There’s a definite, positive trend in the number of snowboard camps out there. There are more companies offering snowboard tuition to campers – usually wrapped up in some kind of week-long package. A typical camp might include your accommodation, maybe some travel help, obviously the coaching, perhaps some video feedback, and there’s a lot of focus on freestyle. Groups of snowboarders staying together, riding together, learning new stuff and having fun.
This season, Whitelines magazine is running a monthly feature – their “Snow Camp Guide”. It’s further evidence of the increased interest in snowboard camps. They’ve featured programs from all around the world, resorts like Whistler, Laax and Les Deux Alpes, as well as camps with their roots set firmly in the UK with a presence on our indoor snow slopes like www.thesnowcentre.com
You might think that it’s only natural given the increasing popularity of snowboarding as a whole – either way – there’s more emphasis on snowboard coaching. We’ve got more instructors and more camps…
But are these camps any good?
I’ve been on two snowboard camps – both with the same company, Demonium Camps. The first course, 6 days on the Diablerets glacier in Switzerland, back in November 2004, was excellent. The second course, 6 days on the Zermatt glacier the following summer, was poor.
With the first course, everything was organised well, but more importantly, the coaching was excellent. The week I’d chosen was the last week for the camp and it turned out I was the only guy on it. I had one-to-one tuition for a full week. Pretty awesome. That was the first time I’d considered ‘freestyle’ – so on one hand it developed a great platform for me to progress with – but on the other, it was a shame that I wasn’t good enough to benefit from that much coaching.
The second course was also unusual. The Diablerets glacier was closed due to problems with the lift company. As a consequence, Demonium Camps moved their summer camp to a temporary location – Zermatt. Unfortunately, we got a temporary coach and some temporary accommodation – both of which were lame. The park was still good, I had a lot of fun, but the ‘camp’ side of things was essentially a no show.
The strength of a camp is based on bunch of different factors – quality of coaching, the park, camp setup and organisation, even the group, to name a few. Naturally, this is going to vary from company to company. There’ll be some awesome camps and some average camps. Even some poor ones.
Compared with the majority of camps these days, neither of my experiences were typical. However, the quality of coaching in Diablerets was excellent, and the experience was positive enough for me to be attracted to the idea of being in the camp/coaching environment, for a week-long period. There are still some other factors to consider, but in general, I’d recommend it.
I’ve also got friends who have joined snowboard camps, more recently, in Morzine. Different camps, one was girls-only, but both friends had positive experiences and a lot of fun. With an increase in the number of camps, there’s more competition, which is typically good for the customer. It’s also pretty easy to find evidence on the Internet. Asking around in a snowboard forum is a good place to start. People like Snowboard Addiction run camps as well, and going by the quality of their video instruction, their camps must be good.
If you take a little bit of time to look, you’ll find a lot of very good, snowboard camps.
Why are people attracted to camps?
OK, so you might have found a good camp, but you need to consider whether or not a camp is something that you want – over your regular snowboard trip. Why are people attracted to camps?
Tuition. It’s probably the key element. Many snowboarders want to get better and a lot of them may feel like they could do with some help. That’s were the snowboard instructor comes in. A camp will provide continual instruction, targeted specifically at snowboarders and most likely specialising in freestyle. You’ve got the time to build a relationship with your coach and tackle of bunch of different things.
You could quite easily argue that you don’t need that. Maybe you’re not too fussed about ‘getting better’, or perhaps you’re progressing at a rate that you’re happy with. It could be that a full week seems like too much. Nothing wrong with any of that, nothing at all.
A ‘group’. Snowboarding is fun. Snowboarding with friends is even more fun. Getting together with a group of like-minded people, with similar goals, can make your snowboard trip awesome – and that’s one of the things that a camp can provide.
For some people, it’s just the fun element that they want, for others, there’s the support factor too. Learning new things and trying new tricks can be a challenge sometime, and having the support of others around can be just the thing you need to achieve something new. Many camps work hard to provide a fun, friendly and positive environment for you to snowboard in – so this can be a big plus.
Again, you might regularly snowboard with a group of mates – 4 people, 6, 8? And as a unit, you may be pushing each other, bouncing off stuff that the others are doing, you might not need some other group. Nothing wrong with that either.
Something different. Variety is the spice of life, right? Camps are supposed to be fun, they’re popular, the organisers seem to put a lot of effort in… many people just want to give it a try – it’s something different.
Snowboard camps are, like anything, more suited to some people than others. It’s clear that a lot of people have a lot of fun doing them. If you’re interested in the idea but not quite sure, what’s the worst that can happen? Just give it a try.
Summer snowboarding on glaciers is like a breeding ground for freestyle camps – take a look at this article: Why You Should Snowboard On A Glacier During The Summer.