As the ski season comes to a close, athletes and parents across the country are considering what’s next in their ski careers. Is a ski academy in the future? That question can be a daunting proposal. The next question is: Where should I go?
The search is never simple, so to help shed light on the situation we thought it would be helpful to hear from the athletes who have been through the experience before. On the east coast, athletes had no problem sharing insights about their time at these academies.
BURKE MOUNTAIN ACADEMY
Founded in 1970, Burke Mountain Academy (BMA) has churned out some of the best athletes in ski racing history, including 2018 Olympians, Mikaela Shiffrin, Nolan Kasper and Tommy Biesemeyer. BMA embraces an ethos in which hard work is held in the highest esteem, and the belief that risking failure and learning from success are exceptional preparation for life beyond school.
“It just goes to show that people can graduate from this school and be really successful,” said Burke Mountain Academy student, Claire Patton in an interview with NBC earlier this year. “It’s just kind of crazy to think about – that we’re living and learning in the same place that Mikaela Shiffrin did.”
BMA’s academic program is college-preparatory in nature, but its objectives encompass a large vision and a broader horizon, providing in-depth narrative evaluations in lieu of grades to mark the completion of courses in the curriculum. BMA’s athletic program is structured around the High-Performance Model, embracing all the nodes of performance to immerse students in an elite athletic lifestyle: this means consistently working to improve their on-snow venue, mental training, nutrition, and equipment; implementing current research into youth athletic development, physical conditioning and sport science and delivering a comprehensive year-round program.
CARRABASSETT VALLEY ACADEMY
In the wild north of Maine, Carrabassett Valley Academy (CVA) lives and breathes winter sports which includes, of course, alpine skiing. You may recognize CVA’s alumni like Bode Miller and Kristin Clark for their extensive World Cup careers and Olympic appearances. This academy shaped them into the competitors the international ski world came to know.
“Being at CVA with a group of athletes with the goal of making the U.S. Ski Team pushed us all to work harder on the mountain and in the classroom,” says Clark, class of 1995 and a three-time Olympian. “The small school setting was such a great environment for one-on-one interaction with coaches and teachers.”
CVA strives to provide an environment and academic program that develops independent thinkers, who can successfully balance rigorous academics and athletics while being constructive members of the community. Its athletic program offers a supportive team environment for student/athletes to reach their highest potential and follows the U.S. Ski & Snowboard development system and teaches the fundamentals of competitive skiing and snowboarding.
Located in Bethel, Maine, Gould Academy offers full-time programs for grades 9 through the post-graduate year, as well as winter term options for seventh and eight graders. Students spend some of their most formative years at this school, training at Sunday River and becoming responsible citizens.
“My experiences at Gould are really special to me,” says Ben Drummond, class of 1999. “The coaches, faculty, and friends have helped shape my life.”
Gould Academy’s unique focus on experiential learning pushes the boundaries of the traditional classroom. From week/weekend service and outdoor leadership trips to travel abroad adventures and our beloved Four Point program, opportunities like these help shape its students into well traveled young adults. Plus, its distinctive partnership with Sunday River makes unparalleled athletic opportunities possible for serious athletes.
GREEN MOUNTAIN VALLEY SCHOOL
Daron Rahlves is a legendary American Downhiller. While he never earned an Olympic medal, he was the super-G World Champion in 2001, in addition to winning two other World Championship medals during his career. Before he was on the international stage, he was a student at Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS).
“When I first game to GMVS, my dreams were to be a fast ski racer and to have fun doing it,” says Hahnenkamm winner Daron Rahlves, class of 1991. “That’s just what happened.”
GMVS offers a rigorous college preparatory curriculum intended to prepare students with the content knowledge and skills necessary to be successful at the collegiate level. Simultaneously, the athletic program provides the opportunity for any hard-working and passionate ski racer—like Rahlves—to achieve personal athletic greatness.
Holderness School, located in Plymouth, N.H., has three primary values: community, character and curiosity. It offers a college preparatory curriculum with a wide range of courses and small classes, creating an intimate and challenging academic experience for young ski racers.
“Holderness allows me to challenge myself academically and pursue my athletic capabilities to the highest degree possible,” says high school junior, Mikayla Stolar. “The ski team has given me so many opportunities with productive training and outstanding coaches, and the team members are some of my best friends.”
Students like Stolar train at the recently completed Mittersill venue and also have access to unique sports like rock climbing and mountain biking, as well as traditional team sports like soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse in the offseason.
KILLINGTON MOUNTAIN SCHOOL
This Vermont academy features programs for grades six through post-graduate with a rigorous STEM-based curriculum along with a humanities-based Seminar Series that challenges students to consider their place in the world and their role as global citizens. Outside of academics, there is a heavy emphasis on community and athletics.
“The minute I arrived at KMS, I knew I’d found my place,” says alumnae Cassidy Bebo. “Everyone I’ve crossed paths with here throughout my entire experience has left a positive place in my heart.”
KMS offers student-athletes like Bebo the opportunity to pursue excellence, and athletics is a core part of the curriculum. Integrated into the academic offerings, one’s sport is as much a part of the school experience as are the core academic subjects. The school trains the whole athlete — mind, body, and spirit. KMS is committed to instilling a lifelong passion for sport.
MOUNT MANSFIELD WINTER ACADEMY
World Cup athlete Robby Kelley comes from long-line of Olympians, and when it come to choosing a high school, he picked Mount Mansfield Winter Academy.
“I attended MMWA for all four years of high school,” says Kelley. “I am so happy that I was part of a winter program that gave me the opportunity to not only have access to incredible training, coaches, and teachers, but also allowed me to stay in my public school in the fall and spring. MMWA and MMSC provided me with everything I needed to thrive in ski racing while becoming a more well-rounded individual along the way. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything!”
The program exclusively offers winter-term programming, which includes an individually designed academic program arranged in one-on-one or small group settings. The snow training facilities are located at the legendary Stowe Mountain Resort. Training takes place on several trails, including the recently widened and enhanced Main Street trail at Spruce Peak, a FIS homologated course that allows athletes to train on terrain consistent with World Cup standards.
NATIONAL SKI ACADEMY
Just two hours north of Toronto, Canada, the National Ski Academy offers a full-year traditional ski academy experience. The program helped launch the ski careers of 2018 Canadian Olympic team member Roni Remme and retired World Cup athlete Larisa Yurkiw.
“The NSA culture is unique,” says one community member. “It starts with Jurg – his passion, his experience and his perspective of what it is all about. Yes, it’s about ski racing, fitness training and academic excellence. But you quickly see it’s really about so much more – life lessons and international experiences you simply cannot learn in other environments – lessons that serves the student-athletes for life.”
The school’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.
This New York school offers a traditional college prep school experience while also offering access to training with the New York Ski Education Foundation (NYSEF). Northwood School is a coeducational, independent boarding and day school located at the site of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. The area history certainly does not hurt when it comes to developing future international ski stars. Olympic medalist Andrew Weibrecht and Olympian Thomas Vonn are just two of the school’s notable alumni.
The student experienced is enhanced by easy access to training. Recently named a Gold Certified Club by the U.S. Ski & Snowboard, NYSEF is a nonprofit organization that provides educational opportunities for children and young adults through athletic training in snow sports. Together, Northwood School and NYSEF provide a complete menu of snow sport programs ranging from introductory all the way to the FIS level.
OKEMO MOUNTAIN SCHOOL
When athletes head to a ski academy, it should be a home away from home. Okemo Mountain School provides that for its students.
“OMS will always hold a special place in my heart, for not only supporting me in my passion for ski racing, but also in becoming my second family,” says Kristina Bonnet, class of 2016. “All of the people who worked at OMS did everything they could to accommodate my rigorous class schedule and racing calendar. The community that fills OMS everyday is something I don’t think I could have found anywhere else. I started OMS as a shy 8th grader, barely able to hold conversation on the chairlift. But when I graduated five years later, I had confidence, ambition and life-long friends.”
As a winter-term academy, Okemo Mountain School facilitates each student’s individual curriculum from his or her sending school. The goal is to ensure that students return to their home classrooms in sync with their classmates, having covered all of the same material. OMS athletes train on-snow at Okemo Mountain Resort just minutes from the school building, and have access to a dedicated trail.
Proctor offers 140 academic courses, including Honors and AP-level classes and more than 30 art electives, within an educational model rooted in experiential learning. It’s an academic program that prepares students for life beyond ski racing.
“Being a member of Proctor Academy’s USSA/FIS program was easily the most fulfilling part of my Proctor experience,” says Angie Duke, class of 2014 and member of the Middlebury College Ski Team. “Not only was I given the right tools to succeed at the Division 1 level, but I also built relationships with coaches and teammates that will last for the rest of my life. There is no other program in the country that gives athletes the same tools on both the ski racing and academic side of the collegiate skiing equation.”
The Proctor Ski Area, where athletes train, is the nation’s finest privately owned FIS homologated alpine and nordic ski facility. Located within walking distance of campus, the ski area features full snowmaking and lighting on both alpine and nordic trails. In addition to Proctor’s on-campus ski area, the USSA/FIS team has a dedicated GS and speed training venue at nearby Ragged Mountain.
STRATTON MOUNTAIN SCHOOL
In the hills of southern Vermont, Stratton Mountain School (SMS) boasts a 12-month program of dryland preparation, on-snow training, and competition. During the winter season, the school’s top-level ski racers represent SMS at international and national competitions such as World Junior Championships, NorAms, U.S. Nationals, U18 and U16 Nationals, Can-Am and European FIS events. The strength and rigor of the SMS academic program is reflected in the consistent acceptance of its graduates to top colleges.
Since 1972, 42 SMS alumni have competed in the Olympics, and more than 100 athletes have achieved placement on national teams throughout the world. This includes 2018 Olympian Alice Merryweather. Stratton truly prepares its students for careers as elite ski racers and as successful people, whatever their passion.
WATERVILLE VALLEY ACADEMY
Emma Ryan, a 2018 Irish Olympic hopeful and soon-to-be Harvard student, has been a long time student and skier at Waterville Valley Academy (WVA) in New Hampshire. She credits WVA with getting her to this point in her career.
“The difference that WVA has made to both my skiing and academics has been incredible,” says Emma Ryan, a senior at WVA and member of the Irish National Ski Team. “With a favorable student to teacher ratio and excellent coaching, I have gotten the balance of academics and athletics that I needed. With a supportive and positive community, I can confidently say that it is the perfect place for aspiring winter sports student-athletes to be!”
This academy offers an array of full-time and winter-term options for students. In the offseason, WVA athletes are one of the few groups in the world who utilize the Burdenko Method of training, conditioning and recovery, which has dramatically increased the success rates of the its athletes. During winter, students train rigorously at Waterville Valley Resort with professional coaches dedicated to helping each student perform at their maximum potential.
CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR WEST COAST OPTIONS? EXPLORE OUR ENTIRE ACADEMY DIRECTORY HERE.