Thirty-seven members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club packed their bags and headed for Oregon early this morning for eight days of skiing.
It's a sure sign that the times when competitive skiers could wait until November to start skiing have come to an end.
These days, Chris Puckett, Alpine director for the Winter Sports Club, said older juniors must attend summer camps, fall camps and late fall camps if they want to keep pace with the competition.
"You just can't wait 'till it snows in Steamboat," Puckett said. "By Thanksgiving, there are already races happening. If a skier waits until then to start, they will be behind."
Puckett said racers who get a late start must work harder to overcome the setback.
He said in a sport like ski racing it's not just about ironing out the wrinkles in technique. Top early season results can mean favorable start positions as well as invitations to camps and national teams.
"Our sport is really front loaded. Some skiers can overcome not skiing at summer camps, but most of them have to work a lot harder all season," Puckett said.
To help the Winter Sports Club keep pace with the rest of the skiers in the country, the Alpine and snowboarding programs routinely schedule camps in late July. Puckett would like to see another Oregon camp in early fall and another, shorter camp in Summit County in late fall.
"Last year I took 19 skiers, so this is a good number," coach Terry DelliQuadri said. "I think the strength of our program and word of mouth has brought a lot of new skiers to our summer camp. They are psyched to get back on snow."
DelliQuadri will head a camp slated for Mount Hood this week. The 30 skiers will spend eight days on snow working on the fundamentals with a staff of seven coaches. They are scheduled to return Aug. 2
"They've been signing up since April," DelliQuadri said. "We just stressed what this camp could do for their skiing, but a lot of them heard about it through word of mouth."
Puckett said that for some skiers, the camp will be a chance to fine tune things, and for others it will be a chance to make wholesale changes in their techniques.
"Because it's the summer, and there are no races to deal with that, skiers can make major changes," Puckett said. "This is the time to do that."
He will lead a camp for older skiers beginning July 27.
The two camps will be run by entirely different staffs, however Puckett said the goal is the same for both groups.
"All of these skiers want to improve their skiing," Puckett said. "These camps will go a long way toward doing that for them."
The snowfields at Mount Hood never melt. Puckett said the resort, which is located at 8,500 feet, is far enough north that in typical years, the snow lasts through the summer.
Skiers may have to walk to some of the lifts and deal with some ice, but he said the conditions are good for learning.