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Q&A for Mars Hill Cycling Camp

What level of experience is required? 

We have an application process and we may have some additional questions before allowing prospective campers to register. Due to our challenging, hilly, technical terrain and the distances we ride, we require that campers have the requisite experience, skills, fitness, and equipment for individual and group safety, and to make sure every camper is prepared for a fun camp experience. We are unable to accept those who are completely brand new to the sport. However, if you're unsure we encourage you to apply anyway. We may be able to work out a plan to help you prepare, or encourage you to apply next year. Younger riders can gain skills and fitness rapidly. Our goal is to meet every camper where they're at and to further their growth and enjoyment of the sport. Generally, we accept campers ages 12-18 (racing age), although we may make an exception for younger riders with a lot of prior experience. The average age is typically around 14-15, and we have up to 25% participation from junior women.


What are the accommodations like?

Home base is Dogwood Hall on the beautiful campus of Mars Hill University. We rent out the entire two-story residence hall for the duration of our camps. Rooms are double occupancy (single occupancy available as an add-on) with twin beds, desks, dressers. There are four wings of the building, each with two sets of bathrooms and showers. We set aside a separate wing/bathroom for our junior women and staff. We have a full kitchen where we prepare meals and snacks. There is a common area with couches, tables, chairs, and a TV; it's where we have our meals, meetings, guest speakers, and generally hang out.

What's the food like?

We prepare most of our own meals, especially for breakfast and lunch. We offer a breakfast buffet with lots of choices, typically have picnic lunches out on the road or trail, and for dinners we'll get take-out or delivery from local restaurants or prepare our own in-house. We often utilize Mars Hill University's yummy cafeteria, too. We celebrate the end of camp with a breakfast waffle party (with all the yummy toppings!) on the final day. We are able to support all types of dietary needs and restrictions, including vegan/vegetarian, gluten-free, and those with food allergies.

How do you determine groups out on the trails and roads?

Depending on the size of the group, and when it's safe and convenient, we may all ride together during a ride. However, most of the time we ride in two to three groups, especially when trail riding. Each group has 2-3+ staff managing it. We determine groups based on skill and fitness levels for group cohesion, safety, and to facilitate the level of experience everyone is looking for. Groups tend to change daily and campers can move between groups with staff approval. For those focused on improving performance, we have staff who can coach and challenge you regardless of the terrain, and there will be opportunities for all campers to test their fitness limits if they so choose.

How does camp help make campers better riders?

Our staff conduct individual sit-down conversations with every camper at the beginning of camp so that we can learn more about them, their goals, and what they hope to get out of camp. Then throughout camp we offer them feedback on what they're doing great and suggestions on how to improve. At the end of camp, we write up an assessment on these three areas--skills, fitness, and character--and give it to them to take home. It's one of the things we offer as a USA Cycling Athlete Development Pathway Camp. Our goal is give every camper the positive reinforcement they need so that they further their individual goals in the sport of cycling.

What can I expect from camp staff?

Our staff is our most important resource, and we select them according to their cycling experience, coaching training, fun-loving personality, and character. All staff go through annual background checks, are current on First Aid/CPR certifications, and are SafeSport certified. Many are certified in Wilderness First Aid, some in Wilderness First Responder. Professional coaching certifications include those from USA Cycling, the Professional Mountain Bike Instructor Association (PMBIA), NICA, and more. Directors and lead staff have raced competitively at the elite/professional level and have decades-long combined experience coaching at the junior, collegiate, paralympic, and elite/professional levels. Our staff to camper ratio is 1-4 or less, exceeding the requirements of both USA Cycling and NICA.

What about off-bike activities and free time? 

Plenty of games and options, whether its "competitive" UNO and card/board games, four square, sand volleyball, ultimate frisbee, soccer, or just chilling in our common area watching bike videos. Our staff is a fun group who helps organize, participate, and supervise activities. Campers teach us new games every year so we're ready to adapt and have fun! We play plenty of on-bike games too.

What about technology? Are phones allowed?

Yes, we allow our campers to have access to their computers, tablets, and phones. Whether it's staying in touch with family and friends, reviewing rides on Strava, listening to music, playing games with friends during free time, we think there's a time and a place for technology. However, during occasions such as meetings and guest speaker presentations, we ask campers to silence and put away technology. And generally we aim to offer plenty of in-person community engagement so that technology becomes an afterthought. 

If you have any additional questions, please reach out to Hugh or Reid. We're happy to discuss. 

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