After 28 Years, Whistler Ski Camp Closes

Camp of Champions Founder cites climate change as the main factor for his decision to close

After 28 summers of skiing and snowboarding, Whistler-based Camp of Champions is closing.

The news came in a sudden announcement posted Friday morning to the camp's website. In the statement, COC's founder and owner Ken Achenbach explained his decision:

"Simply put, it's the effects of global warming. I wanted to give you [the campers] an exceptional experience, and now I can't. I haven't slept in a week. After 28 years my dream is over. Honestly, I want to crawl under a rock. I feel like I have died. Camp is my life."

Camp of Champions

After 28 summers, Camp of Champions in Whistler is closing. PHOTO: Frida Berglund

On May 31, Achenbach received an email from Whistler Blackcomb describing the snowpack as "not very dense" and "full of air." Which means the snowpack depth is deceiving. "Regulating jump size is very important," the email continued. There is not enough snow to build intermediate or expert sized jumps. Without those features, campers would be left unsatisfied, Achenbach writes.

Whistler Blackcomb released a statement in response to Achenbach’s decision to close his camp: “We are disappointed by Camp of Champions’ decision to forego hosting its camp this summer at Whistler Blackcomb. Whistler Blackcomb looks forward to a great summer season of camps on the glacier, as well as offering great overall skiing and snowboarding to guests visiting outside of the camps.”

The ski resort emphasized that Momentum and all other camps are still in operation and prepping for the summer season.

Whistler has been attempting to manage the rapid melt of Horstman Glacier for several years now, going so far as to launch a failed pilot program to save the glacier with snowmaking. Due to warmer temperatures, the glacier has been losing mass at an alarming rate of half a million cubic meters annually, according to Arthur DeJong, mountain planning and environmental resource manager at Whistler Blackcomb. (Half a million cubic meters is the equivalent of 132,086,026 gallons.)

"Once I received this email, I knew that we weren't going to have enough snow to build the park we've been promising everyone all winter," Achenbach wrote. “This year's snowpack is less dense than usual because we enjoyed such a long cold winter. We didn't get the wet cement spring snow that builds the snow pack we count on."

Camp of Champions

Ken Achenbach founded Camp of Champions in 1988. PHOTO: Frida Berglund

Camp of Champions started in 1988 on Whistler's Horstman Glacier. In an era that favored snowboarding, it was one of the first terrain parks where skiers were allowed to ride. Achenbach, who was one of snowboarding's early pioneers, adopted skiers into his camp, and has since raised generations of skiers, including some of the most influential athletes and industry leaders. Achenbach has worked with Jason Levinthal, then with LINE skis, and Matt Sterbenz, the founder of 4FRNT. He also hosted Salomon and Mike Douglas in 1997, when they filmed 1080.

MORE: Ken Achenbach's Legacy at Whistler.

Achenbach said his option is to declare bankruptcy on Camp of Champions and give his customers a full refund. "This is so far from what I ever wanted for camp, but global warming has decimated the glacier and our ability to run a summer camp."

Read Achenbach's letter in full on CampOfChampions.com.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from its original version. A correction was made to clarify that there is still enough snow for skiing this summer, and that all of the other camps are still in operation.