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Whistler "The Camp"

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Has anyone done it yet this year?  I'm considering doing this camp in March. I've read several reviews of the Dave Murray camp (which seem pretty positive) and of the Esprit camps (which seem less positive).  I'm wondering how the "fusing" of the two camps is working out in practice, and whether it's the right fit for me.  


Me: started skiing in 2008 and got hooked, and skied ~35 days/yr in the last couple of years, mostly in Quebec with a couple of trips west.  I've taken a lot of lessons, and would probably say I'm an advanced skier but inexperienced (given my time on skis and the limited variation in terrain and snow in the places I ski). I generally like the group instruction setting. 

post #2 of 8

I did The Camp in Dec. and have the T-shirt to prove it... Last year I did the Maxx4 Camp (renamed Ski Esprit for last year) for the first time. Had a great instructor last year and really enjoyed the group I was with. The basic day was instruction oriented in the morning, focusing on aspects of technique, and then putting them to practice in a more freeski style type lesson after lunch (have fun skiing more fun stuff, trees or whatnot, with some occasional reminders of what we should be focusing on. If we were regressing back into old habits too much, back to regular type instruction for a while we went). So four days with the same instructor and a good time skiing with fun people.


This year, as you say, Ski Esprit and the Dave Murray Camp were combined. But really, mostly only on paper. At the check in on the first day, the Murry people go to one side of the room, and the Esprit people go to the other side of the room and never really see each other much the rest of the camp.


I said 'mostly on paper' above because I had a slight variation to what I described. The instructor we had this year had been a Murray instructor for years. She was a great instructor and I learned a lot so this is not a criticism of her at all, but she was mostly all business all the time, all day long. Get on a chair and get the bar lowered and she was right back talking about technique or tactics or whatnot. My impression is this is how the Murry camp is in general, which make sense since it is more race oriented. I'll add this, though. Whistler was a frozen rock garden while I was there. Only alpine open was limited stuff off the Peak chair and most tree runs were off limits to instructors (limited coverage but still open) so we had limited groomers for most of the week. Not a lot of "freeskiing" to be had so might as well stay focused on instruction all day.


So it really comes down to what you want. Either instruction with a social aspect, or instruction with a laser focus. Last year when the snow was excellent, the level 5 group I was in started tackling some more serious terrain towards the end of the week. Like Pakalolo, for instance. If that doesn't raise your adrenaline level enough, I know the Esprit level 6 groups will ski anywhere on the mountain you're willing and able to try and the instructors are allowed to go (and sometimes the instructors will go into the few areas they're not really supposed to if they feel confident with the group and conditions). I assume the Murray level 6 groups would be the same, but you should ask if it would matter to you. Since they are more race oriented, they may not get into as much off piste.


So either way, you can get what you want from The Camp, you just have to be specific in what kind of atmosphere and focus you want when you check in on the first day. My impression is all the instructors are high level, and the fact that you have the same one for four days adds a lot, too, IMHO.


If you need more specifics than that, I'll answer whatever I can.

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks, this is super helpful. I'm probably interested in the Murray approach to instruction, but want to spend as much time in the alpine as possible, so will think a bit about which one I prefer.

On the other hand I may wait a few days to see what happens to snow conditions before I book anything.

Thanks again!
post #4 of 8

One of the many things I like about working for JHMR is that I have no terrain restrictions.  I can take my students into any area that is in-bounds and open to the public.  This includes hiking the Headwall, Casper Bowl, or The Crags.  I have had students drop Corbets in my lessons.  It sounds like this isn't the case at Whistler and I know that Deer Valley also limits the terrain that instructors can use.


Of course I can expect to to scrutinized if one of my students gets hurt or if someone sees me leading a bunch of scared intermediates into a double black chute.  I could be called on to explain how I thought that terrain was appropriate for a particular student.  In general I am given a lot of leeway as a professional to select the appropriate lesson content and terrain for my guests.  I appreciate that!

post #5 of 8

I'll expand on two things a little bit.


The Esprit camp side instruction is like a regular lesson. The regular group day lessons I've done are about the same. I think there comes a point in the lesson where the instructor realizes he's reached the point diminishing returns. He can keep introducing new things, but the students aren't going to absorb it. For some students that may be by mid morning, for others it might be mid afternoon. So at that point the instructor starts talking about skiing is supposed to be fun and it take repetition/miles/laps to ingrain stuff into muscle memory so they do more skiing than instructing the rest of lesson... A lot of the social aspect comes from the group dynamic of being together for the week and the fact that it seems groups come together or meet there to do the camp. This year, on the Esprit side, I bet 2/3s of the group knew each other before they came, mostly from previous camps. I skied with people from Hong Kong, Ireland, Scotland and England (US and O'Canada, of course) that all knew each other previously through the camp (I bet similar stuff happens on the Murray side, too.).


Also, my guess is the Murray side can't be laser focused ALL day for four days straight. My "Murray" instructor this year seemed to recognize the same thing later in the days. But maybe that was just a reflection of her students she was stuck with. :eek


To expand on the terrain thing a little bit. I think all the terrain TPJ mentioned would be more than fair game in Whistler for the 6's and instructors. They climb Spanky's and do all the hike-to stuff. They just aren't going to be hucking their meat in rock bands like in this video at 3:45, 4:05 and 4:10 (video was first thing I found with a quick google) or things that are serious no-fall zones. I doubt you would be doing much of that stuff in JH, would you TPJ?


And TPJ, while you're still looking, hopefully, I'm going to be at JHMR mid Feb. I might like to do a day group lesson with you, if it worked out. Or I'll be with a fairly big group so it wouldn't be hard to get 5 people for one of those half day, early up, skip the lines on a powder day lessons if we get so lucky to take advantage of that. Can you PM contact info and hopefully I'll be in touch as we get closer in?


Rob, I think I can get you an email for one of the directors of the camp and an instructor that does the 6's, if you want?

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 



Based on the videos, I'd classify myself as a level 5 on their scale (still tons of things to work on!). I feel like I'm ready to hit some of the serious alpine but really would like to get some instruction in the alpine/off-piste setting.  My experience in off-piste and powder is pretty limited.


But I'm trying to gather as much info as possible before I commit, so if you have an email address for someone it would be great.

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

A brief report on my experience with the Camp. 


We had pretty decent snow conditions. There was big snow on the weekend prior to camp, so the snow was generally good and there was lots of untracked snow on Monday AM.  The coverage, while good, was still not great and there were a lot of rocks, either exposed or just buried.  Weather was fantastic all week.  A few cloudy days, some sun, and relatively few problems with visibility. 


My experience at the beginning was pretty similar to DaveB's above.  There were about 40-50 people in levels 5 and 6.  There were a couple of groups that were clearly returning Murray groups who had organized themselves into a group, and a couple of groups that were clearly Ski Esprit groups that had organized into a group.  As it turns out, these were all of the ex-Murray instructors who were there., so I didn't really get an option to choose one style or the other.  


I am always amazed at the ski-off at these things, in which after one run they classify people by level remarkably well.  I ended up in a group of 6 people, and we were told we were level 5+.  A few of my group mates were Ski Esprit veterans; nobody was a Dave Murray veteran.


We spent the first mornings in a more instructional setting - doing a few drills, running gates, practicing movements in easy bumps, and we had two video sessions.  We spent the rest of the time doing something along the lines of guided instructional touring, in which the instructor took us all over the mountain and gave tips to each of us on a regular basis, but not a lot of direct instruction.  The discussion on the chair was mostly fun, rather than tactical.  


As to terrain, the instructors were allowed to use judgement about skills, interest, terrain and conditions, and our instructor took us just about everywhere on the mountain (Spanky's, Blowhole, Pakalolo, Cockalorum, Whistler Bowl were the hilights for our group).  This, for me, was the most important benefit of the trip.  I would never have considered hiking Spanky's, and/or dropping over cornices, without an instructor to tell me a) that I could do it and b) how to do it.  I think the "guided touring" aspect of the Camp is a significant value; WB is pretty overwhelming to the newbie (even though I've been there before!) and the help in selecting the best terrain for us was great.


In sum, I had an experience that I understand to be much like the old Ski Esprit. I enjoyed myself a lot, and am planning to go back next year.  However, I know that at least part of my enjoyment arose from group chemistry, which was great, so I am hesitant to recommend this unreservedly.  I did know of groups that had pretty poor chemistry over the week and  it clearly could go wrong.  It's a great option to experience WB, though.  It is not a hard-core instructional program, but just like DaveB described earlier.  Instruction until brains get full, then free skiing with guided tips.

post #8 of 8

Glad it went well for you, Rob.

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