Over 8 million kids attend summer camp each year across America. While most camp experiences are highlighted by mosquito bites, macramé and smoky campfire sing-alongs, some kids get away with a more exciting alternative: ski camp. Ski camp is the perfect way to break up the summer doldrums, hone your tricks and unlock a few new ones under the tutelage of the best in the business.
We at ESPN have laid out a travel guide to the finest ski camps around complete with expert advice from Tom Wallisch and others in the know. All you have to do is figure out who you are and what you want from your summer camp experience.
You: The preteen looking to fine-tune your 540, or 1080.
The camp for you: Windell's in Mount Hood, Ore.
What you'll get out of it: Ski, skate, trampoline, bed, repeat. Staying at campus nestled in the trees just outside of Welches, Ore. (population 1,700), Windell's campers have little else to do but freestyle on everything imaginable from dawn to dusk.
Windell's highlights: The weather. Coach Tom Wallisch says, "I've had summers at Mt. Hood where it stayed sunny and warm every single day for months." On the hill, Windell's boasts the largest, most comprehensive terrain park open to skiers on Mt. Hood. Lane features include everything from small stuff for kids who are just learning to jib to big jumps that more experienced campers can session alongside pros such as Wallisch, Mike Hornbeck, Ashley Battersby and Dania Assaly. The lane also has two airbags, one with a kicker takeoff and one with a halfpipe takeoff. Off-hill, acres of wooden and concrete skate features blanket the Windell's compound along with a dry slope facility that was installed last year for those who just can't put the skis away.
You: The discerning park skier with the equal-opportunity crew.
The camp for you: Camp of Champions in Whistler, BC.
What you'll get out of it: Shredding a world-class terrain park with all your friends who ski and snowboard. "We have skiers and snowboarders integrated in our park environment," says head coach Matt Sterbenz. "It becomes a true summer camp experience because campers are able to attend with a larger group of friends when there's no barrier between ski and snow."
Camp of Champs highlights: With a large, contiguous lane scattered with every imaginable park feature and an even mix of skiers and snowboarders, Camp of Champions is about as close as you can get to a winter terrain park in the summer. "If it was here in the winter, it would be the best terrain park in North America," says Sterbenz. The camp contracts Arena Snowparks to manicure the lane daily using private grooming equipment. Off the snow, campers skate, mountain bike or practice new tricks on The Launcher, a dryslope airbag jump aided by a mechanical propulsion system designed by freeskiers Adam and Luke Schrab.
You: The ordinary skier in search of endless winter.
The camp for you: SGT Argentina in Cerro Catedral.
What you'll get out of it: Powder. While the slushy patches of North America are getting trampled by hikers of handrails, you'll be having a white Ferragosto as you enjoy the height of the Argentinean ski season.
SGT highlights: "We don't sleep in bunk beds," says Managing Director Travis Moore, "we don't roll like that." Compared with the dormitories and mess halls of summer camp, SGT's amenities are posh. Clients, yes, clients, stay in a slopeside hotel with cable, a hot tub and heated pool. One hundred yards away from the front door, clients board the lift for guided skiing at Cerro Catedral. With about 3,800 feet of vertical and 3,000 skiable acres, Catedral is the largest ski area in South America. It's a ski vacation in August. Or as SGT Argentina coach/guide Michelle Parker puts it, "This is the ultimate summer camp experience."
You: Young adult who wants a taste of the scene.
The camp for you: Momentum in Whistler, BC.
What you'll get out of it: Momentum's coaching staff is chock full of the skiers you read about in magazines and watch on TV. Go here to get help on your switch 10 from TJ Schiller or tips on your alley-oop flat 7 from Justin Dorey.
Momentum highlights: Momentum doesn't exactly have its own T-bar, but thanks to its location on the glacier, neighboring mostly race camps, it often seems like it does. Coach Tom Wallisch tells us, "Most of the lanes next to Momentum belong to race camps and they're usually wrapping up by 10 or 11 a.m. Once they leave, you're just hot-lapping all day." For aspiring ski photographers, Momentum is unveiling a new photog-specific camp during its third session, July 6-14. Starting this year, Momentum is awarding a new scholarship to the female skier who embodies the spirit of the late Sarah Burke, a longtime Momentum coach.