Helping skiers be their best at home and abroad.
By the time you read this I will have awoken from my first ski dream of the winter; the one where I’m straight-lining towards a giant crevasse full of groomer machines, can’t make my feet turn, and wake up the family with a shout of “SSSSCCCCHHHHHHNNNNNAAAAAAAPPPPSSSSSS!”
Today however, a rainy day in mid-October, I’m sitting in the Cumberland sub-office of our global-mega-multinational ski company, Section 8, watching email fly in from my partner, Tobin Leopkey, who’s on the other side of the globe in Courtenay. A slight tingling in the feet tells me that our pre-season performance camp in Hintertux, Austria is only a few days away.
How did Section 8 begin? Well, way back in the mists of time, before we had kids and a house filled with little plastic dinosaurs, when Tobin had hair, when even our sometimes colleague Mike Manara had hair (okay, not that long ago), back when creating a ski and travel company seemed like a sensible thing to do, we hacked Section 8 out of the complex bird-hoot-filled jungle of our tiny ski instructor minds and set about achieving our simple stated intention of ruling the world.
I still have the flip chart from our first brainstorming session. It is full of circles with things written in them like: “Running a business: how hard can it be?” and lines leading to other circles containing phrases such as “What could possibly go wrong?” and “New Mercedes”.
As expected, everything went according to plan and we now organize and deliver a range of camps in several cool ski destinations including BC, Japan, Austria, and, as of this year, Chile.
Our camps are focused on making improvements to people’s skiing that won’t fade away or immediately disappear after the camp ends. With this in mind, we aim to develop an understanding of the mechanics of the sport, so students gain an awareness of their own performance and begin to understand the adjustments they need to make to achieve a given result.
With most activities, once a certain technical ability level is achieved, an understanding of the mechanics is essential to improvement. When you hear a person say that their skiing has hit a plateau, or they feel their improvement has ceased, it’s likely they have simply reached the limits of their understanding. Once this barrier is removed, improvement can begin.
Like any sport, let’s say ‘golf’ because it’s a fun word to say, when you feel like you’re ready to push your game forward, you talk to a coach. He or she helps you gain an understanding of where you are in terms of skill, helps you establish an achievable goal, and then sets about helping you achieve that goal through the development of both skill and tactical approach.
Unless you’re racing, skiing doesn’t easily lend itself to quantifiable goals in the way that a sport like golf does. However, setting goals is something that people like to do and it’s perfectly feasible when it comes to recreational skiing. We ask people about their goals; we commonly hear specifics like learning to carve the skis, taking bumps faster and more confidently, and day skiing trees and powder safely and with more speed. More general goals include getting good enough to go heli-skiing and feeling confident completing a ski tour.
We tailor our camps to suit particular goals. For example, on the rolling glaciers of Hintertux, Austria we focus on improving performance primarily on groomed runs and bumps; in Revelstoke, BC, we run camps that focus on skiing away from the groomers and preparing for a first heli-ski; in our Science Friction camps up at Mount Washington Alpine Resort, we focus on developing a technical understanding of skiing, how to adapt to conditions, and help students become all-mountain skiers; and in Japan and Chile we work with whatever conditions we get day-to-day while maintaining a focus on skill development, and of course, Tobin sings a little karaoke.
We count ourselves pretty fortunate to have been able to make our goal of running a ski and travel company a reality. Rule the world? New Mercedes? Well, maybe not, but we get to meet great people, and ski cool places. That, and the little plastic dinosaurs, seems like enough to me.