Keystone Bike Academy introduces Dirt Camp, a summer camp for mountain bikers
Keystone Dirt Camp
What: Two sets of five-day camps for aspiring mountain bikers between ages 9 and 13 years old, led by pro guides
When: June 26-30 and July 17-21, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily
Where: Keystone Bike Park at River Run Village
Cost: $299 per person
Dirt Camp includes instruction, swag, daily equipment storage, bike haul ticket and private shuttle. All campers need to bring a bike (front suspension at least), full-face helmet, water, lunch, sunscreen and closed-toe shoes. Knee and elbow pads are recommended. The Keystone Bike Park also offers day camps for riders of all ages and abilities, including adults and Women’s Wednesday clinics. To sign up for any session or learn more, see KeystoneBikePark.com.
As soon as Adam Jones told the brothers to dab, they immediately knew what to do on a mountain bike. And then Jones, a lead instructor for the Keystone Bike Academy, demonstrated a dab: both arms straight to the right, head into the crook of the left elbow, wrists and shoulders and body loose like something from a Soulja Boy music video.
It’s a classic motocross move, and when the instructor explained how whipping through berms on a mountain bike uses the same motion as a moto dab, the two youngsters automatically mimed his movement — and then transposed it to the trail.
“Those ‘a-ha’ moments happen all the time when we have the chance to connect with a kid,” said Jones, who splits his seasons at Keystone between mountain biking lessons in summer and snowboard lessons in winter. Like his fellow instructors at the bike park, he has a knack for breaking down complex skills into simple parts. After finding that a-ha moment with the two brothers — they had joined their parents and grandfather for a Bike 101 lesson earlier this summer, one of several class options through the academy — he switched into full-on teacher mode for the adults, digging into the details of physics and balance and center of gravity on a bike.
“(When) we got on the trail, we found ways to relate to the kids,” Jones said. “All of our instructors are working on different forms of instruction for kids versus adults, and through that we connect with them differently.”
Gone dirt campin’
This summer, Jones takes on a new role at the bike academy with the introduction of Dirt Camp: a pair of weeklong day camps (June 26-30 and July 17-21) designed for the sort of young mountain bikers he met in the 101 course.
“This is another evolution of the Keystone Bike Park and Academy, and shows how the entire thing works together,” said Russ Carlton, senior communications manager for Keystone Resort, which oversees the bike park, academy and trail crew, a new addition from 2016.
The academy also debuted last season with Bike 101, Bike 201 and women’s clinics, but Dirt Camp will be something just a little different, Jones said. It’s built for the entire gamut of young mountain bikers, from never-ever trail riders to enduro racers-in-the-making, and gives kids a full week to fall in love with the sport.
“One of the things we felt we were missing was working with local and other guests, guests from out of town, and working with them on a long-term basis,” said Jones, who also noted that this year’s Women’s Wednesday clinics include three sessions, not single sessions like in years past. “A single morning or an afternoon might not be the best way to get them where they want to be.”
On the first day, campers meet their instructors and split into groups based on ability level. Camp is limited to 25 kids, giving everyone plenty of time for one-on-one instruction, and the majority of every day is spent on a bike.
But that doesn’t exactly mean campers are riding trails over and over. After splitting into groups, everyone begins with flatland skills like proper pedal placement, track stands, bridge riding and manuals. Then, groups head to the new-and-improved skills park outside of River Run Village, where instructors will lead riders through the redesigned progression lines on mini boulders, rollers, berms, log bridges and more.
“We’ve moved away from higher-end features and now have a park that’s made for the guests who are using our camps and clinics,” said Greg Willis, director of the bike park and the Keystone Ski and Ride School. “It’s a progressive park that will help people move up through the levels, provide an experience that is meaningful for people learning.”
Instruction doesn’t end with bunny hops and berms. Also built into Dirt Camp curriculum is a few hours of trail work with Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, one of several local groups that help build and maintain the trails mountain bikers love.
“We could watch Red Bull Rampage all day and that inspires you to a point, but we’re getting behind the scenes, showing what happens to build trails,” said Jones, who wants campers to leave Dirt Camp with new skills and a new appreciation for sustainability. “You see that someone put a lot of work into that trail you’re riding.”
Dirt Camp Olympics
The middle of the week looks a lot like the first day — flatland, skills park, trail riding, plenty of resting and laughing in between — until the final day on Friday. That’s when campers get a taste of competition while showing off their skills at Dirt Camp Olympics.
Unlike a race, where the fastest wins, Jones says this Olympics is all about testing the base skills campers learned: track stands, manuals, bridges and more.
“Kids are fun — they are a whole lot of fun,” Jones said. “We get to play games, work on skills, ride around, do all of that, but in 10 or 15 years, these will be the kids who are the future of the program and the future of the sport. This way, we get to have a direct hand in that.”
For Jones, dirt camp is more than training grounds for the next generation of mountain bikers. It’s also time for he and his fellow instructors to be kids again — dabs and all.
“When we get to Dirt Camp, we get to turn on our inner child,” Jones said. “This is our chance to have fun, get silly, show them how fun biking can be without the adult side kicking into it.”
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