Ellery Hollingsworth and Gretchen Bleiler joined the coaching crew at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, this weekend, for the last stop of Oakley Progression Sessions 2012. Loon Mountain is the place where OPS originated, through Loon's program called Droppin' In. Through Ellery is originally from Connecticut and grew up riding at Stratton, and Gretchen has been to Vermont and Maine for many competitions, neither rider had shredded the awesome parks at Loon and experienced the riotous excitement of Droppin' In. Saturday morning, as the two ladies headed to meet the Droppin' In crew, conditions were perfect for a day of spring riding: blue sky, slushy snow and a fun and well-maintained park built just for Droppin' In by the Loon park staff.
We caught up with Ellery and Gretchen during Droppin' In's traditional après hot cocoa bar to learn how their day went.
When you guys arrived at Oakley Progression Sessions: Loon Droppin' In this morning, what was your first impression?
Ellery: I've never been to Loon before and I've never done an Oakley Progression Sessions, so I didn't know what to expect and when I got here. I was just going with the flow, and then we walked into [the room of] eighty girls and it was a little overwhelming, since I didn't know what to do and I've never coached before. But, once I got my group, my group members gave me a whistle right away, and they were pumped to just shred and learn everything. It was cool to be able to teach them and just be with a great energy. They were really psyched to ride so I had a great day.
Gretchen: First of all, her first time ever coaching, Ellery got Team Fun, so she scored. She couldn't have a better team to go in with first. For me, I've never been here before. I've been to Stratton, I've been to Okemo, I've been to Killington and Mount Snow and Sunday River, and I'm super impressed with Loon. It's a fun park mountain and it's way bigger than I thought it would be. It's end of March and it's super fun and warm and slushy. It was an awesome day, jut super mellow and fun. Again, all of the girls always have such an awesome attitude just having fun and wanting to learn. Everyone's always so surprised at just how nice everyone is, but I keep saying that we're all here to learn. We're all hear to like push each other and progress and you can't do anything wrong here. It's just so supportive and that's what blows everyone away, every time. 'Oh, I just though people would be like, 'she fell,'' but that's not the attitude here. It's like, 'you fell, oh alright, good job, you went for it! Let's go back up and do it again!' That's the best part about these camps. I'm just psyched to be back here, because I haven't been to one of these since Northstar last year!
Will you explain a little bit about what you were doing this afternoon in the halfpipe?
Gretchen: We were doing a halfpipe demo. Some girls have never been in the pipe before—lots of them don't even have the courage to go in themselves if they're just riding, so this camp gives them the opportunity to just get in there for the first time, in circumstances where they're just having fun and following their friends. So, we did a lot of lines, everyone just following Ellery's line and following my line. When you follow someone in the halfpipe, you just follow them, you don't think. Lots of times, girls get in their own head and that prevents them from going a little faster into the wall, and if you're just following someone and just doing what they're doing, then all of a sudden you're going higher on the wall then you ever thought you would. That definitely happened today in the group. Girls were like, ''I've never been so high up on the wall! Even though it's not the ideal pipe right now [because of the spring conditions], these girls are so stoked because they're actually riding the walls of the halfpipe for the first time. It was a really cool experience for me.
Ellery: They made a lot of progress. It was cool to see. I'm proud.
You both have so much halfpipe experience, what was it like going back to basics and riding with beginners and women new to the halfpipe?
Ellery: When I was up there today with the girls who haven't been in there before, I related it to when I did the Ross Powers Camp when I was eleven years old. Tricia Byrnes was my coach and she was giving me really straightforward pointers, just try to get through the halfpipe. Seeing the girls' progress today, it was inspiring to me, because the littlest things that they're learning and it's really hard to coach, so I was proud when they were getting better. Riding halfpipe is intimidating and I'm proud of those girls.
Gretchen: I went to Mt Hood. That's where I learned to ride halfpipe for the first time, it's where I learned to do backside 360s off jumps, so I kept thinking back to those time for me. Today, twelve year-old Mary was up there trying to learn back threes, and I remember exactly the things that helped me learn them, so it's cool to come back around to those times. It brings back good memories for me. It's just so fun.
E: It's refreshing.
G: It's fun to look at girls that are so hungry to learn and working so hard at it. This is the next generation of girls that are coming up and wanting to do their thing and progress the sport.
What words of wisdom would you give to girls and women who are trying to get into park riding in general?
Gretchen: My advice: it is always fun to set goals. What do you want to learn? Is it a frontside 180, backside 180, a three? Always be setting goals, so when you go out on the hill, you're always thinking about those things you want to do and it's in your head. You will start trying them and then all of a sudden they're easy and you're doing them all the time. Setting goals, long term and short term. Having fun, but having a direction with where you are going, while having fun with your friends.
Ellery: If I were a girl, I would try to find a camp like this, because I've never been in an all girls camp, and I love riding with the guys, but after seeing the vibe out there today and everyone pushing each other, I would definitely do a camp like this. You can learn from everyone, this vibe here is good.
Gretchen: Going off of what Ellery was just saying, there's twelve coaches but there's eighty-two campers, so lots of these campers are also going off of each other and helping each other. That's the vibe. The coolest part of these camps, is that we generally have the same fears, like judging ourselves too much or thinking about what other people are thinking about us, and when you're riding with a bunch of girls, everyone is just doing their thing and it's so great.
Ellery: After being a coach today, I think as an athlete, you should be more vocal. That's a lesson I learned from today. When we're training with the US team, there's ten athletes, but unless you speak up, it's hard for the coaches to notice you every single run. I'd say if you're an athlete and you have a coach, be vocal and have more communication.
Gretchen: When you're done with this camp, go out and replicate this. Find a group of people that are just as positive and ride with them.