It wasn't long ago that Joss Christensen and Nick Goepper were in ski camps, receiving instruction from their idols.
The slopestyle skiers have since gone on to great success, winning the gold and bronze medals, respectively, at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Christensen, by his own admission, wasn't on track to glory when he attended Momentum Ski Camps five years earlier, but gained plenty of confidence during his time in Whistler.
"I was super young, and it was super cool because back then I wasn't that good," he recalled. "A lot of the coaches were super respectful to me and would remember my name. I saw them later on at the season's events. It's crazy to think that as a camper I didn't think I'd be coaching these kids."
This summer, Christensen and fellow American Goepper are helping to headline a class of instructors at Momentum. Among the other instructors are Olympic medallists Kim Lamarre, Mike Riddle and Mikael Kingsbury and World Cup medallists Phil Marquis and Audrey Robichaud.
Christensen is returning to the camp, making his full-time debut last year after a limited role the previous two years, and helped recruit Goepper — making his coaching debut — for this go-around.
Christensen, 23, who resides in Park City, Utah, said the effect he and the others have on the campers is palpable. As each group of skiers spends each day of the camp with a different pro, they collect little bits of advice from each and are able to put it all together to advance their tricks. But Christensen said he regularly sees stark advancements in ability from the start of the day to the end of it.
"This is the one place where the kids will really listen to us and really look up to us and I think that means a lot," he said. "At this point in our careers, we need to be setting a good example and it's part of the job, too. It's really cool, because they really do respect us and we actually do have such a good impact on these kids.
"When I was young, I wanted the pros to hang out with me and give me some pointers, so to give back, it feels good."
Christensen explained taking on a teaching role has provided a benefit for his own skiing — by breaking down the tricks, he's able to focus on his own fundamentals while reloading for the next season. He recalled learning the tricks in his backyard as a youngster, kneeing himself in the face and busting goggles all the while.
"All my problems are the main things I tell these kids not to do," he said. "When they're learning their first cork seven, it always helps remind me what I always forget... I don't want them to have the same problems that I have.
"Kids have gotten me to stutter because I have to really think about how to teach them one of these lower-end tricks. If they learn it right, then they can just build off it."
Goepper, meanwhile, described himself as a high energy, "go, go, go" kind of skier, and early on, appreciates the opportunity provided to take a step back and slow down.
"Hanging out with the kids and breaking it down step by step and going at a slower pace has definitely taught me to have a little more patience when I ski," he said.
Goepper, 21, was up for one week after hearing nothing but good things about the camps, he said. The native Indianan also attended camps growing up, regularly attending Windells Camp in Oregon.
"It's good to give back and good to hang out with the kids, especially (those) who are stoked, up and coming and skiing with their idols," he said.
Camp director John Smart said even with the instructors' high-level pedigree, there's no guarantee it will translate into becoming a great teacher. However, he said he's thrilled with what he's seen from Christensen and Goepper.
"You never know until they get here what they're going to be like. Sometimes you think that they won't be able to take themselves down to the levels of the kids," he said. "They've been phenomenal with the kids and the feedback from the kids (is about) the time they put into them, how much care they put into the progression."
Smart said he also sees the young campers, aged nine and up, learn quickly from the high-level athletes.
"It's because they hang out with these guys that they don't put them on a pedestal anymore. They learn that they're just normal people and they learn from the best, so that really translates fast," Smart said.
In addition to paying the coaches "relatively well," Smart said, the chance to provide the athletes with a chance to train as well as coach is a draw for them to make the trip to Whistler. As well, several of the instructors tend to be buddies already and jump at the chance to spend some of the summertime in the more laid-back scenario compared to the competitive grind.
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