Last week—for the second year in a row—Whistler Blackcomb announced the Horstman Glacier will not be in operation for summer ski camps this year.
This news came as a crushing blow to local business, Momentum Ski Camps, which was heading into its 30th anniversary of summer ski camps this year.
Combine that with Whistler’s great snow year and this is hard news to handle for camp director John Smart.
“The first year this happened was pretty devastating,” he said. “Two years in a row is that much more crushing. We were really hopeful that this pandemic wouldn’t last that long and then when that third wave hit it changed the stakes for everyone.
“It’s pretty devastating for us as a business, obviously, but also for the whole sport and the hundreds of kids that rely on coming out here every summer. This year, with the Olympics coming up, was the last chance for the national teams to train and we had the national mogul team, slopestyle [ski] team, slopestyle [snowboard] team and the snowboard cross team all relying on coming out and training with us this summer.”
According to Marc Riddell, west coast director of communications for Vail Resorts, with the pandemic dragging on longer than anyone anticipated, the mountain didn’t have enough time to properly prepare for glacier use this year.
“Given the state of the pandemic, and our recent business closure, we have made the difficult decision not to offer summer glacier skiing to the public and third-party businesses who usually operate on the Horstman Glacier,” Riddell said in an emailed statement.
“We look forward to welcoming the public and campers back to the glacier next summer.”
However, with other similar summer ski camp programs, like the one in Mt. Hood, Oregon, being in operation for the past two summers, a rumour has started circulating that the Horstman Glacier is no longer useable due to melting. But both Riddell and Smart believe that is entirely untrue.
“We keep hearing that rumour all the time,” said Smart. “The mountain doesn’t know where it comes from, we don’t know where it comes from. Mt. Hood’s not shutting down this year and we are, so people are drawing conclusions that there is more to it, but there isn’t.
“There is no question that [the glacier] is receding, however, we’ve got so much better at managing. We work with incredible Cat drivers, and we push the snow around in a way that we can operate. There’s always so much snow in June and July that that’s never a problem.”
A large portion of Momentum’s business comes from these summer ski camps that tailor to elite skiers and snowboarders and employ some of the best coaches in the world. But despite the huge blow to business two years in a row, Momentum isn’t going anywhere and is focused on coming back stronger than ever next year.
But to do that, Momentum will need some cooperation and help from Whistler Blackcomb, according to Smart.
“There’s not much we can do; we’ve got to just do what we can. We’re not giving up, we will survive, of course,” he said.
“And that’s where we need Whistler Blackcomb on board to help us prepare for next summer because we have so many good clients and they’ve stood behind us and rolled over their bookings for two years in a row now in anticipation of coming back next summer for a big summer.”
With sights now set on next year, this summer is all about building hype with a marketing campaign, dispelling rumours and getting people excited about returning to the camp in June of next year.
“What we’re doing this whole summer period, is we are talking to people out there who want to see stuff from us and we’re going back into the archives and we’re bringing back old photos and videos of the good times at camp and we’re going to do that for each week over the summer,” said Smart.
“So, we’ve got a whole social campaign that we’ve been working on and we’re going to continually build from there. We got a lot of stuff to showcase, and it really helps us reflect on what we do up there. So we’re looking forward to that and building into next year.”