Last week, at the Castleford Xscape we saw the future of British freestyle skiing competing against one another at the Summer Heat Railbattle. The level of riding at the comp was ridiculous, and not just at the top end, it was right the way through the competitive field. So where did these talents suddenly spring from? Sure, there are more Snowdomes now than there were 10 years ago, and dry ski slopes are more freestyle friendly, so kids have better training grounds across the country, but when I talked to most people at the comp, the phrase that kept repeating like a Buddhist prayer mantra was, ‘Salomon Grom camp, Salomon Grom camp’.
The Salomon Grom camps were started in 2005 by Pat Sharples, and have become the most popular freestyle training camps in the UK. The idea is simple, take the finest British freeskiers, put them on a slope with a bunch of kids and get them to impart their knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport. It’s a simple but effective model, but one essential ingredient, and that is Pat himself.
Pat has been knocking around the British ski scene for years, first revealing himself to the public through the European Mogul challenge, which he won in 1996. Since then he has competed in freeride comps (taking 6th place at the Courchevel Freeride classic in 1999), and freestyle comps across the globe, more recently hanging up his competition boots, and moving to coaching…and one thing is obvious, that Pat’s abilities as a skier are only surpassed by his ability to share his passion with his students, and he has co-founded the British Freeski camps in Saas Fee, a hugely successful setup that is staple in most British freeskier’s calendars. In fact it was off the back of the success of these that Pat dreamt up the Grom camps. Luckily for Pat he happened to have the ear of one of the most supportive brands in the UK, the ski company that was the first to listen to the New Canadian Airforce (Mike Douglas, JF Cusson, Vincent Dorion, JP Auclair, Shane Szocs, and Marc McDonell) in 1997 when these crazy kids were running around demanding that someone made them a pair of skis with noses at both ends – I mean seriously what were they thinking!!
With the backing of a major ski brand, the Grom camps have gone from strength to strength, and now are not just a platform for ski freestyle coaching, but have become a community for British freestylers. Anyone who has been on a podium in the British scene in the last three years has almost certainly been to a Salomon Grom camp, and at the Summer Heat Railbattle we couldn’t find anyone who wasn’t a Grom Camp protégé.
So it was last Tuesday (18/08/09) we found ourselves in Tamworth, the original Snowdome, watching 60 plus kids and adults get their shred on. The most obvious impression we got was that this was more like a big group of mates riding together rather than a teacher-pupil affair. Anyone who pulled off a trick, no matter what level, whether it be spinning onto rail or just making it to the end first time is applauded by the whole camp.
The coaches themselves (most of them products of the grom camps) steer and manage the enthusiasm, until it seems as if the whole group drives itself further. Little pushes in technical ability and style are brought about as much through peer pressure of a positive kind as through the coaching itself, and this is reinforced with video run-throughs at the end of the night and prizes awarded for everything from most improved and hardest working, to trick of the day and grom of the month.
To understand the appeal of the grom camps you just need to go down and check one out, and to understand their importance you just have to look at the podium of any British competition and you’ll see the likes of Josh Fawcett, Katie Summerhayes and James Woods who as former students of the grom camps, now find themselves pushing for international competition podiums, and in the case of Woodsy taking first place in one ( at the Verbier Ride last year). The bottom line is that anyone, of any age who is considering getting into freestyle skiing simply can’t afford not to go!
Click here for more details and to check out the Salomon Grom camps site.
Wed 26 Aug Chill Factore (Manchester) 4pm-6pm
Thu 27 Aug Chill Factore (Manchester) 4pm-6pm
Fri 28 Aug Chill Factore (Manchester) 12pm-2pm
Thu 17 Aug Chill Factore (Manchester) 7pm-9pm
Tue 6 Oct Tamworth Snowdome (Tamworth) 7pm-10pm (Urban Ride camp)
Sat 17 Oct Norfolk Ski Club (Norfolk) 2pm-6pm
Sat 14 Nov Ski Club of Ireland (Dublin) 12pm-5pm
A session at a Grom camp costs £30 and includes slope fees and coaching.