If you are looking for a pickleball getaway, look no further than Camp West Fork in Montana. Situated a mere 18 miles from Yellowstone National Park and 7 miles from the sky runs of Big Sky, Camp West Fork is an ideal vacation spot for pickleball fanatics.
Not only do you get to bask in the majestic beauty of the surrounding mountainside, but temperatures are the perfect conditions for pickleball. This is especially true during the months of summer where daytime temperatures reach upwards of the 70’s. During the summer season, the sun illuminates the sky until 9:30 at night, when the temperatures drop to a high of the 50’s. That makes almost any time of the day the perfect time to play pickleball.
Camp West Fork has everything a pickleball lover would desire – a beautiful backdrop, ideal temperatures, and of course…a court! Although the first two have everything to do with Mother Nature, the second is thanks to a couple who fell in love with pickleball, Barry and Zoe Silverman.
From Courtship to Pickleball Court
The couple first bonded over their love of fly-fishing. Taken away by the beauty that is Montana, the twosome decided to do more of what they love. They purchased a 26 foot Jayco bumper pull bunk house trailer. They attached the rig to a pickup truck, and a lifetime of adventure began.
Five years into their adventure, the two purchased a co-op in Orange County, California called Laguna Woods. They did this as a way to keep their dogs away from Montana’s “mud season.”
While spending time at Laguna Woods, Barry and Zoe stumbled upon some people playing pickleball. With the encouragement of the pickleball players, the Silvermans picked up a paddle and never looked back.
What drew Barry to the sport was its correlation to ping pong. His father, George Silverman, served the United States Army during World War II. During his time of service, Mr. Silverman became quite the accomplished ping pong player.
As Barry fondly remembered, “He drilled me on the proper strokes and strategies for tournament level play. I maintain that ping pong is THE closest game of all to pickleball and strategies and shots translate very well.”
From Passion to Pet Project
Following a great mud season in Laguna, the Silvermans headed back to Big Sky, where they brought along their newfound passion. Barry remembered coming back to the resort and meeting with the parks department.
He suggested, “That one of the four public tennis courts be lined as a dual purpose venue to accommodate both tennis and pickleball. They were quite receptive and we soon had two pickleball courts on which we put USAPA’s temporary nets. They gave us a grant which helped purchase the nets.”
Located on the west fork of the Gallatin River, Camp West Fork was born.
Barry’s passion led him down a path of DIY extremes. Taking the bull by the horns, the Silvermans held this project close to their hearts. They jumped right on the renovations.
As Barry recalled, “I acted as the general contractor on the project and brought my concrete from Belgrade, my court painter and fencer from Polson and ordered equipment from Tennis Court Supply.” The pickleball fanatic beamed with pride. “Scott Moore, National champion and all around great guy, called ours ‘the prettiest courts I have ever played on.’”
The evolution of the pickleball courts continued.
As Barry explained, “A few years later, we decided to put two courts on our property. We wanted dedicated courts and felt that our 14 acre property was a perfect venue for pickleball courts and the social aspect they provide.”
From Idea to Reality
With courts in place, now all Camp West Fork needed was people to play on them.
Barry and his wife discussed how to go about this endeavor. “After much thought, my wife and I decided that the best avenue for growth of pickleball in our community of 2,500 permanent residents would be by forming a club and charging a token annual fee for membership.”
With an official pickleball league in place, the twosome decided to turn Camp West Fork into the ultimate pickleball destination by offering pickleball boot camps.
The concept of holding a pickleball camp was first sparked from a conversation with aforementioned pickleball player, Scott Moore.
Barry spoke about the conversation:
“We began talking to Scott Moore about ordering PaddleTek paddles and showed him pictures of the property while sharing our vision of hosting pickleball training camps. I hold downhill skiing boot camps for my good friends, as I am a certified PSIA instructor. I found the total immersion they received was so helpful for their skiing that it seemed only natural to offer it to pickleball players as well. Scott immediately jumped on the concept and we put the first camp together.”
As Barry put it, pickleball boot camp is “a total immersion in pickleball covering theory, strategy, stroke analysis, shot selection… just about every facet of the game. We begin each morning with stretching and warm up. We work on paddle skills, hand eye coordination and then focus on a single skill each day.
“We hold two planned pickleball sessions daily with the morning being the most focused and intense. We incorporate training aids, some of which we have developed here exclusively for our campers. We have a Simon ball machine, which campers can sign up for to practice specific shots. Afternoons are geared towards open play and utilizing their newly acquired skills.
“We also video tape every camper in a competitive game and analyze their performance with them. Our final day, we bring in local players from our club to hold a round robin tournament on the two courts. We can always find players of just the right level to push our campers and test their new skills and strategies in a real live situation.”
Guests usually participate in two sessions a day. The morning session runs from 8-11 and the afternoon from 3-5.
If you would like to learn more about Camp West Fork Pickleball, including rates for accommodations, please visit their official website.