Early Sunday morning I woke up groggy and looked out the window. The wind had been howling all night and while its noise had subsided, the boughs of trees were still whipping easily from side to side. Snow cascaded down from bright, yet very gray clouds. For early March in the Eastern Sierras it was not only a normal weather pattern, but welcomed after a few seasons of substandard precipitation, but for me and the other three ladies I was staying with in the Mammoth Village, it was a bit daunting as we were heading out for the second day of weekend park camp, Oakley Progression Sessions. There were sixty women who were slowly gathering on the first floor of The Village Lodge and myself, along with coaches Christine Savage, Faye Fulini, Fancy Rutherford and Christine Carelli, wanted to make sure everyone had the best weekend possible. Mother Nature was hellbent on deterring our plans. We refreshed the Mammoth app on our phones, watching lift status.
All of our nerves were cast aside as we walked into the OPS room in the hotel, every inch of the floor occupied by a yoga mat and a smiling individual on top of it. A handful of ladies in banana costumes stretched their stems. A long underwear-suited penguin sat in the midst of it all. Not one person was remotely concerned that the morning wasn’t sunny and bluebird; that didn’t matter at all, because we had laps to take, tricks to learn, and fun to have. And that’s just one of the things that is special about Oakley’s long-running women’s park progression clinic: the collective energy fostered by the coaches, staff and ladies beats out any gnarly storms present in the atmosphere.
The other crazy thing about Oakley’s event is that it has ballooned almost entirely on word of mouth from the participants, the coaches, the pro athletes, and the Oakley staff. OPS maintains a dedicated social presence both on Instagram and Facebook, but the constituencies are generally past attendees as opposed to people who have never been. But each winter, the communities at all OPS outposts grow, both in New Hampshire, Mammoth, Whistler, Alberta, and Quebec, as well as past locations in Utah and Colorado that the camp has stopped previously and which both the coaching staff and women who sign up hope to return.
What exactly is it that sets the tone of each two-day progression session? In my estimation, it is solid groundwork that is laid out by the coaching staff that is accepted and proliferated by each and every woman that comes to ride for the weekend. Simply, no one takes themselves too seriously. Everyone embraces trying, falling, flailing and failing, as these are all steps on the way to learning and excelling at new things, whether trying to ride switch for the first time, dialing in a tailpress on a rail, or landing a 360. For the women, this environment is paramount to their progression. Strangers quickly accept one another as integral to offering support and celebration on hill. And over the years, as groups of women return to OPS at Mammoth, bringing friends and family, the ethos of the weekend multiplies. We’re seriously building an army of stoked and brave ladies who are ready to tackle whatever jump, jib or side hit lies in front of them. And that is so flipping cool! It only amplifies this environment that the Mammoth park crew takes the event so seriously, providing insane training grounds for learning tricks and just having fun. This year, the OPS ladies were proffered the entirety of Forest Trail, the medium-sized park that runs parallel to Main Park. On Saturday, the jumplines and tube set ups were firing, as was the minipipe, which had a front-loaded bowl corner. It was epic.
The visibility remained low all Sunday at Mammoth, but the minipark near the Canyons baselodge had a set of mini jumps that were perefect for dialing in ones and threes and the snow was soft. There were groups didn’t stop lapping until after 3pm. Girls that were chilled from the weather were treated to a tuning clinic by Wave Rave and Fancy and Carelli led a jib training session indoors. By the time après and awards began, capping of the weekend, everyone was 100% stoked, slightly exhausted, and already looking forward to next year.
Read the full Oakley Week at Mammoth 2016: Oakley Progression Sessions article on Snowboarder Magazine.