kenworthy said on Friday at Northstar. "Bud is definitely one of the best in the business -- he knows what he's talking about."
Last Friday, Mack and Kenworthy rode the pipe in the morning, with Mack coming close to stomping a new double. Kenworthy continued to land the alley-oop double flat 900 that he learned the day before. "I really wanted to learn an alley-oop double in the pipe," says Kenworthy. "I got that done and I'm pretty stoked on that." After sessioning the pipe early, the guys moved up the hill to the jump and took turns over the 80-footer.
Midway through his session hitting the massive jump, Kenworthy jumped off the snowmobile and ran over to check the video that Keene has been filming from the top of a 15-foot step ladder. "I just want to check the video," said Kenworthy, "and make sure I'm doing the right rotation." Six laps later and he had his new trick on lockdown.
"It's day three of camp, and Gus has already nailed his goals, decisively, and Kyle is a hair's breath away from landing a new double in the pipe," said Keene at the end of Friday. "We're in a unique position to push it even further over the next three days."