July 2017, Government Camp, OR
Keeping it Hood: How a Pro Racer Rediscovered His Passion for Skiing
When the powder stops falling and the snow pack is reduced to dirty little mounds, clumped in the veins of your favorite ski hills…there is a place.
Government Camp, OR seemingly exists outside of time. There are no weekdays or weekends, no nine to fives. Lifts close at 2pm; that’s all you need to know. This sleepy, unincorporated village nestled in the shadow of Mt. Hood is all but desolate during prime winter ski months, but visit in the summer, and watch it fill up with industry pros, Olympians, and young campers training to one day become the next generation of great American alpine ski racers.
Now, you might be wondering why a small mountain town in Northern Oregon would be playing this odd game of reverse winter tourism. Why is it that teams flock here and parents send their kids only during summer months? The answer is Palmer Glacier. A gorgeous, sun-scorched snow field laying 3,000 vertical feet below the summit of the gargantuan Mt. Hood.
Here, young skiers rip around gates and develop turns as precise as their goggle tans. HH Ambassador, and former ski racer, Marcus Caston was one of them. As a twelve-year-old, Caston would wake up before dawn to catch the first lift up to the glacier and practice his turns over and over until he was competing with the best of them. Day after day, year after year of rigorous training, and like so many young skiers, Caston got burned out.
“Eventually the seriousness of training and the sport of ski racing took its toll on me and I was fried mentally,” said Caston. “I was putting in so much effort and dedicating my whole life to the sport and wasn’t skiing up to my potential.”
After giving most of his young life to skiing, Caston walked away from the sport and enrolled in university to study marketing. He didn’t touch skiing for an entire year. No shredding powder with his buddies in the winter, no ripping through Hood corn in the summer. He wanted nothing to do with it.
It was up here that summer, skiing the Zig Zag glacier in perfect corn conditions with a great friend, that I remembered what skiing was about for me.
Soon, Caston found himself in need of a job and, not knowing what else to do, he returned to Govy to coach at Mt. Hood Summer Ski Camps. A decision that would prove to be fate, as it turned out the very place that burned him out, reignited his passion for the sport.
“It was up here that summer, skiing the Zig Zag glacier in perfect corn conditions with a great friend, that I remembered what skiing was about for me,” said Caston. “It’s not all about training super hard and trying to beat everybody in the world.”
It was about fun. He had worked so hard for so many years trying to be the best that he had completely forgotten why he skied in the first place. It was fun.
Two years ago, along with dear friend and FIS-certified coach Lyndsay Strange, Caston started his own ski camp. It was an idea he developed while coaching on Mt. Hood . . . seeing so many young skiers burn out much like himself and get sour on the sport. It would be a camp unlike any other on the glacier. It would be called Party Beach. And it would be fun.
“I’ve taken my experience about skiing and ski racing and realized there is a big hole in traditional race camps where having fun is not a priority,” said Caston. “We take an all-encompassing approach where we want to create skiers for life. Whatever your goals are, we want to help you achieve them. If you want to race World Cup, we can help you. If you want to have fun with your buddies, we can help you do that, too.”