Good Bye, Camp of Champions June 14, 2017 - Posted in: News, Photos
For those that haven’t heard, Camp of Champions– arguably one of the funnest and most influential snowboard camps on earth– has recently closed up shop. After 28 years of producing some of the world’s best snowboarders and giving a countless number of kids ‘the best week of their lives’, Ken Achenbach, the founder, was forced to gently lay the beast to sleep. Read Ken’s official farewell letter here.
Words and photos by Alex Henniffent
I remember my first time going to Camp of Champions (COC). It was a birthday gift from my parents– something I had been tirelessly working towards and begging them to send me to for many years prior. I was 16 at that time.
It’s still incredibly vivid– and to this day, I credit that first trip to Whistler, BC as a pivotal moment in my so-called ‘snowboarding career’, the future direction of VOLTFUSE– at which point I had been running for only two years, and my life in general.
Growing up in Central Newfoundland, there weren’t many people who rode snowboards that I could share my passion with. Truthfully, the majority of my youthful days on a snowboard were spent by myself, which were both a plus and a negative. I considered it a plus because I could do whatever I wanted and just push myself without having the pressure of other people watching down on me, but it was also a downside because snowboarding is something that is meant to be experienced with other people– which I was soon to learn a couple years later when I first walked into the compound and met my coach at COC, Jon Versteeg.
I had no idea what to expect when I ventured across the country that year. I was just beyond excited to go spend 6 straight days of riding my snowboard in a world-class terrain park, something I couldn’t even begin to comprehend in my mind. You see, the thing is, there were no terrain parks in Newfoundland, and the fact that I was living 4 hours away from the closest ski hill with no vehicle didn’t help the situation. Throw in the factors of Newfoundland’s extremely unpredictable winters and the over saturated hockey culture, I was beyond ready to spread my wings in search of what I had seen in all of the COC videos that I was constantly consuming.
All I do know is that when I first got to Whistler, walked into the Camp of Champions compound, and first met the bad joke telling Ken Achenbach, I felt that I was exactly where I needed to be, and exactly where I should have been all of these years.
The thing I enjoyed most? Just being surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals who all shared one common thing, we just couldn’t get enough of riding our snowboards. Days on the glacier consisted of sunburns, spraying the race skiers, biffing snowballs in the t-bar lineup, and hot laps through the slushy park. That’s what Camp of Champions was to me (and many others), a fun-focused event that gathered people from all around the world, to come together and enjoy each other’s presence. Thanks to this, I have been able to meet countless friends from all around the world, in which many of them I continue to keep in touch with to this day.
My passion for snowboarding was completely re-enforced and solidified to a certain point, which probably wasn’t healthy. Snowboarding was something I did every possible chance I had– hence blowing all of my money and my summers traveling across the country to attend COC. If I wasn’t snowboarding, I was constantly thinking about snowboarding. I’m forever grateful to have something like that in my life that motivates me that much.
During those days at COC, I had also reached an important realization. Like every kid, I wanted to be a professional snowboarder. I wanted to create a career that allowed me to snowboard every single day. Long story short, I wasn’t going to strike it rich based on my snowboarding abilities. Luckily enough, at that point, I had created and had been running this oddly named clothing brand called ‘VOLTFUSE’. At a young age, I had always been fascinated with the idea of creating something from scratch and developing it exactly how I wanted it, to my own specifications. I felt that things could be done differently within the snowboard industry; to help nourish and expand on snowboarding’s fun and creative traits. I just wanted to create new types of products that were both different and superior to what the other guys were offering. Those were the foundations and incentives for this brand.
During that first time and each sequential year at COC, I would hustle the shit out of VOLTFUSE. In fact, it was at COC that my perception of VOLTFUSE evolved from a fun little side-project to actually viewing it as a viable and scalable business. The people I met there were immensely supportive of what I was doing, and believe it or not, people were stoked on the brand itself and the products that we were offering. I would spend my time slapping stickers everywhere I could, getting pictures of the pros wearing the product, selling the product at the weekly coach’s sales, and eventually convincing that Ken guy to letting me sponsor camp.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, not only did COC evolve my snowboarding abilities, but it also evolved me as an entrepreneur, and most importantly, as a person. From being an awkward 16-year old kid to a full-fledge sponsor of the Camp of Champions, I am certainly departing the days of COC a lot more knowledgeable, capable, and appreciative, thanks to all of the amazing people that I have been so lucky to meet and create memories with. Straight up, I feel like I could write a book about all of those timeless memories and experiences.
I don’t exactly know where I was going with this article, and maybe I shouldn’t? I think you get the best capture of an individual’s feelings towards something important when you just ramble on. If this article can capture just a slight fraction of the importance that Camp of Champions has been to me, I think it should serve its purpose.
And I’m not the only one who feels this way– I think every single person who has had the privilege of spending time under that Ken guy’s supervision at Camp of Champions holds a special place inside of them for COC.
So on behalf of everyone involved with VOLTFUSE and myself, I would like to offer a sincere thank-you to both Ken and Camp of Champions for all that they have done for snowboarding.