I was a high plains drifter
Anne Celine-Jager joined a summer camp on the Alps and found the conditions very favourable for snowboarding
Sunday 11 April 1999
Relax. Let them go. You will have a million better stories to tell when you come home from your week on the glacier this summer. Don't be fooled by winter. Creation gives us a secret Santa in the summer: snow on the glaciers. While the rest of the world is baking in the Mediterranean sun, you can absorb the peace and serenity of the topmost snow-covered spots in the Alps.
The advantages of going snowboarding in the summer, especially if you do not like the cold, are limitless. To begin with, you can experience the crazy sensation of riding on the glacier in the morning and engaging in summer activities in the afternoon. The increased hours of sunlight allow you to use the afternoon hours to go mountain biking, swimming or hiking, even after you have had a good day on the slopes.
Here, the hours of the day can be used to their full potential. The combination of the overwhelming natural beauty of the glacier, whether you are in Tignes, Deux Alpes (France) or Hintertux (Austria), and the companionship of other riders, is a constant boost of energy. On the glacier the high is all natural.
Although I have been snowboarding for several years, I discovered summer camps only last year. A friend of mine persuaded me to join her for her annual visit to Tignes, near Val D'Isere in France. We chose to go with Nazca Camps, an Italian company which has been organising summer snowboarding camps for more than five years.
The firm's snowboard package offers good value for money and includes a six-day ski-pass, lessons (freestyle, race, free-ride) with Italian and Spanish champions, accommodation and afternoon activities such as trampolining to practice jumps, beach volleyball, barbecues and discounts on drinks in the bar.
Not knowing what to expect, I was surprised by the stress-free atmosphere in the resort. It was reminiscent of an easy-going Caribbean lifestyle. Granted, there are no palm tree-fringed sandy beaches, but everything is done with minimal effort here.
Waking up to go riding, for example, is much easier in the summer as you can get up with the sun. From 7am onwards its rays will tickle your brow and you will be itching to get up and go - no matter how tired you are from drinking and dancing the night before. Naturally, part of the fun is meeting your new companions at the bottom of the cable car in the morning to discuss what happened in the club the night before.
Usually, you can do a good six hours of riding every day. Camp members have lessons between 8am and 12pm and then everyone convenes in the snowpark to practice jumping or to watch professionals perfect their technique in the halfpipe. Unfortunately, the sun makes you its victim after 2pm when the snow goes slushy. But down in the valley, numerous activities are on offer, and if you are the lounging-around type, you can sit on your balcony next to your socks, drying in the sun, and watch others engaging in activities.
A summer snowboard camp is also the perfect way to introduce your partner or friends to the sport. Since the coaching is done in the morning and is not compulsory, those who are new to the sport don't have to be prepared for absolute dedication. The afternoon is theirs to do whatever they choose. On the other hand, if you want to travel alone, you will be well looked after.
The innumerable social activities make it extremely easy to get to know other riders. Also, there is no age discrimination: snowboarding is no longer a sport only for teenagers. Camp members vary in age: in a beach volleyball tournament, for example, I teamed up with four lawyers from Milan and a student from France.
Undoubtedly, the most amazing aspect of snowboarding in the summer is the great sense of camaraderie between riders. Although this is part of the fabric of the sport, you can feel it more in the summer. Professionals and amateurs, beginners and the more advanced share the slopes and the fun park at all times. There is simply no other sport in the world that allows you to be so close to your idols and that allows you to learn from them at the same time. Imagine practising your tennis serve with Tim Henman. More to the point, imagine having a couple of pints in the pub with him later that evening. It is quite something to be told by the French halfpipe champion how one can improve that 360 degrees, or to get tips from Dani Fernandez - when he is not just coaching his younger brother, Iker Fernandez, the Spanish Olympic contender.
Riding in the summer fills you with a sense of power, as you feel you have defied the laws of nature, making that existing camaraderie between boarders even stronger.
Tignes was, of course, less crowded than it might be during the winter season. Nevertheless, I was busy at all times. All tastes are catered for. You can begin the evening's entertainment by cooking up a meal in the apartment. Alternatively, you can venture to one of the numerous restaurants. But no matter where you start, you are bound to end up in one of the local bars including the Marylin or the Cafe de la Poste. And the nightcap will be consumed in the Blue Girl Club.
By 3am I usually decided to call it a night, because I could already feel that sun slowly rising over the mountain, beckoning me to get up for another day on the slopes.
Be prepared to fall in love with the mountain. All the people I met had been many times before. As for myself, I know that one week in July will not suffice this year. This time I want to stay until my coffers are empty.
SUMMER IN THE SNOW
Nazca Camps' programme (tel: 00 39 01 653 1322; or visit the website at http://nazca.netsurf.it) runs from the end of June until the end of August.
Based in Deux Alpes and Tignes, packages include a range of accommodation in hotels or apartments, coaching and a lift pass. Lessons are given by Spanish and Italian snowboarding champions, including Dani and Richard Fernandez.
Six days of lessons - which include four hours of tuition a day - and a six-day ski pass cost between pounds 150 and pounds 200. Self-catering apartments start from pounds 100 a week for an apartment sleeping two. Apartments sleeping four to six people cost pounds 200 per week. Hotel rooms cost pounds 270 per person per week and the price includes a ski pass. Prices rise mid-season.
Chalet Snowboard (tel: 01235 767575) is based in Deux Alpes and runs from the end of June until the beginning of September. As the company name suggests, camp members are accommodated in chalets. The package costs from pounds 399 per person per week, rising mid-season. The price includes accommodation with full board (packed lunches), five days' coaching, video- coaching, lift-pass and free use of the Burton test equipment. Travel is not included.
Kommunity Camps (tel: 01484 642984) is based in Deux Alpes and runs from 17 July until 8 August. One week snowboarding with Kommunity costs pounds 458, including travel and accommodation in self-catering apartments. The tutors are some of Britain's top riders, including Jamie Phillps, Neil McNab, Steve Bailey and many more.
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