Fast Times at Mount Hood

How to make the most of your summer days with Party Beach

After a long winter of ski training, drills, and races, summer campers are ready to hit refresh at Mount Hood, Oregon. It gets even better this year, however, with coaches Lyndsay Strange and Marcus Caston’s new ski racing camp, called Party Beach.

Strange, 28, a FIS-certified coach at Rowmark Ski Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Caston, a 27-year-old from Snowbird, Utah, and former ski racer, met while coaching at Mount Hood Summer Ski Camps six years ago. Over the years, they saw many of their campers burn out on racing, which tends to have a more serious approach to skiing than the other park-oriented summer camps at Hood. After spending summer after summer on the glacier teaching the same kids, Caston and Strange decided to embark on their own this year with an idea to bring a more fun and lighthearted approach to ski racing summer camp.

At Party Beach Ski Camps, Strange and Caston lead by example. Photo courtesy of Marcus Caston.
At Party Beach Ski Camps, Strange and Caston lead by example. Photo courtesy of Marcus Caston.

At each of the five weeklong sessions, which start June 27, Party Beach Ski Camps invite their attendees to use the entire mountain to push their individual limits in the racecourse. POWDER recently caught up with the duo to talk about their approach to teaching young skiers.

POWDER: Big mountain skiers with a race background tend to have an advantage—their technique is so strong. Now, you’re taking it in the other direction. How does big mountain skiing help ski racers?

Caston: From a technical standpoint, [skiing the whole mountain] creates a more well-rounded skill set and gives you a better feel for the snow. On a racecourse, the snow isn’t going to be perfect, the weather isn’t going to be perfect, and you’re going to make mistakes. You’ll be able to recover better. And, at the same time, it’s also about a life beyond ski racing.

A lot of the kids I grew up with—when racing’s up, they’re done skiing—and I think that’s really unfortunate… There’s also a pretty obvious divide between the freeskiers and the racers: The sport of freeskiing has taken off the last few years, and it’s because these kids are having fun. At the same time, racing has dwindled and taken this elitist attitude, where everything is super serious. We’re being more inclusive, bringing more kids into the sport, which will, in turn, make more kids great ski racers.

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POWDER: What’s a typical day in the life of a skier at Party Beach?

Strange: We get up pretty early and [the campers] take some warm-up runs before we go start skiing… Later in the morning or later in the week of the five-day session, we’ll start getting more into the gates and ski racing specifics. But we start off freeskiing.

Caston: We’ll find one little bump or side hill that we can slash-turn on, and we’ll all get together around it doing slash turns, everybody roots for each other, everyone’s able to watch.

POWDER: How does style and camaraderie help kids grow as skiers?

Strange: To bring in that community and the welcoming, friendly environment—you can learn from each other. Watching your peers, watching them ski after you, seeing what they do, we like to emphasize the concept of self-discovery, too, where the kids figure it out on their own while we guide them. Sometimes less is more: When they figure it out for themselves, it really does stick. They have more of a sense of ownership with their own skiing and what they’re doing.

Taking ski racing to a whole new level. Photo Courtesy of Marcus Caston.
Express yourself! Photo Courtesy of Marcus Caston.

Caston: We come up with more creative drills that are fun, so you like doing it—but also drills where the kids understand what they are doing and they create a feel for it. So when they’re out alone with no coach, they can work on those drills, alone, get a feeling, and understand what their doing, rather than just going through the same old drills they’ve been doing a millions times.

POWDER: Tell me about your curriculum geared toward aprés and costume days.

Strange: We have a gaper day. And one of our favorite recovery activities is four-square. We play for hours and hours. All the kids get nicknames.

Caston: We’re a pretty easy team to spot up there… We’ll be training next to the U.S. Ski Team doing penguin slides down the mountain wearing costumes.

Having fun is the key at Party Beach Ski Camps. Photo courtesy of Lyndsay Strange.
Taking in the view at Mount Hood. Photo courtesy of Lyndsay Strange.

POWDER: After camp ends, what goals do you have for the kids? What do you hope will have the biggest impact?

Strange: We want to be the examples for the kids that we work with. We both grew up ski racing, but, now, we still love skiing. And that’s what we want these kids to find value in—that it’s a lifelong sport, and they can love it and have that great foundation from ski racing to carry through with them for the rest of their life.

For more information on Party Beach Ski Camps go here.