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Seven Day Doubles and Digging at Camp of Champions

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Summertime in the oven of the Horstman glacier off-season ski camp scene is different than it used to be. It’s a scene that used to rely on odd innovators to show up and change everything we knew about skiing only to leave the glacier absent and melting rivers of blue water until next sun-cycle. And still do these lucky dogs gravitate towards winter fitness in the summertime, but, it’s just different. Seven day double flips are available for purchase and safely learning the trick of the day has never been easier for those with the both the money and the gumption to come and try. But things didn’t used to be so seamless; governments weren’t paying your favourite pro’s coach’s salary and no one wanted to drag an airbag up a mountain back then.

But I got paid to drag that airbag up the mountain. I’m a digger for COC and was up there for six days a week of fever dreaming, cornea scorching, twin-planking and terrain park design. I was also a camper at COC fifteen years ago, but this summer my shovel hammered deeply into the vibrant blue ice while setting up mock urban environments that were flown 2700m to the top of the Horstman by helicopter; my rake groomed the jumps for the Olympians, the guest pros, the campers and the coaches.

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Bailey & author picking up the rails.

The population of the glacier ski scene all arguably fall under the guise of the stoked rich, the hardworking or the hooked up. Everyone is grateful to be around and it shows through the caliber of tricks and utter poise that one’s greeted with as soon as the noose is loosened, things are groomed and features are good to go.

After the first week, 6am wakeups were engrained in my routine, however I still felt like Mr. Bean running for the bus on those absent July mornings with lidless coffee scorching my fingerless-glove-tanned-hands, and breakfast burritos soaking my jacket in a scorching assortment of salsa, egg and cheese juice. At the bus loop, I’d meet the man on the ground for COC, Bailey Mitchell, where we’d explain pleasantries, listen to Rancid and pick up a virgin digger and bus driver – who had the disposition of Otto the bus driver – and waited with two talented migrant designers from Quebec: Carl and Guillaume – or “Jee-ah-loo-ah-mayyyyyy” as I addressed him. From the valley, we’d drive up the mountain in a large black truck, listening to Rancid, drinking what was left of our coffee, being braggadocio and preparing our bodies and minds for a full day of being melted by the delusion inducing sun. There were few clouds and little escape from the hydrogenic-yellow-hell all summer.

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Cork 7 leading Japan by the author.

The glacier itself was split – figuratively – into lanes where bidding wars over glacial real estate and gossip about the topic were commonplace. European teams of children in spandex had a few lanes, Momentum had a few more than them and WB and Dave Murray rounded out whatever else COC didn’t have.

photo copy 2All the boys and I would stand at the top of the park and discuss the missions of the day after skiing cavity-chattering, 7:30 am ice with food bins in our arms before anyone else had begun uploading. After covering each other in sunscreen we’d laugh at our luck before the most awesome mountain auditorium – which was losing snow and expanding vastly by the minute – and take 25kg bags of salt in our arms, tuck a heavy metal rake beneath it all and ski to our jumps to ‘pimp’ the take offs and smooth out the landings, dodging glacier wasps and sweat beads that drew from our foreheads almost immediately after our first few manicuring movements.

Once coaches and campers invaded our piece of temporary peace after their long upload, having digested all of their dutiful bus driver’s follies and eccentricities along the way, it’d only be a matter of minutes before you’d see doubles going down on the big jump line, no sooner than Carl or Jee-ah-loo-ah-may could say: ‘aller!’

Other summer highlights, besides making it out alive, include: Rob ‘Bert’ Heule’s interpretation and re-animation of the jump line, Max Hill transferring into the public park, Hunter Visser’s bio 12’s, Skogen Sprang’s disposition and presence, the abominable hip sessions, Ben the security guy’s voice (like fusion between Randy Savage and a warm, welcoming couch,) Ken’s fifteen foot stick and Liam Casey’s inventive, creative and absolutely gnarly nature.

photoIn retrospect: kids with huge, heavy helmets plastered white with sunscreen and new and old pros refining their repertoire and sustaining their stoke seems a lot like my first time on the glacier. Not to mention the dehydration, the snowball blitzing of poachers on the t-bar and the absolute dedication to skiing that everyone up there has: maybe not much has changed after all.

We were sponsored by coconut water and not an energy drink profit animal that destroys children’s livers, so by the end of the day our digger tent smelled like the armpit of a Harry Belefonte concert but kept us hydrated as all hell. Thanks Coco’s Pure! Bottom’s up baby! Also, big thanks to Ken Achenbach for 25 years of COC, Bailey Mitchell, Carl Fortin, Guillaume Fornier, Jordan Hefky, all the sponsors of COC, Arena Snowpark’s Steve Petri & Lucas Oullette, the diggers who came before us and all the campers for making the whole thing possible.

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