We’ve been hearing about West Yellowstone since, well, the U.S. Ski Team officially started its annual Fall Camp there in 1978. But surely, Montana’s southern tip can’t be the only place to get on snow this time of year…
That’s why we provided a guide to Thanksgiving on-snow camp venues in the U.S. and Canada (we realize this week isn’t Thanksgiving in Canada, but we’re sticking to areas that offer skiing around this week in late November for all intents and purposes). If we’re missing an early season camp, we apologize — it’s a big continent — but let us know so we can feature that camp in next year’s guide.
What: Yellowstone Ski Festival
Where: West Yellowstone, Montana
When: Tuesday, Nov. 24, to Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015
How many years running? 20+
Target audience: Masters and beginners (clinics available for both), as well as elite racers
Anticipated participation: An estimated 4,000-5,000 skiers throughout the week. “It varies from year to year depending on the snow conditions and the snow level,” West Yellowstone Ski Education Foundation Program Director Moira Dow explained. “Because we’ve gotten snow early this year and good snow, we have been able to get the word out. Like right now the trails are packed. We will probably have a lot of people coming for longer periods of time.”
Advance reservation required? Racers must preregister. Trails are open to public; trail pass required.
Trail pass rates: $12/day, $55/month, kids 10 & under 1/2 price
What makes this camp unique? “The number of trails and the quality of snow that we have. We’re one of the few places in the country that does have consistent, early, good snow. In addition to that, we have a lot of industry participation. And we have great evening programs for people. We have not just skiing, we have the full package for everybody and anyone, from the beginner skier who wants to get out on the snow for the first time, to the SuperTour elite athlete who can train at high altitude, and good snow in the early part of the season.”
- U.S. Ski Team Development Coach Bryan Fish and the former vice president of Fischer Skis U.S. nordic division, Peter Ashley, will be featured speakers
- Freebies: “Everything at the indoor expo at night is free. Anybody who has a trail pass can get into the outdoor demo area for free. In addition, on Wednesday and Friday night we have ‘après-ski’… [with] complimentary adult beverages and junior beverages, sledding, some music, and fun stuff like that. Just a little bit more of a party atmosphere after the sun goes down and before the expo opens.”
What: Crested Butte Nordic Thanksgiving Camp
Where: Crested Butte, Colorado
When: Thursday, Nov. 26, to Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015
How many years running? 14 as an official organized camp: “Crested Butte has really good and reliable early season snow so the Nordic Center decided we should try to get folks to come here and get some instruction from our great instructors,” said Drew Holbrook, marketing director for Crested Butte Nordic and the Grand Traverse ski race. “We also have a wonderful venue for early season nordic skiing and we’ve been fortunate enough to have been on-snow every year.”
Target audience: All ages and abilities, “from never-evers to master blasters looking to improve their technique,” Holbrook said. “If parents are skiing along with children, kids ski free. All kids 17 and younger get free passes and rentals. And, actually, all season long we do that — people 17 and younger ski free. At the Thanksgiving Camp we also do free kids clinics. So if a parent is taking a clinic, then they can have their kids taken care of all day.
Anticipated participation: Several hundred skiers on the trails throughout the long weekend. For clinics, projecting 75-80 participants.
Advance reservation required? Pre-registration recommended for clinics. Nordic Center trail passes available any time. Skiing at Lily Lake, a 10 k early season trail system four miles up Kebler Pass Road, is free.
Trail pass rates: $18/day, skiers 17 & younger ski free. $130 for a 10-punch transferable pass.
Grooming report: With about a foot of snow at the venue in town, “it’s looking like in-town skiing for the camp,” Holbrook said. As of Tuesday, Ruthie’s Run (5-kilometer loop at the nordic center and up on the bench) and Lily Lake (six miles west of town up on the pass) were groomed. “We’ll have over 10 kilometers of high quality skiing available,” Holbrook added. More details
What makes this camp unique? “As a non-profit, our mission is to get people out on the trails skiing. We are not making a ton of money off it,” Holbrook said.
“We just want people to come here and use our trails and make it affordable. A lot of people come back year after year and work with the same instructor. They get to know each other and get to know the other people that come into camp. So it’s definitely got this small feel to it, it’s kind of personalized.”
- For the first time, a race (on Sunday): 5/10 k freestyle + kids’ race with new homologated course on Ruthie’s Run. “It’s engineered, seeded, and mowed,” Holbrook said. “Due to the engineering, we are able to groom the race course with a lot less snow than we used to need. That enables us to count on having this race and count on have a good race venue close to town.”
- Winter Kick-Off Party (Saturday night): Fundraiser for Crested Butte Nordic, tickets $30/adult,$10/children.
- Wax clinic, nutritional talk and Nov. 25 is opening day at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, with free skiing all day.
What: CXC Thanksgiving Nordic Festival
Where: Telemark Trails in Cable, Wisconsin
When: Wednesday, Nov. 25, to Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015
How many years running? First year. “Our goal for the festival is to show the template to other communities, what it takes to make snow … to provide a business and operations template to other places around the Midwest so they can do these festivals in late November and then have a reliable loop for the winter,” CXC Executive and Athletic Director Yuriy Gusev explained.
Target audience: All skiers; open to the public
Anticipated participation: Based on the camp’s Facebook page, at least 75 plan on attending, and Gusev estimated that paired with a local turnout would amount to 200-300 skiers. “We don’t want to make it a big deal … just to show the community this is an opportunity to ski,” he said.
Advance reservation required? Yes, for clinics (instructed by Gusev on Friday, Saturday and Sunday).Trails open to public.
Trail pass rates: $50 season passes, good for the festival and the whole winter. Trail passes can be purchased at www.cxcskiing.org/skipass, Telemark condominium office and Cable Area Chamber of Commerce Office.
Grooming report: Skiing on a 1 k loop at Telemark started on Sunday: “Usually there’s no natural snow this time of year, so our plan was to make snow,” Gusev said. “It just didn’t get cold like it normally does.” Once temperatures finally cooled late last week, the snowmaking crew was able to work on blowing and laying out a 1-kilometer manmade loop, some of which will be used for the 2016 Junior Nationals sprint course. More details
What makes this camp unique? “Anytime you have early snow, you stand out. I think it can be a key component to have this … to provide a reliable base for the rest of the winter, especially for youth programs where the snow is critical and also for entry-level participants. We’ve seen already with the couple snowmaking areas in the Twin Cities how much impact these have on the ski industry and local ski shops. They’ve been able to actually do relatively well in snowless winters.”
Special events: Fischer Demo
What: Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Ski Camp
Where: Granby, Colorado
When: Friday, Nov. 20, to Tuesday, Nov. 24
How many years running? First time in recent years
Target audience: Beginner skiers to seasoned racers
Advance reservation required? Yes.
Participation: Capped at 24. “Smaller is better from both a coaching and athlete viewpoint,” Snow Mountain Ranch’s Nordic Center Director Bill Pierce explained. In its first year with little marketing, the five-day camp attracted four athletes.
“It was really small, but it was great,” Pierce said. “It’s so early that people don’t expect there to be snow [when] it’s 60 degrees in Boulder. … We just want to put another option out there; a lot of skiers want to be on snow in early November and Denver is really easy to get to.”
Trail pass rates: $350 for the camp, includes all coaching sessions and day passes
Grooming report: 50 kilometers groomed and track-set. Snow Mountain Ranch started grooming Nov. 4 and opened for skiing on the 14th. According to Pierce, they have anywhere from a 4-5 inch base to 10 inches in some places. It was snowing there on Thanksgiving, with four inches of snow expected to fall today. More info | Webcam
What makes this camp unique? “This is the earliest masters camp in North America on-snow as a pre-Thanksgiving camp,” Pierce explained.
The idea was to run a masters camp similar to an elite or junior camp, with two-a-day sessions combining workouts and technique — all at 9,000 feet above sea level. The focus was on transitioning from dryland training to snow skiing, with an emphasis on technique and slow volume at high altitude.
With a small but mighty coaching staff (two of which are USSA certified), Pierce said the ability to work with athletes helps them set, understand and achieve skiing goals.
“We all speak the same language,” he said of the coaches. “You can go to a lot of places, and a lot of places you feel like you’re getting a lesson. There’s a difference between a lesson and coaching.”
“[This camp is] just another opportunity in the country to go skiing all day,” he added.
- Equipment and waxing presentations
- Technique work and video sessions
- Upcoming nordic events at Snow Mountain Ranch
What: Sovereign Lake XC SuperCamp
Where: Vernon, British Columbia
When: 2 1/2-day weekend and 5-day midweek camps (schedule):
- Camp #1: Nov. 20-22
- Camp #2: Nov. 23-27
- Camp #3: Nov. 27-29 (with Pro-camp option)
- Camp #4: Nov. 30-Dec. 4
- Camp #5: Dec. 4-6
- Camp #6: Jan. 15-17
- Camp #7: Feb. 19-21
How many years running? 26 (The SuperCamp program started in 1989)
Target audience: All ages and skill levels from beginner to elite racer.
Advance reservation required? Yes.
Anticipated participation: Typically around 225 to 250 participants, hoping for 260 this year.
“In its heyday in the early ’90s [SuperCamp attracted] upwards of 400,” Sovereign Lake Nordic Center General Manager Troy Hudson explained. “We want to get back to those numbers by offering some great new initiatives like focussed Masters Pro camps for racers and more options such as the biathlon camps which are proving to be very popular.”
Trail pass rates: Dual area trail passes included in camp fee, ranges from $339 to $925 Canadian dollars per person (depending on length of camp, and half or full days). Pricing
Grooming report: Sovereign Lake has 40 kilometers groomed and Silver Star has an additional 40 k open. More details (and webcam)
What makes this camp unique? “I’m often asked, what is Supercamp?” SuperCamp coordinator Shane Landreville wrote in an e-newsletter. “That’s a great question and because Supercamp offers so much more than a traditional ski lesson, it’s a difficult concept to explain and it’s difficult for people to wrap their heads around it. Quite simply, Supercamp is a Nordic experience.”
SuperCamp attracts top-level coaches, as many come from across Canada to get early snow before they start their season at home. Each camp includes lectures and lessons on waxing, how to build a training plan, and sports nutrition, as well as access to the national altitude training centre gym, and best of all, 105 kilometers of trails between Sovereign Lake and Silver Star — many of which are used for World Cup, NorAm, and World Master events.
With half- and full-day options, the camp is at an altitude of 1,600 metres (5,250 feet). Many of the accommodation options are on the nordic trails. You can ski or walk to restaurants and bars in the evening.
Biathlon camps are either five days long or a single afternoon, and a new Pro camp is more racing focused.
The Silver Star alpine area opened earlier this week, as did the separate Fat Bike trail system.
- Keynote speakers, a sports nutrition lecture, and wax clinics
- Stretching classes, body pre-activation sessions, and for 5-day campers, two 30-minute massages. “Skiing for a solid 2 days or 5 days is tough, it really is, so taking care of your bodies is important,” Landreville wrote. “For our 5 day camps, you can also take part in the excursion to the spa and pools at Sparkling Hill Resort.”
Also: Canada’s Early Season XC Venues
What: Frozen Thunder
Where: Canmore, Alberta
When: Oct. 23-Nov. 14, 2015
How many years running: 6
Open to: Public use after noon on weekdays and all day on weekends
How much snow: 900 meters expanded to 1.1 k of manmade trails initially; now complete cover/about 32 kilometers groomed. More info
What: Boreal Glide (Glisse Boréale)
Where: Forêt Montmorency, owned by the Université Laval, in Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Quebec
Good to know:
- According to according to Julie Moffet, the regional operations coordinator at Forêt Montmorency, la Forêt is the only place in North America with cross-country skiing as early as Oct. 30 all the way to Easter in April.
- No races or special events are scheduled, simply skiing and snowshoeing for all.
- To reserve a room on the trails (with two single beds and a shared bathroom), with access to a cafeteria, two lounges with a fireplace, game room, auditorium, and wax room, visit http://www.foretmontmorency.ca/en/lodging/