Maybe you’ve sent your kids to a summer sleepover camp, but how about a winter one?
King Pine Ski Area in Madison, N.H., offers a unique winter ski camp experience for youngsters ages 8 to 16. Ski & Snowboard Camp at Purity Spring Resort, the longest-running ski camp in the country, began in 1939 with participants on wooden skis and wearing leather boots.
By the time King Pine opened in 1962, a generation or two already were alumni. Today campers have the use and benefit of the ski area’s 17 slopes and trails, six lifts, a terrain park and state-of-the-art snowmaking covering 100 percent of the area. The variety of slopes from beginner friendly to steep pitches are ideal for both new learners to start out and experienced skiers and riders to improve.
Campers are housed in four main dormitories located around a central dining hall with a staff-to-camper ratio of approximately 4 to 1. Counselors range from high school students to parents, and many are former campers themselves. The camp offers formal instruction twice a day, for two hours in the morning and 1½ hours in the afternoon, plus plenty of time for freeskiing with buddies and at least a couple of night skiing sessions. When not on the slopes, the activity doesn’t slow down. There’s an indoor pool, a dance hall, a tubing hill and a skating rink — certainly enough to keep everyone busy, entertained and ready for the healthy, hearty meals served up in the dining hall. Many kids come back year after year — a testament to the fun and exciting times they’ve had there.
Don Burch, now 63, looks back with great fondness on his days at the camp in the 1960s. He spent three years as a camper when he was 11, 12 and 13 years old. “I was in heaven having the opportunity to ski five days in a row,” Burch recalled. “It was also a turning point in my skiing. For years I had been a stem christie skier, but there I sort of went over a hump and suddenly, it seemed, I became a parallel skier. Some years later, as a college student, I returned to camp as a counselor. Looking back, the camp was one of the best experiences of my life.”
King Pine marketing director Thomas Prindle said, “The Ski & Snowboard Camp remains today an exciting atmosphere for boys and girls ages 8 to 16 to take part in a fun week of developing their skiing and snowboarding skills along with many social day and night activities off the slopes. It’s a unique ‘camp’ experience that generations of skiers and riders have enjoyed and continue to do so.”
Many other resorts in New England offer vacation camps for kids, but these are primarily either single-day camp, or multiday but with no sleepover component and focus strictly on skiing or riding. In Vermont, Sugarbush has a kids camp for skiers and riders who already can handle black diamond terrain. Offered as a single-day program or an eight-day package, it is available this season from Feb. 15-23. The Advanced Kids Camps, for ages 10-15 and also offered in December and January, utilize the resort’s most experienced children’s coaches to work on improving skills and learning how to best conquer the steeps, bumps, glades and parks while building safety and awareness and taking advantage of all the terrain Sugarbush has to offer. This is a wonderful opportunity for kids to learn and improve with others of the same ability, but remember, kids must already be comfortable and competent skiing or riding expert terrain.
Over at Mount Ellen, the Junior Freeski/Freeride Camp, for ages 9-15, is offered during Presidents Week vacation, Feb. 17-21. If you’re at least an intermediate skier or rider and want to be coached in freestyle, this is the camp for you. Develop your skills and maneuvers in the park and on the mountain with Sugarbush’s outstanding freestyle coaches while also learning or reinforcing park etiquette and safety.
Two Holiday Race Camps for ages 10-17 are available at Sugarbush this February. Intro to Race Camp is for advanced skiers who wish to learn about racing but do not have any race-specific experience. For those who have strong parallel skiing skills on groomed black diamond trails and want to test the waters (or in this case snow) of racing, this camp is ideal. Regular Race Camp is for advanced skiers with some ski racing experience. Both camps feature drills, gates, personal attention and motivation with a goal of skill development and reaching your potential.
Closer to home, for many, is Nashoba Valley in Westford, Mass. While the vertical doesn’t match that of its northern New England counterparts, it is a full-service ski area not far from metro Boston. Nashoba offers 11 lifts and skiing and riding trails for all abilities as well as a fine dining restaurant and an outstanding ski school offering vacation week camps. This winter the February vacation camp runs from Feb. 17-23. Participants sign up for any three days during this time frame and receive an all-day lift ticket and a one-hour group lesson. The program is available for adults and juniors of all abilities from beginners to experienced skiers and riders looking to hone their skills. Taking several lessons within a short period of time is a great way to reinforce learning and build skills to take you to the next level.
In western Massachusetts, Berkshire East also offers a kids camp running three days during the February vacation period. From Feb. 18-20, kids of all abilities can participate. They’re grouped by age and ability and are with the same instructors for all three days. For beginners, consecutive days of skiing or riding are especially good confidence builders. And the more experienced will be able to challenge themselves on new terrain under the expert guidance of experienced instructors.
Camps are not just for kids, however. Adult camps are a popular draw at many areas and a great way to ramp up skills while enjoying time with other like-minded adults. Three time Olympian and world champion mogul skier Donna Weinbrecht learned to bash the moguls at Killington. This led to, among other accolades, winning the first Olympic gold medal awarded for mogul skiing. Now she teams up with Killington to offer two ski camps for adults. On Feb. 22-23, the Women’s Camp meets with Weinbrecht and her team of top female coaches for an unforgettable two-day experience designed for women only. Open to blue level skiers and above, the camp includes six hours of coaching each day in a non-threatening, supportive atmosphere.
Have you ever dreamed of participating in Killington’s renowned Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge? Now you can prep for it by joining Donna’s Mogul Camp for both men and women. Held on March 21-22, the camp focuses on preparation for this signature event taking place on April 4.
Loon Mountain offers a two-day Women’s Performance Camp March 27-28. As the resort says, “You don’t need to ski like a guy to ski better than a guy,” and that can certainly happen. Featuring more than 12 hours of instruction by Loon’s top female coaches and aided by video analysis, the goal is to develop skills to conquer any type of terrain at the resort.
Are you a snowboarder? Have you been curious about freestyle or just want to take your tricks to the next level? The Beyond the Boundaries Freestyle Camp, also for women and coached by women, starts off in a private, custom-built terrain park with beginner- to intermediate-sized features where new tricks are taught and practiced. The ultimate aim is to test yourself in Loon’s award-winning progression of terrain parks. The two-day camp, set for March 14-15 this season, also includes breakfast, lunch, a Saturday après party and Sunday awards celebration.