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Short summer for Camp of Champions

Owner excited for snowmaking pilot project



Summer was short but sweet on the Horstman Glacier for Camp of Champions.

The glacier was open for summer skiing for just over a month, from June 20 to July 26 whereas in previous years it could remain open into August.

But camp organizers hope a temporary hit this summer will lead to more prosperity in future summers.

In June, Whistler Blackcomb announced plans to kick off a snowmaking pilot project this winter in an attempt to preserve the glacier. The project will involve four low-energy snowmaking guns to help the company determine if a larger-scale effort is needed in future years.

Camp of Champions owner Ken Achenbach said while the camp strives to improve each year, it would be glad to get a boost from improved conditions.

"Next year is going to be unbelievable because now we've got snowmaking coming in on the glacier," Achenbach said. "The snow issue shouldn't be an issue.

"It's such a game-changer. It's going to be incredible comparing what we're going to be able to get now in Whistler compared to what you can get at Mount Hood (the Oregon resort, which is the only other summer-skiing site in North America)."

Achenbach explained the shorter season this summer naturally led to a drop in overall attendance, but the time the students did get in was worthwhile.

"It was an amazing summer," he said. "What we did with the kids in camp was amazing."

On the skiing side of the equation, head coach Joe Schuster led the way while Nick Marshall served as the snowboarding head coach. Achenbach explained the camp generally works with people with whom it's familiar, and the coaches have usually made strides within the camp before. Some of the veterans have been with the camp for a decade, he noted.

"Most of our staffers started out as campers with us," he said. "That's always nice continuity for the coach and for the kids that are coming. They know when they see the pros that... they can do it, too.

"It's a really good mix between the rock stars and the up-and-coming pros that you might not have heard of before the camp. It'll be pretty neat to watch them."

Achenbach explained how those who attend the camp often end up with an interest in one another's career. And though it's often the campers who make the next big step, sometimes it's the coach who makes progressions. Achenbach noted former instructor Skogen Sprang, who was hired as the American national freestyle skiing coach in 2012, was named as the United States Olympic Committee's coach of the year on July 30.

"It's both sides of the coin, it's neat for the camper to see the coach grow up, and for the coach to see the camper grow up," he said. "It's really neat to see the progression that everybody gets, not just the kids."


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