Epic black-diamond runs, grunting, and that universal currency of male-dom, beer.
Sound good? Welcome to man camp. Yep. Man camp.
Silverton Mountain ski area, Colorado’s superlative of steeps, where all runs are black, double-black or “are you kidding me?” has become the first ski area to offer a gender-specific ski clinic for the Y-chromosome set.
The Silverton Mountain Man Ski Camp is a tongue-in-cheek reply to the women-only clinics that have flourished since the 1990s. The clinic description says it all: “Tired of the old ball and chain? Did your best friend just have a kid and has no time to ski? This men’s-only ski and snowboard camp is about reliving the dream.”
Silverton also has women’s camps, Jen Brill, who co-founded Silverton with her husband, Aaron, is quick to point out.
“But once we started having women’s camps, we needed something for the dudes.”
Actually, Silverton was already primarily for the dudes. The bragging rights of its steep cirques tend to attract guys, and the tough terrain pretty much vetoes any chance of a family ski trip. On any given day, the male-to-female ratio is about 15-to-1. But by holding an official man camp, which includes two days of guided skiing topped off with beer drinking and meat eating in the picturesque streets (well, street) of Silverton, the mountain can attract family men who usually get stuck at family resorts.
“It sort of gives them permission to leave the family behind,” Brill said.
That’s exactly what Brett Rose did when he joined his two brothers and five other dudes at the first camp in late January.
“This just isn’t the type of place my kids can ski, but I lust for it,” he said as he got off the lift, dwarfed by jagged white peaks.
Guide John Shocklee, a guy so tough his beard looked like it could win an arm-wrestling match, told Rose and the other mancampers to take off their skis and start marching. He lead them, gasping and grunting, along a ridge above tree line to an icy, overhanging cornice that slipped into a rock- lined couloir.
Then he told them to put their skis back on. The dudes started looking worried.
But this was man camp. Time to suck it up.
One by one, the group slid over the lip and bounced into the steep pillows of powder below.
Shocklee gathered the tribe again, and pointed down into a wide, untracked bowl. This was their next mission.
As they screamed through the fluffy white terrain, throwing up rooster tails of snow, they hollered and yawped like barbarians, they grinned and dared and goaded one another on the steeps. They didn’t talk about their feelings. This was man camp.
And at the end of the day, after six runs, they retired to the lodge for a proper barbarian après-ski gathering.
The base area at Silverton doesn’t have a spa. It doesn’t have tapas. It doesn’t even have central heating. The rental shop is an old school bus. The lodge is a garage-size tent with a wood-burning stove, a few frathouse-quality chairs, two dogs and a keg.
“This is great,” Paul Aster said as he took a seat near the stove and pulled his boots off. “The good friends, good beer, what more do you need?”
The campers settled around the fire with plastic cups and drank and laughed until Brill told them the tent was closing and they should turn in early. They had more man camp in the morning.
Silverton Mountain: silvertonmountain.com, 970-387-5706
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