Our Camp: Defining your snowboard progression
Thursday 20th February, 2014
Last week we joined Gilly Seagrave, Ben Kinnear and the Ride&Slide crew in Morzine-Avoriaz to find out what keeps bringing riders back to Our Camp, year on year.
Words – Kaz Willmer
There was this moment I was standing at the top of this face of powder pillows. To the pro backcountry rider, this would be a blank canvas, awaiting their lines. To me, I didn't know where to start. The snow looked sweet – glistening in the hazy sunshine – while the rocks underneath reminded me these weren't beautifully soft marshmallows, but potential mini-cliffs with an unknown abyss the other side. To jump, or not to jump?
“Kaz, take your line to the left of the two trees. There's nothing but soft powder the other side,” shouted Ben from below. If I lingered any more, I'd talk myself out of it, so took Ben's advice, and took the path over the glistening powder pillow winking in the sun. It was like a smooth powder sensation, a flicker of air time, and a cruising ride out, adrenaline pounding through my body. It may have been a mere rock-pop, but I had the widest grin, and was giggling like a schoolgirl.
That same immense feeling of uncontrollable snow happiness soon came back after my first jumps in the Avoriaz pipe, and my first stall on the wall ride. If I'd been out riding with my buddies, these incredible experiences probably wouldn't have happened as I'd have talked myself out of it. Or maybe the powder pillow would've been a hidden cliff-drop-to-rock-hell. Either way, without the support of Gilly Seagrave and Ben Kinnear on Our Camp, it is unlikely I'd have pushed my riding anywhere near the level I did last week. And for that, I can't thank Gilly or Ben enough.
“I really like the tone that is set on the week”, said Ben. “It's a really relaxed and fun atmosphere, where the campers all choose what they want to do any given day, and there is no strict plan. Last week, on our way to the park, we came across some really good unridden terrain, and ended up there all day lapping that! That said, when somebody is ready to try something out, we are always there to help out. It's a very natural feel to the way the camp runs, so that we get the best out of everyone.”
Ben's background is in professional snowboard coaching, meaning we were lucky enough to have one of the UK's top coaches to offer a high standard of technical tuition, alongside that of former slopestyle champion Gilly Seagrave, the brainchild behind the camps. The concept of Our Camps was set up in Morzine by Gilly along with other well-known industry faces - Jenny Jones, Sonia Shaw, Emma Rogers and Kathryn Gendle.
“My main focus on camp is to show how freestyle isn't about 'guts and glory' but also about technique,” said Gilly. “Almost every trick that you want to learn can be learned one step at a time, usually on piste within your comfort zone so that you feel confident once you take it to a park feature.”
“We take time to get a good feel for everyone's ability and their ambitions before trying to create an environment where that will happen,” Ben added. “Technical information is there when it's needed, but we carefully consider many other aspects are in place that we know have a large effect on people's learning.”
No matter what you want to learn, Our Camps provide that canvas for you to push your riding in the direction you want it to go, alongside others who want to do just the same thing – and no matter whether you're learning your first boardslide or pushing yourselves on the black kickers, everyone supports each other and encourages each other to do their best – celebrating every achievement, no matter how big.
To top it off, since Our Camps began, they've been based in the incredible hands of Jon and Lisa Dodd at Ride and Slide. This week we were in Chalet Madosa, and what makes the Ride&Slide chalets not only so special, but the perfect base for the week, was that they offer everything you need for the week, and more.
After a full day's riding, pushing yourself on challenging terrain, and riding from first to last lift, your body aches, and you come off the mountain with inexplicable bumps and bruises. With Chalet Madosa to come home to every day, you have everything you need to get fully recovered for the next day. Hot tub and sauna, a games room, and a super comfortable lounge area (complete with Wii!) come as standard, not to mention the robes and slippers, heated towel rails, and a team of chalet hosts who look after you from morning to night.
What's more, you're fed a full three-course beautiful spread with unlimited wine at dinner, then a massive breakfast with hot option to start the day, with even a freshly baked cake awaiting your arrival off the slopes.
Ride & Slide provide these services as standard in their chalets throughout the season, evident through their much-deserved industry award last year, but we felt even more lucky to be with them this week as we couldn't have asked for more to keep us fuelled and relaxed all week long, not to mention their ridiculously high level of service.
On top of this, Gilly also ran yoga sessions on alternate nights to video analysis, so we'd get some good quality stretching in, as well as technical breakdowns from Gilly and Ben about our riding throughout the day, in order to be able to see where we need to tweak our riding to get that progression. Most also found that last bit of energy before bed for the Wii-dance-off challenges (another trait our Olympian Jenny Jones is particularly talented at on camp!), but what adds to the incredible atmosphere of the week is that everyone is similar-minded, and out to progress their riding. No matter who they are, their backgrounds, age, sex, riding history, or where they're from, everyone shared the same passion for the snow, and so to spend evenings listening to stories from other campers, and sharing highlights from the day's riding, just added to how special this week was for all of us. The Vans goodie bags were just the cherry on the top of an already awesomely iced cake!
With another camp coming up at the end of March (get booked on – March 29th 2014!), there's no doubt that anyone who wants to spend a week progressing their riding under some high level tuition, with a group of like-minded people, this is the week for you. Riders come back year-on-year to Our Camp, because it offers the perfect combination of training, riding, coaching and accommodation, to give you an incredible week's riding with old and new friends.
Jon from Ride & Slide summed the camp up perfectly: “The level of improvement seen across a typical camp week can go from people having a go at their first Ollie through to people landing their first 5’s – it doesn’t matter what the achievement is, seeing how amped people get on improving their riding is what really makes hosting OurCamp a pleasure.”
For more information on Our Camps, head along to OurCamp.co.uk or get in touch with email@example.com for more details. Until then, we thought it would be best to leave you with the words of Gilly Seagrave and Ride & Slide's Jon Dodd to give you their insight into the camps.
Kaz: What made you develop Our Camps?
Gilly: The Our Camp idea was formulated around a kitchen table in Morzine, we were living and riding as a house of girls for winter, me, Emma Rogers, Jenny Jones, Sonia Shaw and Kathryn Gendle, we decided we wanted to create a camp for girls, something we'd have loved to go on when we first started getting interested in the park, something that involved the way we were riding and pushing ourselves at the time. It felt like a unique and special thing that was infectious to anyone that rode with us for a day, people were so stoked after a day on 'boot camp' as we called it back then, we seemed to be able to bring peoples stoke back when they'd been riding all winter and lost a bit of the love, it wasn't just girls that loved the way we were riding but we were very conscious that the park was daunting to girls, boys already had the upper hand by being the majority so we decided to concentrate on giving back to the girls scene at first.
Kaz: What is the aim behind the camps?
Gilly: My main focus on camp is to show how freestyle isn't about 'guts and glory' but also about technique and almost every trick that you want to learn can be learned one step at a time, usually on piste within your comfort zone so that you feel confident once you take it to a park feature.
I loved the years I spent riding with the girls and pushing each other to do things we might not land off piste ridges or moguls, we would get to a hit and one of us would shout a trick we all had to try, usually something we weren't comfortable with, but we would all do it because it was hilarious to try harder stuff with a crew watching and ready to have hysterics when you landed on your face. You don't tend to put yourself out there and try things like switch methods if you don't have a crew that know how hard they are, you usually look like a complete beginner, but you have to start somewhere and once you have those on the kickers in the park it pretty much trumps everyone else's trick! ; ) hehe
Kaz: What were your highlights of last week's camp?
Gilly: Highlights… it was a brilliant week, there's quite a few, Mother Nature was super kind to us and gave us one and a half powder days, I still can't believe how great that was, we showed the campers a pretty much secret spot that was only tracked by us all day, I don't think you could pay for a day like that anywhere else in the world without a helicopter! Hehe
Another highlight was the 2 guys that had come from Dubai, their enthusiasm for the mountains made me so happy, showing them how beautiful and massive the alps are was a great feeling. Also, Saber was the most fast progressing snowboarder I think I've met in my life! 2 lessons in a dome and he would follow me wherever I went off every jump and side hit on the piste, hehe.
Kaz: What has been your all time Our Camp highlight?
Gilly: We met Frank Bruno on one of our UK camp dates a few years ago, hehe, absolutely the all time high!!!!
The other high is when Jenn comes on camp week, I really think that's something special, people get to know how bloody lovely she is and camp feels a lot more like the old days of our winters together, the group dynamic is great. Campers have had a week on holiday getting to know her in a truly genuine way and now they'll be watching her kill it at the Olympics, that's something else you can't buy.
Kaz: What is it you think brings riders to keep coming back on the camps?
Gilly: All of the above, we offer something that you can't get anywhere else, we are all together all day and live together in a rad chalet, the camaraderie that comes as a result of that is a very unique and real experience.
Kaz: Why did you choose Ride & Slide as your base?
Gilly: They've supported us since the beginning of Our Camp.
Kaz: What makes Morzine such a good location for the camps?
Gilly: The hill is perfect for camps with parks of all shapes and sizes, a pipe and even a baby pipe this year for confidence building. Also, if I need something built for the campers I know I can just ask the parkies, they'll help all they can (one year they built 2 green jumps in the big park for us when the baby park had closed because the snow was too slushy in the late season). The set up we have with Ride and Slide also makes it easier for us to afford running the camps even though I no longer live out in the Alps all winter.
Kaz: Why do you enjoy running the camps?
Gilly: The campers, it's a week taken out of my own riding, but it's well worth the feeling of having given campers such a great experience.
Kaz: What kind of people do you think are attracted to the camps?
Gilly: All sorts, it's such a rad mix of people, there's no 'stereotypical camper' at all, it's a melting pot for sure, just the way I love it : )
Kaz: What do you enjoy most about snowboarding?
Gilly: The freedom to fly around and feel the weightlessness of jumps, I love being up in the air and tweaking out a grab or grabbing a nice spin, it's so satisfying, feeling stylish is so hard on a skate board and I really appreciate all of the time I've had on a snowboard that allows me to do some things even with an injury. Landing a few tweaked jumps feels the best : ) I can't let myself go off the big jumps until my heel is fixed properly but I'm trying to appreciate the little things too.
Kaz: What are you most looking forward to about Sochi?
Gilly: Jenny. Hehe, Aimee, Billy and the others too, but Jenny getting there is so rad, she deserves this, she carved that path alone with blood sweat and tears, now she deserves to sit back and look at what she's made possible for everyone else, absolute pioneer that girl.
Kaz: How long have you hosted Our Camp for and how did you get involved with Gilly?
Jon: We’ve been hosting OurCamps for the last 8 years! Lisa met Gilly, Emma, & Sonia in La Chapelle park in one of our early seasons and got talking about how to get more girls in to their park riding – it seemed like a natural match to have the talent of Our Camp partnered up with our chalets to offer the camps from.
Kaz: Why do you enjoy hosting Our Camps?
Jon: I think the main reason is to see how stoked people can get by improving their riding. The level of improvement seen across a typical camp week can go from people having a go at their first Ollie through to people landing their first 5’s – it doesn’t matter what the achievement is, seeing how amped people get on improving their riding is what really makes hosting OurCamp a pleasure. That and the fact that they’re good fun!
Kaz: Why do you think your Morzine base and chalet setup works so well for the camps?
Jon: Morzine / Avoriaz as a base gives you access to some of the best terrain possible for the camps – there’s so many parks for all ability levels combined with some amazing feature packed natural terrain. There’s also some real easy access sweet spots that we take the camp into when the snow conditions allow – it means riders on the camp can ride untouched powder whilst still keeping freestyle involved. For the chalets we aim to have all bases covered for you – super comfortable chalets, hot-tubs, saunas, loads of space for yoga/stretching, amazing food and plenty of it, and everything else that goes to making a Ride & Slide holiday that bit more special than all the rest. We were one of the winners of the Best Specialist Tour Operator at the World Snow Awards 2013 based on the levels of service we provide at the chalets.
Kaz: Why do you think the format of Our Camp is so successful, bringing riders back year on year?
Jon: I think it's a combination of factors – the quality of the coaching, the quality of the chalets & food, the quality of the area, and the huge amount of fun that the campers have! We’ve seen so many repeat campers over the years, most go on to become good friends with other campers. Some then drop out of riding the camps each year and start going away as their own little crews – if by offering the camps we’ve created new riding buddies than that’s just one more thing to be stoked for!
Kaz: Any highlights from this week, or past Our Camps?
Jon: It’s got to be the Wii dance-offs... More seriously, high-lights for us are always chatting to the campers at the end of the week to find out how they thought it all went and to see if they got what they wanted from the week. The overwhelming response is always that they get so much more out of the camp than they had ever hoped for and as long as that keeps happening, we’ll keep running them!
Special thanks go to the awesome Gilly Seagrave & Ben Kinnear as well as our sponsors VANS – producers of the most amazing snow kit and excellent goodie bags!
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