For some young athletes, it's never too late in the season for a little mogul training, and having the country's best bump skiers on hand to help coach only sweetens the deal.
For last 10 years or so, Team Breck has enlisted several top-notch mogul athletes as coaches for its spring camp at Arapahoe Basin. The snow base is usually near its peak this time of year, coach John Dowling said, but the lack of snow hasn't spoiled the spirits of youngsters who have a chance to train with the best.
Among this week's coaching staff are Patrick Deneen (current No. 2 World Cup-ranked skier, 2010 Olympian and 2009 World Champion), Heather McPhie (reigning national champion, Olympian and current world No. 4) and Jeremy Cota (also a reigning national champion).
For the athletes, this time of year is one of the few opportunities they have to coach, and there aren't many other places that still have snow.
"It's a good time of year for us because we don't have too much training going on," said Cota, who lives in Steamboat Springs. "This is kind of the down time, so if I was going to pick a time to do some coaching, it would be now."
Deneen has been coaching at the
A-Basin camp for the last five seasons, and he's worked with many of the same kids year after year.
"It's really fun to come here and see the kids progress," Deneen said. "We have a few kids that have been here every year since I started coaching, so it's pretty cool to see the progression."
One of those young athletes who came up through the system is Summit local Dylan Walczyk, who just made the U.S. Ski Team after winning the Nor-Am circuit this season.
The camp actually had to be moved up this season in light of the current conditions at the Basin, which is the only mountain currently open in Colorado and is set for its second earliest closing in history on Sunday.
"There are usually a lot of natural moguls; we like to do that," Deneen said. "This year we're stuck on the course, and it's a lot flatter. It's not really where we want to be on the mountain, but we built a really nice course and the kids are skiing really well. In some ways, it actually kind of helped us because we put it on an easier course and some of the kids are able to ski better."
Dowling suspects the base differential between last year and this year is about 72 inches (100 inches last, 28 this year), and the camp has been aided immensely by the A-Basin staff and cat operators who helped push some snow around for the skiers.
"I've always tried to bring back some of the talent that is at that top level, especially guys whom I've skied with and really admire," Dowling said. "Patrick is great to have because I think he's the best turner in the world."
There are upwards of 40 kids, and a handful of adults, at this year's camp, and the coaching they receive is invaluable in more ways than one.
"For the kids, it's huge motivationally to be there on the slope with a guy who you heard of and seen skiing," Dowling said. "The freestyle world is kind of a small world, and I think everybody after a while knows each other fairly well. So it's nice to get to know some of these guys that hopefully you get to ski with for a long time."