This article was originally published by Austin Colbert in The Aspen Times.
The Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club will happily go out of its way to make sure winter doesn't end. And as long as that small strip of snow running down Buttermilk's halfpipe holds on, it won't.
"It means the world. To be able to ski at all during the summer, for anyone, is the best thing you can ask for," AVSC freestyle skier Cassidy Jarrell said. "It is the best way to progress your skiing. You are not worried about anything. There are no comps coming up. You are just worrying about your own tricks and what you want to work on."
Buttermilk Ski Area and that stubborn strip of snow are home to the AVSC's Buttermilk Glacier Summer Snow Sessions. The four, weeklong camps run through the month of June and give participants access to quality on-snow training despite the 80-degree weather in Aspen.
This is the fifth year AVSC has hosted these summer camps at Buttermilk.
"We can get a tremendous amount done without the distractions that are normally there on the mountain," said AVSC freestyle director Eric Knight, who runs the summer camps. "They are really important for the kids that are on a fast competition track. It's essential now. The sport is really a 12-month sport."
It's not easy to keep snow on the ground in June at Buttermilk's relatively low elevation. But thanks to its signature event each year, the Winter X Games, and that iconic halfpipe, the AVSC campers are able to continue training on snow well into the summer.
"The dirt walls help stop the sun and the wind from eating away at it from the sides quite so much," Knight said of the halfpipe. "This year was a little challenging. The lack of snow in March and the late spring made it more challenging, so it took some more Cat hours and hard work to consolidate it. If not for X Games blowing the amount of snow that we blow here for X Games then it wouldn't even be possible."
The remaining snow stretches the majority of the halfpipe and has plenty of features. During camp sessions, AVSC will put up two air bags, the largest a 50 feet by 50 feet target for the advanced athletes. There are also real snow jumps, boxes, rails and even a short moguls course. The camp is open for skiers and snowboarders alike, and guest stars this summer have included Aspen's Alex Ferreira, who has competed in the very same halfpipe during X Games.
"Some are coming to learn new tricks before they go to other camps and some are using this as their summer training," Knight said. "Here you can really concentrate and focus your training on one aspect and make tremendous progressions. To come into the winter with a backflip when you didn't have one at the end of the winter is a tremendous leap start into your season."
Unlike many of the larger commercial camps found at places like Mt. Hood, Whistler and Woodward Copper, AVSC is able to keep its camp relatively cheap at $350 per week. Knight said nearly 90 percent of the campers are AVSC athletes, but with so few on-snow options available throughout the country in the summer, it does attract a few more from outside the valley.
AVSC will host two more weeklong sessions after Friday, the first from June 19-23, and the final session from June 26-30. To register, go to http://www.teamavsc.org