Off to Camp
Become a better skier or rider during a multiday ski camp.
// By Dina Mishev
Day two (of four) at my first Steep & Deep Camp at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, camp coach Bill Truelove reminds me to “schmear” my turns as our group skis down bumps bigger than I’d ever ski on my own, especially since these bumps are in full view of everyone riding up the Bridger Gondola. The morning before, after the 100(ish) campers had been sorted into groups of no more than five skiers and I’d landed with Truelove, I thought schmear was something done with butter or cream cheese, not skis. But then Truelove explained a “schmear turn”—a type of turn in which you control your speed throughout the entire arc—to the group and we spent the rest of the day skiing off piste across the resort practicing them. Day two of the camp, I’m far from expert at schmearing, but it’s already Transformed—note the capital “T”—my skiing. Just before lunch, schmearing allowed me to, for the first time ever, ski a narrow double-black diamond run just south of the Cirque while staying in control, and without panicking.
I moved to Jackson Hole to learn how to ski but lived here for 14 years before I took my first ski lesson. That was a mistake. Skiing is not a sport that should be self-taught, at least if the “self” in question is me. After 14 years, I could get myself down about 95 percent of the terrain at JHMR, but, at best it wasn’t pretty, and, at worst, the mechanics of my skiing opened me up to injury.
Although it took me a while to come to the idea of taking a ski lesson, once I made the decision I was all in. I didn’t bother with a one-day lesson, but signed up for one of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s Steep & Deep Camps, a camp founded in the 1990s by then-world extreme skiing champion and JHMR athlete Doug Coombs.
It was in that camp that I learned about schmearing. Since that first camp, which was in 2011, I’ve taken seven more of JHMR’s multiday camps—three Steep & Deep Camps and four of the women-only Elevate Camps. While the Steep & Deep Camp remains the resort’s most popular—in 2023, there are five four-day Steep & Deep Camps—JHMR Mountain Sports School began offering a women’s-specific camp about a decade ago and, more recently, began offering a Backcountry Camp. There are differences between these camps, but they are similar in what makes them special—four days of skiing with the same instructor. While almost every ski lesson can give you some tip or trick to take away, multiple days of skiing with the same coach brings breakthroughs.
Schmearing was my first breakthrough. Breakthroughs at subsequent camps included learning to weight the fronts of my skis (Elevate Camp 2022), correctly timing my pole plants (Steep & Deep 2016), and retracting and extending in bumps (Elevate 2019). Every camp is different, and, going into one, I have no specific idea of what kind of breakthrough I’ll have—or even what kind of breakthrough I hope for. I just know that I’ll emerge from camp a better and more confident skier.
This winter, for the first time, JHMR is limiting the number of skiers and riders in each camp. “The smaller camp numbers will allow for a more intimate and personalized experience, and we will be able to match coaches and guests with an increased amount of accuracy,” says Lexey Wauters, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Mountain Sports School assistant director.
Up for transforming your skiing? Here’s info to help you decide which camp is best for you.
Elevate Women’S Camp
This camp welcomes women skiers who range from intermediate to expert, allowing groups of friends of differing ski abilities to take a ski vacation together. (However, the included day of backcountry skiing with a JHMR mountain guide is for advanced- and expert-level groups only.) The Elevate “ski-off” on the first morning of camp that sorts campers into groups of similar ability usually happens on Easy Does It, a groomed intermediate slope beneath the high-speed Casper Lift, or Amphitheater, which is also a blue run but between the Bridger Gondola and the Thunder Lift. Elevate is unique among JHMR’s camps for having a day off in the middle of the camp—so you ski four out of five days. I find this makes my third and fourth days in the camp much more productive and fun than they’d be without a rest day.
Steep & Deep
This camp for expert skiers and snowboarders aims to teach campers how to safely and efficiently ski JHMR’s steepest runs. The “ski-off” usually happens in Cheyenne Bowl, an area of ungroomed black diamond runs off the Sublette Lift. Expect to ski more than 30,000 feet of vert a day; only a fraction of this will be on groomed runs. Some groups have the goal to ski Corbet’s Couloir—a double-black diamond run that, most seasons, requires skiers and riders to jump in at the top—on the last day of camp. At least one morning or afternoon of the camp, campers ski out of JHMR’s boundaries and into the backcountry south of the resort with a mountain guide. Ninety percent of Steep & Deep campers are men.
Mammut Backcountry Camp
Jackson Hole was the first resort in the Lower 48 states to open its boundaries to backcountry skiers. In this camp—for advanced-intermediate and above skiers—JHMR mountain guides teach campers about avalanche awareness and efficient touring and terrain-selection techniques. “This was a natural outgrowth of the Steep & Deep and Women’s Camps,” Wauters says. “Realizing how popular the backcountry tour day of the camp was, we understood that there was a demand for a camp that really focused on backcountry skills. The intention is for it to be an immersive experience—learning about backcountry travel, risk evaluation, gear, and more—all day for four days. Our open access to the Bridger-Teton National Forest backcountry to the south of the resort gives us premium terrain to explore and develop these skills.”
Lady Shred Ski & Snowboard Camp
This camp is new this year and blends intermediate and above female skiers and snowboarders. (Individual groups will be single discipline, though.) Unlike the Elevate Women’s Camp, it does not have a rest day in the middle; campers ski and ride four days in a row.
The Women’s Elevate Camp is January 16–20, 2023 (January 18 is a rest day). There are four Steep & Deep Ski Camps this season: January 10–13 and 24–27, February 7–10, and February 28–March 3. A Steep & Deep Snowboard Camp is January 31–February 3. There are two Mammut Backcountry Ski Camps: January 10–13 and February 12–15. The Lady Shred Ski & Snowboard Camp is March 7–10. Elevate is $2,300; all of the other camps are $1,970. Camp prices do not include lift tickets; included is coaching, video analysis, and lunch; jacksonhole.com/multi-day-camps JH