An Inside Look at Eastern Ski Academies
GMVS. CVA. Burke. These iconic institutions of the ski racing world conjure up images of frosty New England mornings, celebrated venues and some of the most well-known names in our sport. Those three schools, along with Okemo Mountain School, Mt. Mansfield Winter Academy, Northwood School/NYSEF, Gould Academy, Waterville Valley Academy, and the National Ski Academy all offered up inside looks at their respective programs to SkiRacing.com.
Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS) in Waitsfield, Vt., has alpine training facilities at Sugarbush Resort and multiple nordic training facilities throughout the area, drawing a current study body of 125 racers from seven different countries. Highlighting their campus offerings is the new Racing Performance Center. Completed in 2014, the 30,000-square-foot center combines high-performance athletic spaces with cutting-edge ski-tuning via access to a state-of-the-art Wintersteiger tuning machine, comprehensive video analysis, advanced physical therapy, a therapy pool, locker rooms and all coaches’ offices in one central location.
For more than 30 years, more than half of the student body at GMVS has participated in the annual fall musical production as either actors, set designers, stage crew, and lighting support. To add to the professional feel, the Doug Parker Auditorium now has semi-permanent stadium seating to accommodate the theater production as well as all-school assemblies.
Carrabassett Valley Academy (CVA) follows a time-tested integration of academics, athletics, and community for its student-athlete experience in Kingfield, Maine. A creative and extensive use of iPad technology, plus small class sizes, provides outstanding support for students who travel extensively during the winter season.
CVA’s Responsible Community Living curriculum describes the school’s intentional focus on teaching civility and respect, the value of community service, and good decision-making. CVA goes out of its way to provide intentional opportunities to cultivate valuable leadership qualities in their students.
CVA students also have access to the town of Carrabassett Valley’s Anti-Gravity Complex, which offers trampolines, rock climbing, a full indoor skate park and a full workout area.
Burke Mountain Academy (BMA) has its campus right on the side of Burke Mountain in East Burke, Vt. Student-athletes have the ability ski to and from chairlifts, which makes the transportation time for training virtually nonexistent, allowing them to maximize training blocks and academic time. BMA has an exclusive right to Burke’s training hill and high-speed surface lift. The training hill at Burke is homologated for FIS giant slalom, with exceptional pitch and an extremely fast turnaround. No wonder BMA has helped produce such athletes as Mikaela Shiffrin and Nolan Kasper.
The Burke Honor Code is a fundamental tenet of BMA life. BMA believes in the limitless potential of student-athletes and values the process of their learning, their effort, and their hard work. Burke aims to focus students on the effort and commitment necessary for the difficult and sometimes out-of-control demands of ski racing and of life. Burke also works to foster a deep appreciation for the process, whether it be during a timed hike of the mountain, a muddy bike ride in the morning before classes, or in the classroom, where narrative evaluations reflect on the effort and work that students demonstrate.
BMA also has a strength and pride in its nordic athletes, having produced some of the fastest racers in U.S. history: Liz Stephen ’05 and Ida Sargent ’06 are Burke alumnae and U.S. Ski Teamers. The Burke campus features a maintained 2K loop through the middle of campus, and within two miles of campus there are more than 50K of groomed trails and varied terrain.
Located in the ski town of Ludlow, Vt., Okemo Mountain School (OMS) is a winter-term academy for alpine ski racing, snowboarding, and freestyle skiing athletes who wish to train full-time in their sport without compromising rigorous academic study.
OMS focuses on the needs of winter-term participants, who come from public and private schools where they participate in additional competitive sports, such as cross-country, soccer, lacrosse, and football. Being a winter-term academy, OMS allows student-athletes to not only excel in snowsport, but also remain well-rounded four-season athletes.
Mt. Mansfield Winter Academy (MMWA) in Stowe, Vt., reports that when its students approach graduation, they are all charged with one final task: their speech. At the relatively small winter-term school of around 45 students annually, it is a tradition that all graduating seniors deliver a speech to the assembled crowd of parents, teachers, and coaches.
Some have spent their entire lives skiing in the Mt. Mansfield programs; others are relative newcomers. The speeches run the gamut. Some go for humor. Others are retrospective. They reflect, say administrators, on all that the one-on-one teaching has done for their academics, or on the lessons learned while racing and training on Mt. Mansfield Ski Club’s training hill, Main Street. Still others are emotional. They talk about obstacles overcome, challenges conquered and friendships forged.
Their speeches, say MMWA faculty, highlight what a diverse, talented group of individuals they are, and the dedicated, confident student-athletes they’ve become.
Northwood School and the New York Ski Education Foundation (NYSEF) in Lake Placid, N.Y., offer student-athletes support from the age of 7 through a post-graduate program.
Together, Northwood School and NYSEF provide a menu of snow sport programs ranging from introductory to the FIS level. Northwood offers students a year-round, comprehensive college preparatory academic and athletic program. NYSEF, meanwhile, provides one- to four-month winter-term programs coupled with individualized tutoring support. This program, based out of the Olympic Training Center (OTC), allows younger athletes to discover the demands and rewards of being part of a fulltime boarding school program.
Student-athletes are able to take advantage of the on-snow facilities of Whiteface Mountain, host of the Lake Placid 1980 Olympic Winter Games alpine events.
Found in the classic New England village of Bethel, Maine, Gould Academy neighbors Sunday River Resort and a close-knit surrounding community. Gould aims to extend education out of the classroom, giving its 250 students all of the ingredients they need to create a individualized experience.
Students come to Gould Academy from an average of 20 states and 20 countries. As the school reports, they’re athletes and scientists, scholars and musicians, makers and artists, and doers and thinkers, all looking for a safe and fun community in which they can thrive. Learning begins in the classrooms and continues on the Sunday River slopes, at dinners with teachers’ families and in a global community fueled by curiosity and commitment.
Through a combination of experiences in the classroom, on the stage, in the art cottage and IDEAS Center; through the distance learning partnership with the Manhattan School of Music; on-snow at Sunday River Resort; and through a commitment to experiential learning, Gould students are able to create a unique educational and athletic experience.
For more than 40 years, Waterville Valley Academy in New Hampshire has developed a unique community where students accelerate athletically while thriving academically. Through multiple winter sports training programs, alpine, freestyle, and snowboarding student-athletes in grades 6-12 are prepared for competitive and academic performance at the highest level, with alumni of every program gracing collegiate and Olympic podiums alike.
The variety of options at WVA include an early and late season 3-month program, attendance for the full winter term, or the full-time 10+ month Pinnacle Program for elite athletes in grades 9-12. Small class sizes and dedicated educators help WVA guide students to higher levels of understanding while accelerating the learning process, with a majority of students enrolling in a full curriculum of honors and/or Advanced Placement (AP) courses. While at WVA, students reside in the school’s dormitory or other nearby locations. Over the past six years, the school has enrolled students from over 20 states and several foreign countries representing over 110 home schools.
North of the border, the National Ski Academy in Collingwood, Ontario (Canada) prides itself on its comprehensive academic programs and “education that travels”. The Academic Department works with each student and their parents to ensure that all curriculum requirements are met and the learning environment encourages individuals to excel, leading graduates to gain acceptance and scholarships into top Canadian and U.S. universities.
The renovated 12,000 square foot Tornavene mansion offers classrooms, study hall, a gymnasium and weight room, tuning room, boarding for up to 35 student-athletes and a kitchen with a full-time chef. On hill training takes place just 10 minutes from the school at nearby Blue Mountain during the week and other clubs on the Escarpment and in Saas Fee, Switzerland, for a 7-week camp every year. The NSA’s mission is to provide an environment for talented student-athletes to maximize individual potential through the pursuit of alpine ski racing excellence, academic achievement and personal growth.
More inclined to consider a program out West? Check out Part One of our exclusive feature covering ski academies in the Western U.S. here.