Words by Jeff Schmuck
Winter is officially over. The lifts have stopped spinning, après beers have ceased flowing, and the biggest and best pow turns are neatly tucked away in our memory banks. The chilliest of seasons is easily one of the most magical times of year for die-hard skiers, myself included. Yet as much as I love the feeling of breathing crisp mountain air while cold smoke billows about my feet, skiing in the winter, and particularly the start of it, causes me to feel something rather blasphemous: I start looking forward to summer.
Photo by Aga Iwanicka
It’s not for the reason you think, though. As someone who’s made skiing a central part of my existence since I was a child, I’m the furthest thing from a sun worshiper. I spend each fall eagerly counting the days until I can get back on snow, and relish every day on it throughout the winter. But regardless of how much pow I get to ski, and where in the world I’m privileged enough to do so, my favourite time on snow is at Momentum Camps in Whistler, British Columbia—in the summer.
Momentum, which is about to commence celebrating its 30th anniversary this summer, is a ski and snowboard camp that snow sliders young and old annually migrate to from the four corners of the world to learn how to hit bumps, jumps, rails and perform tricks. Originally known as SMS, the camp was started in 1992 by Olympians John and Julia Smart, and along with its now defunct Whistler-based counterparts, High North Ski Camp and Camp of Champions (and the still operational Windells Camp at Mount Hood, Oregon), has played a historic and pivotal role in fostering and furthering the park and pipe side of freeskiing. Some of the first snowboard-inspired, newschool tricks that ushered in a whole new era of skiing were conceptualized on the camp’s field of play—the Horstman Glacier atop Blackcomb Mountain—by freeskiing forefathers JP Auclair, JF Cusson, Mike Douglas, Shane Szocs and Vincent Dorion, who made up The New Canadian Air Force. And many of the manoeuvres that still win contests and wow crowds today were first landed at Momentum. The “campers” are taught the literal tricks of the trade from some of the top professional freeskiers in the world, and a host of former ones have gone on to become X Games and Olympic medallists themselves. Making Momentum (alongside past and present ski and snowboard camps like it), and the opportunities it provides, unique amongst all sports. The coaches are in essence creating their own competition and eventual replacements, and paying it forward in the process, and there’s no similar camp elsewhere in the world where aspiring football or hockey players can learn how to throw a touchdown from Tom Brady or score a goal from Sidney Crosby.
Since 1998, I’ve joyously rocked Hawaiian shirts and loud sunglasses while skiing in 30-degree Celsius weather on the glacier each and every summer (sans 2020 and 2021, when the pandemic forced the Smarts to push pause), and have seen the sport transform and progress in real time with my own eyes. I’ve watched countless excited kids form lifelong bonds with their coaches and fellow campers, set and achieve goals, and go on to fulfill their dreams while dedicating their lives to making significant contributions to the sport. And there’s not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that skiing there every summer has facilitated the chance for me to do some of the same. I don’t know what I would be doing with my life if it wasn’t for Momentum’s existence, and all that it’s done for freeskiing. But based on the friendships and connections it has allowed me to make, the knowledge of the ski industry it has helped me obtain, and how exponentially it has increased and perpetuated my passion for skiing, I know I wouldn’t be doing what I do now. So while I without question couldn’t love ski season more, I still spend each winter counting the days until summer, when I'll continue to watch the next generation of freeskiers take the sport I love so much to new heights.
Momentum kicks off next week in Whistler, B.C. and runs from June 10th - July 17th. Learn more about how you can partake at momentumcamps.com.