Best Holiday Vacation Ever! Part I
I MADE IT AT LAST!!!
The first time I'd ever heard of ski and snowboard camps was in 1995, when I read about them in SKI magazine. North America contains two resorts where people can enjoy these sports in the summertime; Whistler / Blackcomb in British Columbia, and Timberline in Oregon. The latter has a longer season, closing in early September for only 6 weeks. In fact, the US and Canadian ski teams train there during the summer.
Twelve years would pass before I was able to attend one. I chose High Cascade Snowboard Camp because it featured hanging out with specified professional snowboarders. Their specialty is snowboarding; no skiing, but I didn't want to ski and catch my tips on a slushy glacier, anyway. I had the time of my life at High Cascade, and was fortunate enough to attend 4 summers in a row. I will tell those stories in my upcoming book, The Shangri-La of Shred.
It would be an additional 2 years before I was financially able to extend my Shangri-La experience to the holidays. Windell's Ski & Snowboard Camp has the advantage of holding sessions year round, so I attended Windell's Holiday Camp.
Just as I did for High Cascade, I trained for the experience. I increased my running speed to 6 miles per hour, and made a point of doing arm and abdominal exercises every day. I didn't practice skateboarding much, but did manage to get to the point where I could do a little riding in the skate park, rolling into a 4 foot high ramp.
I reserved my spot in October; 8 days cost $1399 (precisely, since Oregon has no sales tax) . I found it odd that it's actually cheaper in the winter than summer! I bought my plane ticket through PriceLine, arriving the day before camp, and leaving the day after, because on the first day of camp, it arrives at 10:30pm, and on the last day of camp, it leaves around 5:00am. I got a really good deal, too; $546! True, I have to pay $50 each way for stowed luggage, but that still adds up to $646, which is better than the $700 fare I paid last summer ($800 with luggage).
The rental car prices were outrageous! I couldn’t find anything under $70! My friend Margie, who lives in the Portland area, had to see how her life was going, but she finally quit working at that care home and was able to stay in a friend’s condo for free for a few months (her friend’s condo is going into foreclosure). She was also able to collect unemployment. So she was stable enough to be able to pick me up at the airport and have me spend the night, then take me back to the airport for camp. She’s going to have me over after camp, as well.
I called Windell’s a few days before leaving, to get the news on what to expect. I was told there would be only 48 campers there. Among the adults, there would be 15 women and 8 men (what’s going on here??? Usually the men outnumber the women by three to one!). There will be no pros at camp, because they’re all gallivanting around the world winning contests and making videos. I hadn’t mailed in my signed releases and medical form, because I hadn’t noticed the downloads in the confirmation letter. They said I could bring the forms with me. I brought the forms, but forgot to get the medical form from last summer. Well – let’s see if they send me home…
Thus prepared, I set off for Windell’s Holiday Camp!
Friday, December 25, 2009
I flew from Hilo to Honolulu, then to Wailuku (Maui), then to Portland. I left Hilo at 9:30am, and arrived in Portland at 10:19pm local time. In total, I spent 11 hours en route.
Margie picked me up, and took me to the condo where she was staying, which turns out to be pretty close to the care home where she used to work. She has remained on good terms with Jeannie, her former boss. She had moved from Kona, Hawaii to Portland the previous March; the care home job had already been lined up. She quit because she was tied to the house 24 / 7 for 5 days a week, and had very little money to leave during her days off. On top of that, her relief help was unreliable, so there were weeks when she got no free time. As a result, she packed on 40 pounds in 4 months. She quit the job for the sake of her health. (I will reveal the details in my upcoming book, The Shangri-La of Shred.)
We arrived at her friend's condo, which was sparsely furnished. She served me a lime-flavored gin & tonic, which I don't normally drink (I prefer microbrew beer), but it turned out to be really good. "I want to get out of the caregiving business," she told me. "I'm so sick of dealing with old people. Some of them are not much older than me, and they're in terrible shape; it gives me the creeps." Margie is 53, which is 4 years older than I am.
"I definitely see your point," I agreed. "To paraphrase a quote from Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter Rose, you toil away among old age and sickness, and in the end, old age and sickness claim you." I too work as a caregiver, as well as substitute teacher. Both are steady, solid industries in Hawaii. Margie had let me stay in her apartment when I had caregiving assignments in Kona, which is on the opposite side of the Big Island.
"My problem is, I don't know what else to do," she said. "I have an Associate's Degree in Travel, but I can't make much money with that."
"The good news is that you can take out early retirement in 9 years," I reassured her. "I have every intention to retire at 62."
"There's no way I can do that," she responded. "I have too much debt, and no savings."
"I'm not ready either," I told her. "But you have nearly a decade to fix that."
"I don't know if I can fix it in a decade," she said. "I'll probably retire at 70, and maybe not even then. However, I did read about a great job opportunity in British Columbia, which we could do together. It's run through an agency. It's a live-in, near the Whistler / Blackcomb resort. It's right up your alley. I think I could stand it, even though I hate the cold."
Margie and I want different things from life; I seek adventure, while she longs for the comfortable life of a wealthy homemaker. She had loved Hawaii when she lived there, but left because of health and financial problems incurred from being physically attacked by a schizophrenic client. To this day, she says leaving Hawaii is the worst mistake she ever made.
"That sounds wonderful," I answered. "But I think you need to talk to people already doing it. We want to make sure it's not another unpleasant situation, like Jeannie's."
We went on to talk about her relationships. Darrell, who she has dated for over 20 years, lives in Coeur D’Alene. He’s wealthy and sickly, and is considering marrying her so she can inherit his money. Skye lives in Hilo, and toys with her emotions, yet she still calls him. Leonard is someone she recently met on eHarmony.com; he is also wealthy, lives in Portland, and owns a beautiful beach house in Pacific City. He’s generous enough to allow her use of the beach house anytime.
We finally sacked out around 1am, sleeping on inflated mattresses in the living room like a couple of college dormmates.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
We got up at 10am. The day was crystal clear blue, but very cold; about 30 degrees. There was no snow, but ice lined the roads and frost covered car windshields.
Margie drove us to Alpine Haus, a Swiss-style restaurant. I love places like that; unfortunately, we don't have them in Hawaii. I treated Margie to breakfast; we had waffles with strawberries and whipped cream.
I had already made arrangements for Windell’s to pick me up from the airport at 3pm. After our leisurely breakfast, there wasn't much time to do anything else, plus Margie didn't feel like it because it was so cold. She commented how I handled it so well, even though I'd been living in Hawaii for 8 years.
"I think it's because I spend so much time up on Mauna Kea," I told her. "The temperature may not get very low, but for some reason you really feel it. You need gloves and thermals when it's 50 degrees."
We rode along the Columbia River to the airport, where she dropped me off. "Have a great time at camp, and see you when it's over," she told me. "I still think you're crazy for coming here and snowboarding, when you could be sailing in Hawaii."
"Maybe we'll trade residences someday," I answered.
Windell’s Camp meets at Carousel Two, just like High Cascade in the summertime. When I got there, I saw a whole bunch of teenage guys – much to my delight! My first summer at High Cascade, I discovered for the greatest vibe, there's nothing like a large group of teenagers snowboarding and skateboarding. We hung out and talked about past camp experiences, then left in the van a few minutes later.
Windell’s is around milepost 36, about 18 miles from Government Camp where High Cascade holds its summer camp. The elevation is about 500 feet. Unlike High Cascade, though, Windell's owns its facilities. Back in 1987, Tim Windell bought a motel and turned it into housing. He has since added buildings, like BOB (Big Old Building), for the indoor skate facility. The camp has loads of outdoor skate parks as well, plus a dirt park for BMX bikes in the summertime. The whole campus is 53 acres, but only a small part of it is used in winter.
Tim Windell owns the camp all by himself! He has a marketing director named Jeannette and a few other employees who work full time. He’s never been married. He has a girlfriend, but I never found out who she was. It sounds like the guy has serious trust issues! High Cascade is owned by 5 people, and they mainly operate in the summertime; Windell’s operates all year, and he won’t share ownership with anyone! He also rarely snowboards, because he’s too busy, and burned out. But when I met him, he seemed to be a really nice guy, and glad to have us campers here.
Windell's Camp TourClick thumbnail to view full-size
I was placed in a cabin with two roommates; Wanda, who’s from Florida, and Heidi, who’s from Vermont. Both were in their 30s. Wanda and Heidi had come out several days ago, and had hung out together in Portland, so they wound up arriving at camp together. This, in a way, made me the odd woman out, but that didn't bother me one bit. Usually, making friends at camp is easy.
"Which room do you want?" Heidi asked me, while Wanda waited, tense.
"Uh - what do you mean?" I asked, puzzled.
It turned out the cabin has two bedrooms; the larger one has 3 bunks, the smaller only two. Other than that, both rooms were identical.
"I don't mind," I answered.
"Good!" Wanda answered, clearly relieved. "You two can have the bigger room, and I'll take the smaller for myself."
We put away our things. Usual to my custom, I chose a top bunk by the window in the larger room.
"I'm taking up a collection," Wanda announced, after we were all moved in. "What kind of alcohol do you guys want?"
"I like wine," answered Heidi. "Some vodka and rum would also be nice."
"I'd like mulled cider, if they have any," I told her.
Wanda looked at me funny. "What's the matter? You don't drink?"
"I drink," I answered. "I just choose not to do it at snowboard camp. Living in Hawaii, I seldom get to snowboard, so alcohol makes me even klutzier than usual."
Wanda left, and returned an hour later with red and white wines and the hard liquor. She had also bought coffee and creamer. "They didn't have mulled cider," she told me.
"Oh, you got coffee. That's great!" I exclaimed. "How much do I owe you for that?"
"Five bucks will cover it," she answered, I handed it to her.
"I also bought incense," Wanda said. "This place smells like mildew. I forgot to buy matches, and the stove is electric. Either one of you have matches, or a lighter?"
"Sorry, I don't," answered Heidi.
"I don't either," I told her. But I can light it with the stove." I took a sheet of paper towel, twisted one end, wet it, then held the dry end to a turned-on stove burner. The end caught fire, and I lit the incense stick with it. "Well, hey - we have a McGyver here!" exclaimed Heidi. Wanda was surprised and pleased.
At 5:30, we met for dinner and Orientation in the dining room. There are 48 campers here; 23 adults, which add up to 15 women and 8 men, and 25 kids, almost all of whom are boys. The boys are staying at Roadhouse , the cabin nearest to the road (the names here really fit; the summer adult facility is called HATS, which stands for House Across The Street!). Not much was said at Orientation; Tim just told us where everything was, and what the daily schedule would be. Overall, the camp seemed rather disorganized. I had read in Yahoo Answers that Windell’s was less organized than High Cascade, but both were equally good. I was surprised that the adults weren’t given a bunch of rules regarding alcohol around kids. True, we’re not in the middle of a town like High Cascade is, but there’s a convenience store right at the entrance to the campus where kids with fake ID’s can buy alcohol, or adults can buy it for them. And hey – you only need one store, right? But I was pleased to be made to feel welcome, as an adult.
After dinner and the meeting, we went to a trailer and got our demo gear. I got a Salomon board, the same brand I used at High Cascade last summer, with a dreamcatcher on it, and Salomon boots. My board was 145cm, and I had them set it up as a 20” wide duckfoot stance. The boots have a special liner, so I only need one pair of socks; I didn’t even need the Hot Tronics footwarmers I had brought along.
I had brought my own skateboard and helmet. It turns out unlike HCSC, Windell’s has plenty of skateboards. However, it’s a good thing I brought my helmet. They had only a few of those. HCSC has plenty, but none really fit me, so I made up my mind to always bring my helmet to camp.
Afterwards, I went to BOB to practice skateboarding. I watched in awe as guys, and some women, bounced and did flips on the trampoline. Some dived into the foam pit. Some even skateboarded down and up a steep ramp into it! I bounced on the trampoline for a little while, and toppled into the foam pit. I only did it once, because it took forever for me to climb out!
Later, several women and I went into the back bowl and tried to rock the halfpipe. Allison, who had never skateboarded before, was rocking it within half an hour! The coaches were shocked; they’d never seen that before. The rest of us struggled. I managed to push myself up to the 5th row of bolts.
Diving from the 5 foot platform into the foam pit
Rolling into the foam pit.
Another guy rolling into the foam pit.
Roundhouse using my skateboard and helmet to film others
BOB closed at 9:30, and I returned to my cabin. Wanda and Heidi had spent the evening drinking and watching TV. "This place is so juvenile," Wanda complained. "It's mainly for teenage boys. There's nothing for adults to do."
"I found plenty to do," I responded, and told her about all the activities that had gone on in BOB, including Allison learning to rock the halfpipe in half an hour.
"What did you go there for?" Heidi asked me.
"I skateboard to cross-train for snowboarding, since I can't do it often, living in Hawaii."
"Hey - that's a great idea!" Heidi responded.
"I still think this camp is more geared towards kids," groaned Wanda. "I should have gone somewhere else."
We all went to bed around 10pm. I climbed up into my top bunk, and in no time, I was roasting. I solved the problem by opening the window.
The next morning; we all gave report. "I didn't sleep too well; I was cold," said Heidi. "How did you sleep?" I cringed in guilt, remembering the window I'd opened. "Fine, I answered, simply.
"Really? You weren't cold?"
"Actually, I felt a little warm. Maybe because I was in the top bunk, and heat rises."
"The heating system is in the ceiling," Wanda informed us. "The one in my room isn't working at all. I nearly froze to death, in spite of piling on a bunch of blankets. The lodging here is terrible! You may have noticed there's no fan in the bathroom, either. Plus it smells like mildew! I don't think I'm going to stay here the whole session."
She locked herself in the bathroom. Heidi and I looked at each other, rolling our eyes, then I went into the kitchen to start the pot of coffee.
Apparently, Wanda is a lousy observer. Anyone could see Windell's Camp is geared towards kids and the young at heart. What will happen to her as a result? To find out, please visit this link:
Would you consider attending a ski / snowboard camp?
© 2013 Yoleen Lucas