Learning Freestyle Tricks at Summer Snowboard Camp

ONWARDS AND EVEN MORE UPWARDS

In her mid-30s and with a wealth of snowboarding experience, Anna Reisenauer has travelled the world professionally and personally in many countries. In 2015, she fulfilled her first lifelong dream of summiting four peaks above 4000m, including Mont Blanc, in 24 hours. She discovered her love for snowboarding during her youth. After a forced hiatus from mountain activities for several years, she reclaimed nearly all of her mountain disciplines in the winter of 22/23, including snowboarding. So it's onwards and more upwards, as Anna learns some new snowboarding tricks at Tommie Bennett's summer snowboard camp in Oregon...

My name is Anna Reisenauer, and I live in the beautiful town of Lofer in the Pinzgau region of Austria, where ski slopes and mountains are just a few minutes away on foot. I consider myself fortunate to live where others go on vacation. As a passionate mountaineer and snowboarder, I began engaging in mountain sports from childhood. The love for the mountains has always been an integral part of my life and cannot be separated.

After a significant break, I have rediscovered my love for snowboarding and treated myself to a two-week experience at the Tommie Bennett Summer and Snow Camp in Oregon.

WHEN THE SNOW RUNS OUT

For an Austrian, embarking on such a journey might come as a surprise, especially considering the mountains and ski lifts are right on my doorstep. However, even here, the snow eventually runs out. As an enthusiastic mountaineer and snowboarder, I wanted to try something new that promised adventure and excitement.

As well as for snowboarding, I highly recommend this journey for solo female travellers. I discovered Welches in Oregon is a small town where women can feel safe and free to explore even without the camp members.

Last winter, I watched others with great envy as they enjoyed themselves in the snow parks, jumping over boxes, rails, and kickers. Everything seemed so effortless for them. Initially, I tried to learn freestyling on my own. I watched numerous videos and attempted my first 180s and jumps, but with moderate success. Numerous falls and frustrations came along with the attempts.

I needed a different solution. After the recent winter season, I just couldn't get enough of snow. When the last ski lift  closed in our region, I had to find an alternative. The snowboarding season at home was simply too short. That's why I started searching for a ski resort that remained open in the summer.

THE RIGHT FIT

While there is a wide range of snowboarding travel options, many are designed for children and teenagers, while others are for advanced riders. Since I wanted to take on the new challenge of freestyle, my choice became more limited.

After thorough research on the internet, I found a suitable snowboard solution for adults, which I believed was the right fit for the summer, the Tommie Bennett Summer Snow Camp. At Tommie Bennett's camp, there is an option for adults to learn freestyle snowboarding. This was perfect. It was important to me that the programme promised individual adjustments to one's skill level, so that I could achieve my goals.

Even though the camp typically offered one week sessions, due to my long journey, I decided to book a two-week camp. I chose the full package, which being all-inclusive, meant I didn't have to worry about anything on-site.

TIPS FOR SUMMER SNOWBOARDING

Naturally, after booking the camp, my first question was about the summer snow conditions in a different country and whether it was worth undertaking such a long journey just for snowboarding. I also wondered how to dress for snowboarding in warm temperatures. Luckily, after booking, I received an email from Tommie that answered my questions. It included a packing list and some tips to consider upon arrival.

The official start was on a Monday. However, considering the time difference and to avoid stress between arrival and the first day of training, I decided to arrive a day early. Since there were no participants on site during Sundays for organisational reasons, I arranged an overnight stay at a nearby camp, so I could arrive rested and stress-free for the welcome day.

The Portland International Airport (Oregon) was quite manageable. From there, I took an Uber to Welches, as the camp's transfer was only offered on Mondays at 4pm.

GETTING IN GEAR

The next day was the beginning of the camp. Tommie Bennett and his crew warmly welcomed us with a meal, and the entire camp schedule was explained. If you needed extra or new gear, you could go shopping in his store in the camp. I can recommend the snowboard goggles The Viewfinder with magnetic interchangeable lenses and the waterproof Tech Hoodie v2. In addition, I bought the leather gloves made of goatskin. 

The following morning, the real adventure began. After breakfast, we took a bus to Mt. Hood at the Timberline ski resort. The ski season there generally runs from mid-November to the end of August. Depending on weather conditions, the resort offers 31km of slopes, adorned with various freestyle parks.

Before the actual training started, we were divided into small groups based on our skill levels. Each group had three to four participants. After a warm-up session, we began with technique exercises, covering the basics of freestyle, which were crucial.

WORKING ON TRICKS

Each day, I could choose which freestyle elements and moves I wanted to learn. Tommie and his crew gradually and safely introduced me to each element, preparing me for boxes, rails, and kickers. Whether it was a 50/50 over a box, a grab over the kicker, or confidently grinding on a rail, I worked on all the tricks. There was even an airbag available for learning various flips.

Returning to the question of snow conditions and whether you can go snowboarding in the summer: Yes, it is possible to snowboard in the summer. Naturally, it's not the powdery white snow of our dreams, but it was sufficient for me to learn freestyling. To be honest, sometimes I was quite glad to find the slushy snow there. Learning freestyle involves a lot of falls, and the soft surface was most welcome.

What was definitely worth it, was the nightly video analysis. The moves captured during the day were discussed and analysed in these sessions. They served not only for mutual learning but also for learning from our own mistakes. Most importantly, I could see the progress I made day by day. After each exciting day of training, various leisure activities took place. I could choose whether I wanted to participate or not.

ONE BIG SNOWBOARDING FAMILY

Since I was travelling alone and couldn't find anyone to accompany me on this adventure, I initially feared not fitting in. However, those fears were unfounded, as everyone attended the camp with the same interests. Overall, we lived like a big family in a large house specially rented for the camp. Bedrooms were usually shared by pairs, and all common areas, as well as the bathroom, were communal.

I felt like we were one big family. Not only were the age groups of participants diverse, with everyone above 21, but there was also a mix of international backgrounds, sparking my curiosity to learn about different customs and traditions.

Regarding meals, the fridges were always accessible and stocked with food and drinks. The best part was that I could also chill the food I bought myself. A wide selection of snacks was always well-stocked and within reach. Since there were no restaurants at the Timberline Resort, we had a shared break on the slopes during lunchtime, eating the snacks we had prepared in the morning. In the evenings, one of the crew members always prepared dinner for us.

WAS IT WORTH IT?

On Sunday, the departure day arrived, and Tommie offered a transfer to the airport with all the other participants. From there, I made my journey back to Austria. To anyone who asks me if I would travel again for summer snowboarding, my answer is a resounding YES.

For a snowboard enthusiast like me, it was an incredible experience. Even though the atmosphere differs not only on the slopes but throughout the entire ski resort from what I'm used to in Austria, it's an unforgettable adventure to go snowboarding in another country during the summer. It's worth it, if only to shorten the off-season at home.

I have included links to this post that provide more information about Tommie Bennett and his Summer Camp. Additionally, I invite you to my Instagram account where you can ask me numerous questions about the Summer Snowboard Camp.

Main photo of Anna: Matthew Dalton