mogul-skiing-mount-hood

Kristen Smith shredding a bump line on Mount Hood's Palmer Snowfield.

Seven-year-old Tucker Smith of Sun Valley has just finished ripping it through the bumps on the Palmer Snowfield with stunning style, and now his mom Kristen is rocking her way down a Mount Hood mogul strip in mid-July.

“Kristen came here just absolutely ripping it already,” says mogul coach Darren Owen. “We’ve just been adjusting her body position a little bit, making her more efficient.”

Smith completes a turn on each bump and lets her speed rise gradually until she is shredding the slushy bumps at top speed, but still in full control.

Owen hoots his appreciation as she skids to a slush-flying stop just downhill from the group: “Whoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo!”

“I love it! You’re already pushing the speed. That is great skiing! Awesome!”

Owen's small group of bump skiers crowds in closely to hear him over the North wind as he reinforces the fundamentals: quiet upper body, shock-absorbing knees, the "lead change" that occurs when the body is stacked properly over the downhill foot and the uphill knee naturally advances forward to allow better pressure on the outside ski.

The group watches Javier Damien, a 53-year-old from the Jersey Shore, flow through the moguls and skid to a stop with a big smile.

“Javier! Dude! That was awesome! The lower section, the last 10 moguls, you were just blasting. I like it. It’s fun when you get face shots in the summer.”

Two lanes over to the west, John Turbes is coaching a group of kids trying to get to the next level in giant slalom racing. They aren’t afraid to ski fast and their turns are decent, but their lines need work.

“This time really try to get set up on that edge early,” says Turbes. “I want you to be three quarters of the way done with your turn by the time you reach the gate, every time.”

Turbes watches each of his racers run the course halfway down, then offers them some feedback on their turns and things to work on for next run.

It is about 85 degrees in Portland, but the salted snow is holding up fairly well on Mount Hood, and there is a nice refreshing breeze. Racers, campers and bump skiers have divided up the snowfield into 21 lanes across, and skiers and snowboarders from all over the world are working on their form on the snowfield above Timberline Lodge that hosts the longest lift-serviced summer snow season in North America. Lycra-clad racers from Russia, Banf, Sun Valley, Edmonton, Squaw Valley and Jesuit; visiting tourists from Tokyo and Atlanta; mogul specialists from Vermont and Santa Fe; and three terrain parks and two halfpipes packed full of freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

The reigning U.S. moguls champion Patrick Deneen is training to the far eastern side of the snowfield. Olympic halfpipe gold medalist Kaitlyn Farrington is mixing with campers down in the High Cascade Snowboarding Camp area. The elaborate parks run by High Cascade and Windells are like slopeside mini-cities unto themselves - cities well-branded with commercial interests. Summer camps large and small are competing and cooperating.

It all adds up to a lively mountain scene, and Mt. Hood Summer Ski Camps, the organization that Owen and Terbes coach for, has been at the center of it for 35 years. The earliest iteration of the camp was founded in 1979 by Mike Annett, a racer from Quebec who still runs the organization, and thousands of campers have flocked here to study the fine points of racing, bump skiing, and slopestyle. Some of those past campers, including Daron Rahlves, Ted Ligety, Julia Mancuso and Vic Wild, have gone on to achieve great things in World Cup and Olympic competition.

Mike Annett says about 850 campers have signed up for this summer, a decent amount but down from peak seasons of the past when MHSSC drew up to 1100 campers. His hypothesis is that the drop still has to do with the economy and the fact that "the rich have money to burn but no one else does."

MHSCC's week-long summer camps run $1145 to $1325, including meals and lodging, with options to upgrade housing for $300-$500 per session.

A big part of the training involves videotaping runs and studying the video. Robin Cressy, a coach and videographer who has shared many excellent videos and photos with Shred Hood, has worked with Mt. Hood Summer Ski Camp for 29 years.

“I'm that guy who never left," he says in between shoots. "I started when I was 20 and I still enjoy it. I don't think the Blazers will be signing me up to play point guard any time soon, so I'll probably stick with it."

You can see Robin shooting in the background of this photo as another racer runs the GS course.

 By noon the snow is getting pretty heavy and some coaches are starting to pull gates and head down to ride the Magic Mile lift back down to Timberline Lodge. MHSSC coach Jackie Reis, whose dad also coached at the camp, is trying to squeeze a few more turns out of a group of racers from Michigan who have been working with her all week: “Come on! The party’s just getting started!”

They side-slip down to the course and Reis calls out to her racers over the roar of the wind: “Okay, guys, here’s what’s gonna happen. I’m gonna run the first couple of gates and I want you to watch how I pressure the outside ski, to get it turning in a C shape, and really accelerate through the fall line.”

She demonstrates with a ski-pole sketch on the snow: “This part right here, see? Try to accelerate through the turn. Bend the ski right here and get it to snap. You’ve got to have lot of pressure on that outside ski.”

Sounds simple enough, but it’s a different matter when you’re in the course and everything is coming at you very quickly, and you have already lost your rhythm. Reis makes it look easy, but her students know from experience that it is not easy.

“Watching her go down just makes me feel like crap,” says one of the teenagers. “Seriously. Watch her. It looks so easy. I know I’m gonna wipe out and kill myself. I’m just hoping I don’t die on this run… Go Jordan! Woo-hoo!! Nice turns!”

Some of the young racers shred the course; others survive it. They're all skiing better than they were at the beginning of the week.



“Great job!” hollers Reis. “We're gonna watch video back at camp at 2:30. Hey, did everyone hear that? Video back at camp at 2:30!”

With that they’re off plowing downhill, leaving heavy wakes of slush behind them.

Here's a slideshow with some photos Robin Cressy and I shot on Palmer Friday, July 17:

Seven-year-old Tucker Smith shreds some soft bumps at Mt. Hood Summer Ski Camp. Photo by Robin Cressy.