Tim Windell at Mount Hood
It’s 7 a.m. at the “funnest place on earth,” and buses and vans are loading up with kids raring to shred up some mid-summer snow on Mount Hood. A pair of teenage girls wearing snowboard boots are playing tetherball with one hand while holding lunch bags with the other. A pre-teen on a skateboard zips past the “Super Awesome Game Lounge” and tries out a few tricks in the wavy skate park out back. A tall boy jumps up and deposits a short girl’s snowboard on top of the basketball rim and ambles off. When she returns she looks up and laughs. “How’m I supposed to get that down?”
Tim Windell, the 46-year-old former snowboarding champion who built this action sports wonderland out of a trashed motel he bought out of bankruptcy, takes in the scene with a grin. For the third summer in a row, his $1,949-per-week overnight camp is sold out, and his new year-round academy is drawing inquiries from Saudi Arabia to Iceland. Not only did Windells Camp survive the recession, it flourished. Recent purchases include two $56,000 ski lifts and four huge air bags to provide safe landings for outrageous aerial maneuvers.
Windell is quick to point out that his competitors started buying air bags after word got out that he’d bought some. “We lead the way in the industry,” he says.
It’s a short, gorgeous drive from the Windells base camp on Highway 26 to Timberline Lodge. Windells operates a private snow park with an intimidating variety of jumps, half-pipes and rails in a south-facing gully east of the main ski area. To get there you have to ski: not exactly a sacrifice, since there is arguably no better place in the nation to ski in summer than Mount Hood.
Windell has gained weight since his days as champion, but he still rides with easy grace. His newest interest is snow skating. As a youth he tried moguls and backcountry telemarking, and then embraced snowboarding when critics were dismissing it as child’s play. He remembers being hassled by ski patrollers for no apparent reason. “They just didn’t like the fact that we were shredding the powder better than they were,” he says. “Way better.”
After a smooth warm-up run at eye-watering speed, Windell kicks back on the lift and shares a few details from his boarding career. The reason he was able to win consistently on tour was simple, he says. While his competitors treated boarding as an excuse to get hammered in Japan and party all night in Europe, he was focused on winning. He limited his extracurricular activities and trained hard in the summer to get an edge once the season began.
He applies the same ethic to his business. “You have to continually move forward and keep it fresh versus sitting there and being stagnant,” he says. “Since the conception of Windells we’ve always tried to put at least 15% to 20% back into the business, year after year… It has paid off.”