Behind The Scene: Oakley Progression Session

The Oakley Women's Progression Session (OPS) took over Copper Mountain March 2-4, bringing out 50 girls for the second stop of its 2012 series. Only in its sophomore year, Progression Session has quickly distinguished itself from your average "learn to ride" event. The camp markets itself to experienced women riders, aged 15 and up, who already possess a solid on-snow foundation, and are looking to take their freestyle skills to the next level. The women who attended this past weekend’s event brought knowledge and passion to the slopes, allowing for intensive, fast paced clinics that yield actual results.

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The camp kicked off registration by having the women design a custom pair of Oakley goggles, followed by a one-hit-wonder session at the Woodward Barn (a feature unique to the Copper Mountain stop) where riders spent quality time on the trampolines and in the foam pits, piecing together tricks that they've been dying to ace on-snow. Both Saturday and Sunday began with early morning training at Woodward, and progressed to the hill for a solid day of park and pipe clinics. Coaches and Pro-Riders divvy up the women and take them out for focused lessons—hitting the park, pipe, or free riding.  The days wrapped up with a quick yoga class, followed by  après where the women could put their feet up and get relaxed on Oakley's tab. The cost of the camp ranges from $189- $300, which includes lift tickets if needed, lodging, lunch, après, Oakley gift bag and goggles, and any added features like Woodward.

OPS boasts customized terrain parks at every stop, where attendees can escape the intimidation of crowds and focus on going big and nailing new tricks in a comfortable environment. Off-snow training is also incorporated into each weekend, with morning yoga and, in Copper's case, multiple trampoline sessions at Camp Woodward. This allows Oakley to integrate and promote its active wear line in addition to its snow gear. The brand also enlists various pro riders as coaches at each mountain, giving campers an opportunity to hone their skills with tips from top riders, including Gretchen Bleiler, Jenny Jones, and Marie-France Roy, to name a few.

Getting pointers from Oakley Pro-Rider Helene Olefson

The brainchild of Oakley US Women's Brand Manager Jenny Earnshaw, OPS debuted in 2011 as a spin off of Loon Mountain's "Droppin' In," which Oakley sponsored in 2010. The hype surrounding "Droppin' In" undoubtedly contributed to a successful start for OPS, allowing it to take the event and its popularity to resorts across the nation.

For its premiere season, the camp made four stops: beginning in its birthplace of Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, and then on to The Canyons, Utah, Winter Park, Colorado and Northstar-at-Tahoe, California. This year's roster of mountains saw expansion into Canada with the inclusion of Le Massif de Charlevoix in Quebec, Canada, which kicked off 2012's series of sessions going down at Copper Mountain, Colorado, Mammoth Mountain, California, and capped off with a return to Loon. OPS's second season boasts an impressive increase in attendance, with waiting lists at both Mammoth and Loon, even after the allowance of 30 additional campers on top of the initial 50.

Progression Session is focused on bringing girls to the Oakley brand by giving them hands on experience with Oakley products. Day 1 kicked off with girls creating custom Elevate or Crowbar goggles at the Oakley Goggle Bar- and by giving them a chance to spend quality time learning from the brand's pro riders. In Copper's case, Chanelle Sladics, Helene Olefson, Jenny Jones, and Kristi Leskinen were on hand to share tips and tricks with campers.

This first-hand brand bonding leads to a ground swell for OPS and for Oakley itself, as riders head back to their home mountains hyped on the brand, armed with new tricks and fresh gear. Liesl Holtz, Oakley women's global sports marketing manager, explains, "We want to take girls who have respected opinions and psych them out on the brand, so that they can take that back to their hometowns and spread the word to other girls."

View from the top: OPS's private park

In the same vein, Oakley has made a point to invite sales reps and their accounts to the camp, with the goal of creating a staff of women with a knowledge and passion that can translate into solid product sales. Front Range Sales Rep Carissa Comp attended Progression Session for the 2nd time this year, alongside the accounts she brought in last year, who chose to return on their own dime. Comp commented, "We want to share the Oakley experience and how the brand is supporting women. That bond is important to accounts, who can then take their product knowledge and brand experiences and put them to use back home."

Utah and Wyoming Sales Rep Kim Genzler added, "It's great to hang out outside of the shop, to get to know the culture of Oakley and get stoked on products. It's a great way to mix business with pleasure."  In addition to bringing in the eyes and ears of its physical stores, Oakley has found a way to utilize social media to give the camp and the brand a strong, lasting presence. At the start of each session, attendees are given a gift bag, which includes a jersey, which is numbered and linked to that specific camper. Post-session, OPS's Facebook site is able to tag the girls in the weekend's photos—virally spreading the word about the camp throughout Facebook nation.

As far as expanding Women's Progression Session, Earnshaw asserted that no plans have yet been laid, though first thoughts would be given to reinstating the camp in Canyons, Utah, or to a new destination in the Northwest. Extension into Europe, New Zealand and South America is a goal for the future, as is the idea of branching out into other sports, for instance wakeboarding, SUP, or even golf.

First and foremost Earnshaw is focused on creating a solid format for running the camp—an "event in a box,"—that has the potential to be reproduced across various fields and locations.  Another goal for its current roster of campsl is to draw larger numbers of out-of-state attendees. OPS Copper offers a great opportunity for this due to its unique incorporation of the Woodward Barn, where the women can spend hours hitting the snow-flex (picture a carpeted drop-in and kicker that launches riders into a large foam pit) and the trampolines in order to learn and perfect the tricks they want to nail on-snow.

"We want to make Copper a destination camp," said Holtz, "to draw in the Denver and Boulder crowds, as well as girls from out of state and even out of country. Woodward could be a huge pull.” For now, Progression Session still has two 2012 stops to make: Mammoth, March 17th-18th, and Loon Mountain, March 24-25th.