SHARPEN YOUR SNOW SKILLS
You might think ski school is just for kids, or for people just learning how to ski. Well, think again – there is a lot more to ski school than bunny hills, pizza and French fries. There are plenty of ski school programs geared towards children and for beginners of all ages, but there are also programs for adults of all abilities. Whistler Blackcomb’s Arc’teryx Women’s Ski Camp presented by Gore-Tex and Showcase Women’s Snowboard Camp presented by Oakley and Gore-Tex are two such examples. These two-day-long, women’s-only camps take place over select weekends throughout the winter. Whatever your ability level, one thing is guaranteed: You’ll walk away from camp a stronger skier or snowboarder. A self-reported assessment of your skills will help determine which group you are placed in, though attendees are welcome to switch levels throughout the weekend. Groups are relatively small, with only six pupils per coach. The weekend starts with a meeting and some pre-camp fuel. Groups then proceed up the mountain for a session of sports-appropriate warm-up stretches and exercises. Regardless of what level you’re placed in, each lesson focuses on tackling the fundamentals. After all, a rock solid foundation is the key to progression. The beauty of the women’s camps lies in the flexibility of the curriculum. Groups are able to decide the skills they’d like to focus on based on current snow conditions and personal goals. For instance, on the early spring weekend I attended the camp, my group decided to tackle the terrain park. We warmed up on some of the mountain’s best runs, skipping the lift lines with access to the snow school line, then worked on mechanics and skills before finally setting foot (er, board) in the park itself. By the time we were ready to attack our first features, I felt more confident.
Ski coach Kim Pedersen, who has coached Olympic athletes Mike Janyk and Ashleigh McIvor, agrees. “Coaching the women’s camps has been great,” she says. “The multi-day aspect of the camps gives you the time to truly acquire a new understanding or skill, and the ability to test these skills in different terrain and snow conditions.” From going over the mechanics of women-specific gear to providing tips and tricks from a physiological point of view, there is a key difference in attending a female-oriented snow school lesson. “Every individual is different,” Kelsey says, “but female riders often have challenges with their confidence, and at all levels feel hesitant to push themselves outside their comfort zone. What we offer at women’s camps is safe, step-by-step progression of skills, learning from female coaches who understand how to support you, and also know when to push you.” By definition, progression requires pushing through comfort zones and testing your boundaries. The camp cultivates a supportive, encouraging environment that provides you with the skill set needed to take it to the next level, while respecting your personal risk tolerance levels. Therefore, don’t be surprised if you surpass your own expectations. By the end of the weekend, my co-attendee, who swore she wouldn’t so much as touch a box in the park, was doing backside boardslides like a professional. to support the Howe Sound Women’s Centre. It’s the perfect way to mingle with other attendees, make new friends, and reminisce on the day’s successes and tumbles. Kelsey sums it up best: “At women’s camps, each woman will leave getting what she needed: new skills, a boost in confidence, regaining a love of the mountain, new riding buddies, and maybe even a prize at après!” To Kim, the most rewarding aspect of coaching the women’s camp is “when you see women achieve something they were not sure they could do,” adding that seeing strong friendships bond is another perk. “Women tend to evaluate how they are doing by how they ‘feel’ they are skiing – the actual feelings they are getting through their feet from the snow,” elaborates Kim. “There is a place for feeling in skiing, but you need to know when to separate feelings from the basic skills that are needed to ski down something difficult safely and effectively. I learned this from ski racing: The clock doesn’t care how you feel.” The camp’s coaches are well versed in teaching women, specifically – after all, they’re all women themselves. Kelsey Rose, head coach for the women’s snowboard camps, has been riding for two decades and is in her eighth year coaching with Whistler Blackcomb. “Working for the women’s camps is great,” she says. “Snowboarding is still a male-dominated sport and culture, so it’s fantastic to have supportive opportunities for women to keep developing their skills.”
The Arc’teryx Women’s Ski Camp and the Showcase Women’s Snowboard Camp take place throughout the 2015-’16 season for women aged 18 and over. For more information, including camp dates, visit whistlerblackcomb.com. The Saturday session wraps up with a private après at the bottom of the mountain, as well as a silent auction by the Arc’teryx Women’s Ski Camp featuring Arc’teryx products with proceeds going