Summertime, and the Skiin' Ain't Easy
How summer ski camps have come to define the progression of the sportby Jordan Judd and Josh Rhea
The high-pitched whir of a 16mm camera intrudes on a mountain draped with a
thick coating of new snow, and Skogen Sprang calls out his countdown to the
in-run. Deep in the backcountry, he airs off the lip of a 30-foot cliff spine,
and as if it were nothing more than another turn, gracefully arches back, spinning
into a perfect Rodeo 540. He lands switch (backwards) in an explosion of untracked
fluff, and rides it out clean. The camera clicks off, and the film crew affirms
they nailed it.
Line Skis team member Skogen Sprang lines up another perfect backcountry drop. Photo: Matt Levinthal
Forget the Olympics—this is the dream of skiing’s youth. From the frigid flatlands of Minnesota to the big mountain mecca of California, kids are teeing off in terrain parks and the backcountry alike, progressing the sport beyond any preconceived limits. The dream of being paid to ski drives many. More do it just for fun. And like the Olympics, shooting to become a sponsored freeskier requires dedication and training, even in the summer.
Pro skier Tanner Hall showing the groms how it's done at Windells Camp at Mt. Hood, Oregon.
Which is why, every year after most resorts close, Skogen Sprang dedicates his time and energy to training the hordes of young skiers that descend on the long-lasting glaciers of the Northwest—mountains like Mt. Hood, Oregon; Red Lodge, Montana; and Whistler Blackcomb, British Columbia. Pro skiers like Skogen coach and watch these kids as they herald in the future of their sport.
Skogen Sprang Interview
Here are his words on how summer camps are defining the way we do—and will—ski. Interview by Jordan Judd, Product and Team Manager for Line Skis:
Skogen. Photo: Matt Levinthal
JJ: How has the summer camp scene influenced skiing?
SS: Helped all the pros progress in the off-season. They have helped the speed of progression level over the summer.
JJ: How has the summer camp scene changed over the past few years?
SS: There are more and more kids coming each year for skiing. Kids aren’t going to mogul camps and race camps, but are coming to freeride camps. In addition, the terrain has improved with better jumps and rails.
From park to backcountry: twin-tipped skis like the Line Mothership allow kids to learn tricks in the controlled environment of a terrain park, then take their skills to the wild terrain of cliffs, windlips, and backcountry powder.
JJ: As a coach, how are the campers different today than in the past?
SS: The kids are better then they’ve ever been. There’s a lot of young kids like 14 and 15 that are throwing crazy tricks. Kids are also way more into what they’re doing. Also, we used to only be guest coaches, but we really wouldn’t coach. It would just be mostly pros and a few kids where now there are a lot more kids coming to camp, so we do a lot of actual coaching.
JJ: Are the camps a constructive environment for learning?
SS: Definitely. There are a lot of campers at the same level so they push each other. The conditions are usually soft and sunny, so people are excited to learn and they won’t get hurt like they would in an icy park. In addition, after you finish skiing for the day you have the option to go wakeboarding, skateboarding, play basketball, ride bmx, so the kids have lots of choices and they never run out of things to do so the motivation and fun level stays high.
The sun is at its most intense on snow in the summer. Good eye protection, vented pants, and long-sleeved shirts are a must!
JJ: As a coach, how do you try to influence kids?
SS: I want kids to learn and I want them to learn as much as they can, but I want them to of course be safe. I try to look at their current style and ability and try to give them a lot of feedback so they have goals and things to work on for the whole year, not just while they’re at camp. I want them to believe they can do it, and give them tons of positive reinforcement.
JJ: Where do you see the camps going in the future?
SS: Bigger and better. More kids, better terrain, better off hill activity.
JJ: Since the summer camps focus primarily on park skiing, how do you
rebut the argument that park skiing is not real skiing?
SS: Any skiing is better than no skiing, but park skiing can be really good training for the rest of the hill. It provides good balance and terrain awareness. We try to give the campers an overall view of the sport. We try to make sure they ski well between the jumps, not just their tricks. We place a lot of emphasis on all around performance. We do a lot of regular skiing outside of taking laps through the park. A lot of our campers come from the Midwest and the East coast where they don’t have access to Alaskan peaks or bottomless powder, but everyone’s stoked to ride the summer slush in the sun.
JJ: Why has this style of skiing (new school) become so popular?
SS: The kids are having more fun and they have more freedom. Instead of being a regiment of training when they finish skiing they get to have fun. Even when they get home, this style of skiing provides them the freedom to do whatever they want to do whether it be slide a rail or jump off a cliff.
The newschool skiing movement has spawned new lines of casual wear. Siver Cartel makes everything from button-down shirts to jeans like the CDP (R), and Line Skis produces the ever-popular I am a Skier t-shirt (L).
JJ: For long-term growth of the sport, what factors do you consider
important, and how do the summer camps fit in?
SS: Getting kids involved and having them be stoked on skiing instead of something else. The more kids that get involved will be future skiers instead of something else and the summer camps let them enjoy the stoke year round and progress their skills.
Top Summer Ski Camps
Summer camps run from May through early August each summer. Check out some
of the best: