Dispatches: training camp turns 20 

Two decades after inception, Momentum Ski Camps are still right in the swing of things


Over the crest of Seventh Heaven on Blackcomb, kids fly through the air in all sorts of contortions, landing - sometimes upright, sometimes not - with soft thuds on an enormous yellow airbag. With shoots, ramps, moguls, pools and jumps, the terrain looks like a camp designed for Hogwarts or X-Men, but on snow.

"Patience, Carly," calls four-time Winter X Games gold medallist Sarah Burke to a tall teenage girl decked out in helmet and mouth guard before she sets off down a steep, narrow ramp. The girl hurls herself off the jump and almost lands her trick before sliding off the airbag and heading back to the top for another try.

It's midday Monday on the mountain and the sun is shining for the first time in weeks. Kids - mostly teens - slide around on skis hitting jumps backwards and forwards, tackling intense mogul runs and freestyle ski exercises over and over. Music pumps from a loudspeaker while celebrity alumni instructors like Burke and Alex Bilodeau keep a close watch on their protégés.

"I started here when I was 14 years old as a camper in moguls and the first year that they had freeride I jumped in and did that. I started coaching when I was 18 so it's my 15th year up here now," said Burke, surrounded by campers waiting for her instruction.

"You've got the best skiers in the entire world in one spot that are here to help you and ski with you and have fun. If you want to learn and try things, you can do it. I'm still coming up here 15 years later so there has to be something beneficial to it."

Momentum got its start in 1992 as a small moguls program for under-30 skiers called Smart Mogul Skiing. Today it is considered one of the most prolific summer ski training camps for youth in the world. The number of high profile athletes it spits out is impressive, as is their dedication to the camp as instructors when they outgrow their camp years.

Two-time world championship medallist Mikhael Kingsbury and Olympians Tami Bradley and Shelley Robertson are part of the alumni now on staff, as is most of the Canadian National Halfpipe Team - world champions Mike Riddle and Roz Groenewoud and pipe stars Simon Dumont and Justin Dorey. Bilodeau, who won a gold medal in the men's moguls at the 2010 Winter Olympics and is a two-time FIS World Champion in dual moguls, and a Worlds silver medallist in moguls, also instructs.

"It's been a fulfilling experience to watch the young campers over the years be inspired by the coaches we bring in and see some of them go on to achieve great things in the sport themselves," said camp founder and two-time Olympian John Smart. "Looking back, it's been amazing to play a big part in the evolution of the sport. We started the camp the very first year moguls was an Olympic event and have been at the forefront of the new school movement from the beginning, encouraging the energy and innovation of the next generation. Our terrain park is constantly evolving to help fuel this progression."

Smart clearly loves his creation. Bobbing and weaving between campers, he juggles the day's tasks - giving instructions to employees, sending kids off for lunch and organizing the set up and tear down of the camp's tents and flags, all the while high fiving and laughing with those around him.

Cool and inspirational has been Smart's thing from the beginning. Olympic gold medallist Bilodeau remembers training under him at Momentum camps when he was a youth.

"It's kind of cool - John can say he inspired a kid and that kid went out and got an Olympic medal then came back to inspire more, so maybe there is one that I coached today that is going to have an Olympic medal," said Bilodeau, who returned to teach a half camp session between studying accounting at Concordia University and his own training program. Though busy, he makes the effort to return because he credits the camp for helping him find the motivation to continue his training between the ages of eight and 14, when he spent summers attending Momentum. Today he gets a kick out of watching young campers expand on their potential and secure their passion for the sport.

"There's nothing better - yesterday there were three kids who did their new trick, they were trying back flips and one cork seven and they threw in moguls afterward - it was their first time and the smiles were amazing," he said.  "I remember my first back flip and I was so stoked so I can see myself in them - they were so stoked, it was amazing, that's priceless for us."

Accommodating both recreational and competitive youth or adult campers, Momentum Ski Camps is geared exclusively for skiers and offers either moguls, freeride (terrain park/slopestyle skiing) or the hybrid option, which provides three days of coaching in each discipline.

For more information, go to www.momentumcamps.com.



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