“It’s impossible not to be inspired by the Oakley Progression Session experience,” says Chelsea Wedel, a British Columbia-based Oakley ambassador. “A first-time attendee can expect to be blown away – because I certainly was.”
She’s talking about Oakley’s annual freestyle camps for female skiers and snowboarders. Now in its fifth year, OPS is known for being the camp of all camps. This year, the sessions are taking place in Whistler (March 14-15), Mammoth Mountain (March 21-22), Loon Mountain (March 28-29), and Mont Tremblant (April 4-5). If you’re near any of these mountains, here’s why you’ll want to sign up now.
The Warm, Fuzzy Environment
“There is a unique bond that seems to instantly develop as you all hit the lift in your OPS jerseys,” says Chelsea. The OPS emphasis is on creating a supportive, encouraging environment – music to the ears of anyone who has ever felt intimidated in the park.
By splitting attendees up into different levels, participants don’t have to worry about feeling overwhelmed or held back. Chelsea says that the groups “help to quickly dissolve any nerves or intimidation and ensures that you will be challenged and supported at your level.”
The Off-Mountain Action
OPS is all about progressing your on-mountain skills, but the camp includes off-mountain components, too. Both days start off with a yoga/stretching session to help you stay injury-free. After the learning component, participants are rewarded with a well-deserved après. On the second and final day of camp, après doubles as an award ceremony to cap off the weekend.
Private Park? Yes, Please
Sharing is nice, but as Shaun White will attest to, having your own private park is way more fun. “The park is entirely reserved for the OPS women, so you have free reign to learn and practice your tricks,” explains Chelsea. That means no waiting for your turn. No being cut off by some jerk. No feeling of being rushed or – every park newbie’s nightmare – taunted.
Goggle Bar, Prizm Edition
One of the perks of an Oakley-run event is that you’re guaranteed to walk away with some quality Oakley swag. This year, it’s all about the Prizm Goggle Bar: participants get to build their dream goggle on the spot, capping things off with Oakley’s latest lens innovation. The Prizm lens enhances contrast and visibility over a wide range of light conditions, improving the eye’s ability to perceive detail in the snow, including contours and textures. I’m told Whistler participants will be receiving the rose Prizm lens – perfect for our notorious low-light, cloudy conditions.
OPS are lead by a roster of impressive Oakley athletes – participants are really being taught by the best of the best. This year’s Whistler coaches are Marie-France Roy, Christine Savage, Kaya Turski, Dom Vallee, Mary Walsh, and Megan Gunning. “Being taught by the pros is one of the most unique facets of OPS,” says Chelsea. “No matter what your skill level is, these coaches are so supportive and inspiring. They are eager to share their advice and their passion with you. You feel like you’re riding with your friends, not just your coaches.”
Coaches will rotate throughout the weekend, ensuring that skiers and riders get a chance to learn from all the athletes.
Participants walk away with more than just some sweet new skills in the park. Much like the summer camps you grew up attending, you can expect to walk away with some lifelong friendships and a new crew to join you on your future mountain adventures. OPS might only last one weekend, but – excuse the cheesiness – the memories last forever. As Chelsea puts it, “You will leave on Sunday wishing that it wasn’t a whole year before the next OPS!”