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Woodward Tahoe Summer Camps Are Great For Young Athletes At All Skill Levels

My son Olin was a competitive gymnast for six years, and during that time, he didn’t have the bandwidth for other sports he was interested in. At age 11, when practice was ramping up from 16 hours a week to 20, we decided it was no longer a good idea. He was burnt out, burdened by the lack of positivity in the subculture, and hampered in his own creativity by not having enough time to explore other sports. Amidst all the stress and uncertainty of of the pandemic, he not only discovered mountain biking, but he also returned to skateboarding, an early love. This summer, he decided to sign up for Woodward Tahoe’s mountain biking camp, and it turned out to be a fantastic way to deepen his skills — and he was able to skateboard after camp let out any day he wanted to. Though it’s an expensive camp ($1,000 a week without lodging), it was well worth the investment.

We signed up for two sequential weeks, and of course, my family had to arrange to be nearby for the duration of the camp, as we live more than three hours from Tahoe. But once we’d found accommodations, the two weeks went off without a hitch, and we all agreed that the camp was a well-deserved summer splurge. He invited one friend to come with him, and another from his school who has a summer house in Tahoe also joined in.

The coaches were all young and enthusiastic — and most importantly, the atmosphere was one of inclusion and positivity. From the outset, the message was that everyone was there to learn and improve, to push as hard as desired, to take on safe challenges, and to have fun. Coaches were there to meet kids at their own levels, and their laid-back vibe was heartening for my kid, after so many years of pressure to be perfect.

My son and his friends rode up on the chairlift (with special cars to haul bikes up), did high-speed jumps, tried out a downhill airbag jump to prepare them for bigger challenges, and then raced down the mountain in multiple attempts to better their times. They got an hour each day in the “bunker,” an indoor facility with a world-class skatepark, as well as sections for gymnastics and all kinds of adaptive equipment for off-season training for winter sports.

The camp provides both breakfast and lunch each day, which somewhat justifies the price. Another plus is that the camp cultivates diversity, especially encouraging girls to start exploring these sports at a young age. I was impressed by the coaches’ competence around diversity and inclusion and would recommend the camp to anyone who is concerned about their kid fitting in. These folks are proactively working to transform the stereotypes around these sports, ensuring access and support for all.

Another perk of the camp is is that there are multiple options offered in one location (mountain biking, BMX, scootering, parkour, and multi-sport). Olin stuck with mountain biking for the full two weeks, getting an immersion in the downhill version of the sport, but he was able to stay after and skateboard on days when he didn’t have other plans.

What’s great about having such a high-quality mountain biking camp in this area is that it’s a gateway to bigger mountains. Olin spent two days riding at Northstar, the winter ski resort that transforms into a downhill mountain biking playground in the summer. He had two days of lessons with Curtis Loy and Richie Plainer, experts in the trifecta of biking, teaching skills, and knowing the nuances of this rather intimidating mountain.

There’s also an elaborate bike park in the town of Truckee that’s open to all. It’s easy to check it out on a weekend day off from camp.

Most days ended with a dip in the pool and a high-carb dinner in preparation for a new day of shredding when the sun came up the next morning.

If your child is interested in pursuing any of the sports offered at Woodward Tahoe, I would encourage you to check out the possibilities.

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