Who is behind Choice Camps and for how long have the camps been running?
We, that is Pia Schroeter, event & PR manager, snowboard instructor and passionate splitboarder and Aline Bock, professional snowboarder and former Freeride World Champion, are behind Choice Camps. We are now in our fourth season of organising Split & Freeride Camps. We assist the mountain guides and help our customers to get started by showing them how to handle their gear.
You guys were one of the first organisers to offer splitboard camps in Europe, right?
Yes, we were one of the very first organizers of splitboard camps. We got into it because we love to explore the mountains and go further with our splitboards. Our mission is to do what we love and share the passion with like-minded people. We live in the Alps and we know our playgrounds.
Freeriding has become extremely popular over the past couple of years. Inspired by movies and social media, more and more people want to ride untracked powder and get off the beaten track. Chasing the ultimate backcountry adventure, freedom and satisfaction, freeriders are more than ready to leave their comfort zones and take-on the challenge of longer hikes and exciting climbs to make it to the summit and earn untouched powder turns.
And you offer courses for different levels of experience?
Over the years, we have learned a lot about the do´s and don’ts, and about how to optimize the program and details according to our customers’ needs, skills and expectations. One of the most important aspects is that all participants get the chance to find a group of their own fitness and riding level to experience a great weekend out there in the mountains. All our camps are guided by professional and certified mountain guides. We have small groups of 6-8 people per guide and we split up and join the groups for assistance with material handling and other issues. We offer different camp levels: Level 1 is the rookie freerider and ultimate splitboard beginner camp, level 2 is for intermediates and level 3 is for advanced and experienced splitboarders, who have previously attended a level 2 camp.
How important is touring experience? I mean, if somebody has a lot of snowboarding experience, but has never toured with a splitboard can they join a higher experience level camp?
It takes at least one day for riders to get into the touring technique… we show the important moves and techniques on the first day. Technically, everybody is capable of longer tours and steeper terrain, but, we know from experience that even the strongest freeriders can start struggling when it comes to endurance during longer hikes in high altitude. If somebody is new to splitboarding we recommend doing themselves a favour and starting with a level 1 camp. Being the weakest in the group due to fitness and endurance levels can be stressful. At most of our camps, we offer two levels, so the people can swap between the groups during the camp.
How physically fit do you need to be? Are you covering a lot of vertical each day? Are they long days on the mountain?
It is always dependant on the camp level. Level one requires at the very least, some backcountry experience. Hiking up to 500 vertical metres in high altitude, for two hours, with a backback, should not be a problem for the minimum fitness.
In level 1 camps we tour around 500 to 600 vertical metres a day. We always try to start with mellow ascents and step up to steeper faces depending on the ability of our campers. One more thing to consider is fear of heights. In Level 2 and 3 camps we can tour from 1000 to 1500 vertical metres a day and advance to more exposed ridges, where rope and harness are a part of the program.
So, what’s included in the camps? I’m guessing lift passes aren’t necessary!
We offer different packages in different resorts, from rustic cabins with multiple bed rooms to cosy mountain lodges with a sauna and yoga room. Breakfast and catering is included in most of the camps. In some resorts lift passes are included to get as high as possible with available transport before hiking. Some camps don´t include lift passes, because we start from the hut we’re staying at, or because we drive to hidden valleys far away from civilisation to start our tour.
Should campers bring their own splitboard? And what avalanche safety gear is required?
We leave it open: Some campers bring their own stuff and then decide to test a different splitboard when they see us unpacking the board bags at the hut ;-). We also provide splitboard bindings and offer a full range of avalanche safety gear, including transceivers, shovels, probes and avalanche safety backpacks.
And you have a big demo fleet which includes boards from Amplid? Do campers need to reserve in advance if there’s a particular board they want to try?
Amplid is our main board partner at the camps and we have a great fleet to offer for free demo testing. With their registration, campers can highlight which brand they’d like to test and also pre-book their favourite board length and model.
Somebody told me that there’s usually a professional photographer accompanying the trips to take photos. Is that true?
In these times of social media, we´ve realized that our campers love to get their own action shots and some good memories from the camp. Since we are both quite busy with other things during the camp, we hire a professional photographer to join the camp and cover the action for everyone.
And all the camps are in Austria this winter?
Since we are based in Austria, by running camps here we only pass on the “camp costs” to the customers. We try to keep all the organization costs to a minimum by only offering camps in Austria this year. We might start expanding next season and perhaps offer some special adventures outside of the European Alps.
Finally, you have some pretty loyal customers. Do you have repeat customers who join you on multiple camps during the winter? And do any of your customers join the surf and yoga camps in the summer?
We have some customers who have been traveling with us since day one. Many of these guys are now good friends and of course, their level of experience has increased with every camp. That said, we also have short term drop-ins, people who really come to test a specific splitboard or product, we offer in our range.
Since, Aline and I are both passionate surfers and surf instructors as well, we decided to offer the surf and fitness camps for the first time this summer. Some splitboarders have already signed up, because they like the way our adventures are organized. I will be running camps in Portugal, Aline will take our customers to the Mentawais in spring, for an exciting boat trip. We do what we love and we share the stoke. With us, it´ll definitely never get boring ;-)
Choice Camps is running 3 day courses in Kuehtai, Kaunertal, Zillertal and Innerkrems throughout the season. The first camp of the season will be held in Axamer Lizum this weekend (17-19 February) and there are still a small number of places. Visit www.choice-company.com for course dates and contact details.