Here Come The Girls! Words by Catherine Peck
What’s the Score? I am lucky enough to be invited on the ‘Our Camp Girls Snowboarding Week’ in Morzine starting on Sunday 18th Jan until Saturday 24th Jan. I will be joining 8 girls on their daily boarding schedule, which involves lessons, park riding, off-piste adventure and a competition. The only difference between my week and the girl’s week is that the girls get to go home to tea and cakes and a three course meal every evening and hang out in their luxury chalet, The Loft.
What is Our Camp? Our Camp is founded by British Pro Riders Sonia Shaw, Gilly Seagrave and Emma Rogers. The girls set up the camp back in 2006 as they wanted to teach others what they knew about snowboarding, which is a lot! The camp provides intensive training, and after the coaches have been to work with you, you will be more confident and a million times better at boarding. This camp is for fearless females that really want to achieve, push themselves out of their comfort zone and to have fun. If you are a snowboarding geek this camp is a dream come true, which is what I found. This camp is not for those that are lazy, used to having a butler, or prefer drinking tons over a days boarding.
The Extras Gilly had Drewy filming us for most of the week, plus Joni from More Mountain, so once back at the chalet everyone could review what they were doing right and wrong. Filming is the best answer for quick improvement; it also makes you try harder as of course you want to look sick on camera. The unfortunate part is that your stacks are also caught on film. Nikita “for girls who ride" helped sponsor the week so goody bags were stuffed to the brim with cool vest tops, t-shirts, badges, plus lots of other little extras.
What is More Mountain about? More Mountain is a small independent chalet company, owned and run by Samee and Joni, both avid riders, who have well over 7 seasons under their belts. They set up More Mountain as they wanted to create luxury snowboard chalets without the up-market pretence or price tag, appealing to young professionals and 30 somethings.
Samee is hosting the girls for the week at their luxury chalet, The Loft, in central Morzine. This is the third Our Camp she has run with Gilly and loves promoting “Chick Ridin" as she calls it. She takes part in everything on the camp, gets there for breakie, guides the girls on the hill, rides all day and then takes them to the infamous Bar Robinson for a few well deserved Mutzigs. She ensures everyone is having an excellent time and always wants feedback, listening to what the girls want out of the week on a day by day basis; her enthusiasm for riding is blatantly obvious where you’ll hear her saying; “wow, isn’t this great to be out, you don’t get much better than this!". Always leading the way down the runs, and yelling with joy when she finds some of her secret powder stashes!
The Extras Samee makes sure everyone gets the most out of the week by being flexible with the schedule in relation to the weather conditions. We had one great “bluebird" day when it had dumped over 20cms of fresh; Melissa, one of the more experienced riders could not bear to miss out so Samee took her off for the day to do some serious powder shredding, while the rest of us focused on nailing the 180s on piste under Gilly’s strict instructions. Samee also arranged for a qualified instructor and guide from Avoriaz Surf School ‘Sexy Laurent’ to join the girls for Thursday morning for a “Big Air Bag" kicker session followed by an afternoon of guided off-piste back country. She wants the girls on this camp to get a taste of everything snowboarding can offer.
More Mountain offers three top notch modern and contemporary chalets with hot tubs, free wifi, i-pods with downloadable daily playlists, Walkie Talkies, Apple Mac’s, Log Fires, leather sofas, Sky TV and lots of lovely Luxury L’Occitane Toiletries, fluffy towels and Egyptian cotton bed linen. It is the attention to detail that makes the difference and the chalets really do feel like a home from home for the week.
Who are the Coaches? Gilly - founder of Our Camp is running the training this week in conjunction with Samee, owner of More Mountain. Gilly is sponsored by Protest, Atomic and Adidas and is responsible for pushing every girl on the camp this week to achieve something great. Jessica - part of the Swedish Half Pipe Team, sponsored by Roxy Headwear and Ripcurl was pro at getting the 180s out of us. Ben - pro assistant to Gilly, is a qualified instructor and ripper in the park, who definitely showed us how to bust some moves in style. Drewy and Johno were our cameramen for the week, making sure that no stack went unmissed! Laurent - Avoriaz Alpine Surf School, off-piste guide and show-off! (hehe).
The Girls – who’s who?
Linz Landy - 32 (looking 25), Amsterdam, works in advertising, 25 weeks riding, aim is to gain confidence in powder (this is quite amusing seeming she came on a park training week! Luckily we were blessed with lots of powder for her to achieve this). Jo Schuberth – 30, Product Manager, aim of the week was to have no fear of the park, and to go over a box and some small jumps. Salima Dassi - 33, from Edinburgh but French, Logistical Co-ordinator, 6 weeks riding, her goal of the week was to not be intimidated in the park and to do the jumps with style. Melissa McConnell - 35, Edinburgh, the mum who can teach her kids to do grabs, 180s and gnarly off-piste in style, 1 ½ seasons, wants to achieve a 360 over a kicker and do a stronger backside 180. Anna Soward - 31, Essex, Recruitment Consultant, 7 weeks riding experience, aim of the week was to land a jump ☺ Gemma Bryant - 26, Essex, Legal Secretary, 2 weeks riding, wanted to achieve a few 50:50s over a box and to jump with the right style. Karina Sandoval - 30, California, IT Manager, enjoying some much needed time off after 5 years working without 1 single holiday!! About 4 weeks riding time (made up of weekends in Mammouth), her goal was to nail the boxes and a rail. Caroline Crawford - 36 (boards like an 18 year old), IT Developer, 13 weeks riding, her goal of the week was to master 180s. Linzey Ryan (not in pic) - 25, chalet host, 1 ½ seasons worth of riding, and her aim was to see everyone having a great time.
Sunday 18th January I arrive at chalet with Gilly to meet the girls. We are greeted by Samee, the owner of More Mountain, and Chris and Lindsay, the chalet hosts, who offer us champagne and canapés while introducing us to the girls by the warming log fire. After the typical chalet introduction, Gilly introduces Our Camp, and then makes everyone feel like they are at alcoholics anonymous; we went round the room stating our name, where we are from, how long we had been boarding for, our standard and what we wanted to achieve from the week. Salima, from Edinburgh clearly states that it is her aim to master the 180, “forget sleeping with Brad Pitt, it is my dream to do the 180, I mean how cool is that, if I can say, you know what, I can do a 180." Salima, goes onto say that she never imagined that she would snowboard as when growing up she just thought it was what rich kids got to do, “and now I can snowboard which I never thought I would be able to do, and if I can come away being able to do a 180 well that will be the best thing." I have an early night in preparation for a full on week of boarding as lessons will be running from 9.30am until 4pm (but the days boarding actually turned out to be 9 until 4.30). Monday 19th January Snowboarding in Avoriaz and Chatel today has felt like I have been to the Artic and back. The conditions for the girls on their first day of Our Camp have been tough, with a relentless mix of rain and snow and strong winds gushing across the piste, making you feel disorientated in the white out. However, the weather conditions did not affect the enthusiasm of our coaches and with their constant instructions the day flew past. It was a perfect day to practice 180s as with the new snow fall the landing was forgiving and have a tour of the mountain. Everyone finished the day with heavy and soaking wet clothing, but the girls could not complain as they were met right by the lift and driven straight back to their luxury chalet for tea and cake, which was to be followed by a three course meal.
Tuesday 20th January Motivating myself to write up this day is not as easy as I am knackered! My calf muscles are burning and my upper body is drained from pushing myself out of the powder. I have already been out here for 2 weeks gaining boarding fitness so I am sure the girls are even more zapped of energy than me, but they are going about a hard day the best way by heading to Bar Robbo’s for a Mutzig (9% beer). Our coaches have succeeded in even making the strong feel weak! After yesterday’s Artic conditions we were blessed with loads of powder; perfect for practicing our 180s and 360s as you could launch yourself with 100% commitment with no fear as you knew you would either make it or land in a nice comfy pile. The afternoon took us over to Avoriaz to ride the park but unfortunately the park was closed due to poor weather conditions, so Jessica and Gilly led us to The Stash (Burton’s tree run park with benches for boxes, logs for rails and wall rides). At The Stash they had the girls all going over the table tops and getting a feel for a 50:50. I did so many 180s that day I was dreaming about them in my sleep!
Wednesday 21st January We headed to the baby park at Avoriaz, Gilly had the girls warming up over the four green kickers. Everyone was pushed to try something new. Gilly had Caroline and Melissa doing frontside 180s by the end of the morning session and I was pushed to do this with a grab. I was chuffed at the end of the session as I realised that this was in fact possible. The afternoon session focused on getting all the girls over a box in the park. It was not the easiest of boxes to learn on as you had to go super fast on the run in to clear the box as the slope went up just before. You could not be timid on the run in otherwise you would not even make it onto the first part of the box. We had some comedy run-ins by Gemma, Jo and Anna (all who had never done a box before). The girls took a steady line as they were not sure what to expect, but then never made it to the box! However, all were flying over it by the end. Caroline started of with one very steady run on the box and then made Gilly and I laugh by taking it from there on at 100mph. It was really great to see everyone nail it by the end of the session and go home feeling really pleased with themselves, especially Jo, who had an initial fear of boxes even though she is one of the most stylish boarders.
Thursday 22nd January 9.30am meet in the park for some instruction by Laurent from the Avoriaz Alpine Surf School. The Big Air Bag session was cancelled due to a clumsy piste basher ripping the bag, so Laurent improvised and provided the girls with some extra technical freestyle advice and helped me get a much stronger melon grab over the kickers so I came away from the morning session feeling stoked. Lindsay x 2, Melissa, Caroline, Salima, moi and Samee then met back up with Lourent for an afternoon of off-piste back country bliss, all transceivered up we headed up the Le Fornet chair, then turned right and started to hike over the ridge, to experience the 10km descent of the Valley De La Manche. Over the ridge we were greeted with an incredible view of Mont Blanc and a huge valley of powder… yeah baby!
Melissa summed up the afternoon as a real adventure with gorgeous untracked powder, in the most beautiful valley. We had Lourent showing off in the powder for entertainment and having a laugh with the girls by taking them on a tree run at the end where they literally had to get on their hands and knees to get under some of the tree branches. Samee said she wanted the girls to experience Valley De La Manche as this is real off-piste as you can not see a chairlift, a building or piste for the whole run. The rest of the group stayed in the park, gaining confidence and perfecting their jumps with Gilly.
Friday 23rd January I had a text from Gilly first thing in the morning stating; “if you are brave enough for this rubbish weather we are meeting at La Pleney lift at 9am." For sure, I love bad weather! All kitted out in my Ruroc helmet with face guard (no wind can get in), Bonfire clothing I am ready to rock, as it is not bad weather just bad clothing, right? Some sensible girls, Lindsay, Melissa decided not to turn up at 9am and instead enjoy a morning chilling out to avoid the constant rain. Caroline, Salima and Anna did the warm up outside and then decided that rain does not make friendly snowboarding conditions and trudged off for hot chocolates. Corina, Jo, Gemma, and I decided to follow Gilly and Ben and head to Les Gets and then over to Mont Chery for some snowboarding action in the rain. I made it to Mont Chery and then decided that even I was not hardy enough for this weather or my clothes. The snow was so heavy with water so your board would suddenly stick to the snow. I did a sly getaway and came straight back for a warm bath. Saturday 24th January I am writing this day up with a bit of a hang-over after my 2 large glasses of wine and a night of dancing to celebrate the last night of the camp.
I could not believe this day, after arriving in The Stash late I was met with Gemma and Anna going over the huge upside down battleship, oh my god how brave! Everyone just seemed to be trying everything, and throwing themselves into it. Anna landed on her face three times in a row after trying some really challenging obstacles, but the next time round she made everything look sweet. Gilly even had every girl going up the wall rides and over the large picnic table – I could not believe what I was seeing. Was this the same group from the 1st day of the week?!!
At the end of the day we built a small kicker in the powder on the side of the Prolay run, so we could all launch ourselves into the powder. This was mine and Melissa’s call to practice the 360s. 360s are a lot harder than I thought and we both ended up doing some comedy stacks – I must work on this one!
Another full day of fab boarding.
Our Camp Summary The general census is that everyone has achieved more than they thought was possible.
Prizes Awarded To Best Rider Award – Melissa McConnell Most Improved Rider – Gemma Bryant and Karina Sandoval
Check Out… For a luxury stay in central Morzine check out ‘The Loft’, or if you fancy sipping champagne in the hot tub check out Chalet Robin, also in central Morzine or La Cabine in Nyon. moremountain.com ourcamp.co.uk 0033 686021805 – Ask for Samee or Jon If you want to get the snowboarding skills check out ‘Our Camp’
The next Our Camps March 15th - 21st - boys are welcome too. April 5th - 12th - All Girls week.
Please write to email@example.com to book. And the Our Camp team will be hosting an all girls slopestyle event on March 14th in Avoriaz, loads of prizes, fun and new riding buddies guaranteed!