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Dave Murray ski camps drop iconic name

Whistler Blackcomb introduces 'The Camp' for the 2013/14 season



It's the end of an era for the Dave Murray ski camps. But, perhaps, also a new beginning for skiers hoping to hone their skills at Whistler.

This winter the 30-year-old Dave Murray camps and the Ski Esprit camps will merge together and be called simply The Camp.

And so the name of legendary Crazy Canuck ski racer, who passed away more than 20 years ago, that has become synonymous in Whistler with going all out, taking it to the limit, living it to the fullest, has been dropped from the iconic camps.

"Things can't last forever," said Stephanie Sloan, Murray's widow. "You've got to change to make them work and keep them financially viable. You've got to adapt."

It's a calculated move from Whistler Blackcomb — one designed to entice more skiers to take part in the flagging multi-day camps. In the camps' hey day, there would be 100 people attending the three-day Dave Murray camps, more than 300 people attending the longer Ski Esprit camps.

Those numbers have been dwindling of late.

While the Dave Murray name in Whistler is synonymous with the camps guaranteed to make you a better skier, Murray's legend as an all-out ski racer may have put off the every-day skier, out to improve a little and have fun too.

"I think the name pigeon-holed the camp into something it really wasn't," said Bartosz Barczynski, general manager of the Adult Snow School at Whistler Blackcomb.

"We've taken the pillars of what made both of these programs successful individually and we've combined it."

That means the same top calibre coaches, the same private hill space to work on technical skills, the same option to extend to a fourth day.

"The Dave Murray spirit will always be there," said Barczynski. "We're trying to put it to a better use where his spirit and love to ski the whole mountain is displayed rather than scaring people away from what they potentially perceive as a camp where you're just hitting plastic the whole time.

"I hope it works because we definitely want to see the camps grow."

Brit Jason Cooke, who has been visiting Whistler religiously every year for roughly a decade, has taken the Dave Murray camps twice — the first time in 2010 on the advice of a Whistler friend, the second time because he saw what it did for his on-mountain game.

Cooke called the camps "uncompromising and tough" and worth it to see how far his skiing came.

"The Dave Murray Camp filled you with the warrior spirit and then allowed you to unleash that warrior spirit all over the mountain," said Cooke in an email from the U.K.

He'll be back in January for his annual trip and would consider doing The Camp "as long as it doesn't get watered down."

Sloan can't help but feel a little sad about the change.

Murray, the legendary Crazy Canuck ski racer started his camps on Whistler Mountain in the early eighties after retiring from the racing circuit.

His credo was to improve skiers by going through gates.

"It's the end of a really great thing," said Sloan. "But David's name is still all over the mountain. There's the Dave Murray Training Centre and there's the Dave Murray Downhill. It's not like his name is bring dropped off the map. He's still remembered."

And perhaps, she suggested, there could always be a special Dave Murray Camp on the eve of one of his other major Whistler legacies — the annual Peak to Valley race.