The Thrill of the Skill

Snow Sports

Apr 1, 2004
Outside Magazine
adventure sports camps Snowboarding, Avalanche Skills/Backcountry Skiing, Skiing, Dogsledding, Cross-Country Skiing

Into the white: Cross-country for dummies    Photo: Corbis

Tip #4:

"Come with really clear goals. It's important to aim high—everyone wants to get better. But be realistic about your abilities and the time you have at camp. If you're clear about these things, you'll be setting yourself up for success."
—Chris Fellows, cofounder, co-director, and instructor at the North American Ski Training Center, Truckee, California

Mount Hood Summer Ski Camps
Government Camp, Oregon
Twenty-year-old Mount Hood Summer Ski Camps draws the best coaches in the business to the only year-round ski hill (elevation 11,235 feet) in the country. In the mornings at the Six-Day Snowboard Camp, when the snow's still firm, you'll practice drills at 8,500 feet on the Palmer and Zig Zag glaciers and rail slides in the terrain park; later, when it warms up to 65 degrees, burn turns in Lower Cuervo Canyon. Back at the chalet-style Lodges at Salmon River Meadows, nurse your glacial sunburn—and a cold one.
End Game: Wowing your friends with a backside 540.
Info: $725–$925 (all-inclusive), May to September; 503-337-2230,
Or Try: Southshore Soldiers Ski and Snowboard Camp, in Heavenly, California, where coaches include X Games gold medalists Jimmy Halopoff and Shaun Palmer; six-day sessions, $599; 888-712-7772,

American Avalanche Institute
Wilson, Wyoming
The venerable Avalanche institute runs avalanche and backcountry ski seminars in five locations across Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado—including a three-day level 1 Course at Red Mountain Pass, in Colorado's slide-prone San Juan Mountains. From the warm bunks inside the St. Paul Lodge, at 11,500 feet, you can talk surface hoar and slab avalanches with AAI's wilderness pros. Then snowshoe or skin up to 12,500 feet on telemark or randonnée skis to assess real-time avalanche conditions and practice beacon-assisted rescues.
End Game: Developing a healthy respect for volatile winter terrain—and the smarts to travel safely.
Info: $470 (all-inclusive), December to April; 307-733-3315,
Or Try: Pro Guiding Service, in North Bend, Washington, for novice to expert snow-safety workshops in the Cascades; two- to four-day trips, $180–$340; 425-888-6397,

North American Ski Training Center
Truckee, California
Every year, NASTC snaps up the country's top alpine instructors to teach its total-immersion ski camps, held in Tahoe and La Grave, France, and 15 powder points in between. Its weeklong alaska heli-skiing and powder technique course addresses the irony of skiing off-piste steeps: You're ready for another thousand feet, but your legs and form aren't. Stay at the posh Alyeska Prince Hotel, 45 minutes south of Anchorage, and spend four days finessing your edging and pole plants in Alyeska Ski Resort's steep chutes and powdery terrain. On day five, fly deep into the Chugach Mountains' 750 square miles of heli-accessible backcountry, where your skills—and your strength—will surprise you.
End Game: Learning to carve thigh-deep powder.
Info: $4,450 (all-inclusive), April 2005; 530-582-4772,
Or Try: All Mountain Ski Pros, in Lake Tahoe, California, and ski with extreme-skiing film star Eric Deslauriers; three days, $495; 888-754-2201,

Yogageur Outward Bound
Ely, Minnesota
Realize your Call of the Wild fantasies while mushing through the maze of frozen lakes and boreal forests of Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Voyageur Outward Bound's 22-day Northwoods Dogsledding Course trains neophyte mushers in the care and feeding of their four- to six-dog teams, basic winter-camping and survival techniques, and winter navigation. At the end of the program, students are encouraged to try a night or two of solo camping with the hounds. But it's not that brutal—the canvas expedition tents are warmed by wood-burning stoves.
End Game: Competently managing a dog team—and winter's chill—in the backcountry.
Info: $2,795 (all-inclusive), January to March; 866-467-7640,
Or Try: Paws for Adventure, in Fairbanks, Alaska, and embark on an instructional expedition in the wilds of the true north; three- to seven-day courses, $550–$3,300; 907-378-3630,

Methow Valley Nordic
Winthrop, Washington
With its near-perfect conditions—dry snow and 124 miles of groomed trails through the ponderosa forests of the eastern Cascades—Methow Valley draws former Olympians and pro racers from the U.S. and Canada to teach its Three-Day Cross-Country Ski Camp. From your base at the swanky Sun Mountain Lodge, you'll start with morning yoga, then hit the snow for instruction in classic and skate skiing. Evenings are filled with equipment demos and one-on-one video analysis.
End Game: No more flailing when you point those skinny sticks downhill.
Info: $300 (instruction and lunches only), December to February; 509-996-3152,
Or Try: Lone Mountain Ranch's three-day Spring Ski Clinic in Big Sky, Montana, which ends with a nine-mile nordic tour in Yellowstone; $940; 800-514-4644,