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 west coast, athletes had no problem sharing insights about their time at these academies.
ALPINE RACE ACADEMY AT LOVELAND
The Alpine Race Academy at Loveland may not be a household name when it comes to ski academies, but it should be. Based in Colorado, it offers offers private training in a team environment with easy access to snow just off the main highway. The training slope is so solid and the access is so convenient, that it continues to be one of Mikaela Shiffrin’s go-to training spots when she’s home. At the Alpine Race Academy at Loveland, athletes can take advantage of individualized attention 365 days a year, driven by the 5-1 athlete to coach ratio and other dedicated staff.
Off the slopes, athletes have the flexibility to choose the schooling option that works best for them from homeschooling to local public schools. This makes the program supremely flexible and customizable.
Julia Ford is a former national team athlete who has continued to pursue her ski racing dreams in recent years with Redneck Racing. She is able to partner her intense athletic training with an education thanks to GroundSwell Athletics.
“GroundSwell was the best thing I could have done for my mind and development,” says Ford. “Thank you for making it a possibility.”
GroundSwell Athletics combines alpine ski racing with a scenario-based educational platform, focused on organizational and personal development. They help high school and college graduates gain real-world skills to put on their resume and prepare them for life after ski racing. Whether an athlete is pursuing goals of making the national ski team, they need to lower their points to make a college ski team, or they are a current college student, who wants to combine high-level summer training options with hands-on experience growing a company, GroundSwell Athletics provides unique opportunities for growth.
ROWMARK SKI ACADEMY
Before Breezy Johnson made her Olympic debut in PyeongChang, she was just like many junior athletes in the U.S. going to school with dreams of qualifying for the national team. Part of her journey included time at Romark Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Rowmark was the hardest thing I ever did,” says Johnson. “Sometimes, I honestly don’t know how I made it through my junior and senior year. After that everything seemed easy. I learned so much, both in skiing and life skills through those four years; I felt very prepared for continuing in the sport. The resourcefulness, time management and ability to think outside the box helped me continue to grow after my time at Rowmark, and enabled me to develop the many different aspects (besides skiing fast) required of a professional athlete. I am forever thankful for the coaches for helping me develop into the person and athlete I am today. They provided humor and comfort on the tough days, a smiling face on the good days, and provided the harsh truth when necessary, too.”
Rowmark Academy, part of Rowland Hall, is a full-time academy for 9th grade through post-graduate, and also offers a complete junior program from 3rd through 8th grade. Their focus is on the complete student-athlete: academics, athletics, technique, tactics, physical conditioning, sports psychology, teamwork and citizenship.
SUN VALLEY SKI ACADEMY AT COMMUNITY SCHOOL
The Sun Valley ski area has raised some of the most historic athletes in ski racing including Olympic gold medalists Picabo Street and Gretchen Fraser. The Sun Valley Ski Academy at the Community School gives athletes access to an incredible mountain and a solid education.
“The great thing about SVSA at Community School is that we are both a school and ski academy program,” says high school junior, Sophia. “The fact that we are both means that students here are engaged in all different types of interests and activities. We’re not just skiers. We are pursuing all types of passions and we have the opportunity to participate in really interesting offerings.”
The Community School provides an unmatched level of support with a dedicated academic coordinator, who travels with student-athletes throughout the training and competition season. There is online support that allows students to be ‘in class’ even when they are on the road, and a full complement of summer term courses that allow winter athletes to lighten their load when they are their busiest. All of this, while skiing at a world-famous resort.
SQUAW VALLEY ACADEMY
Ski racing legacies do not get much richer than those of Squaw Valley. The site of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games has produced numerous Olympians and Squaw Valley Academy (SVA) is a part of that rich history with alumni like current national team member Travis Ganong and two-time Olympian Edith Thys Morgan.
“When I look back on my three years at Squaw Valley Academy, I see it as the genesis that laid the brickwork for who I am,” says one alumnus. “The ‘Jedi-like’ personal mentorship endured from the institution’s fabulous teachers, instructors and dorm parents was a godsend and beyond all else, SVA, the friendships, the challenges, the experiences and the lifestyle assisted me in unlocking a deep-seated passion for the mountains; one that I have based my entire adult life around. I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything in the world.”
SVA offers strong preparation for college as its central focus and it maintains a 100 percent college acceptance rate, because students work individually with a college counselor to find schools that best meet their needs. This academy combines academic success with national team dreams.
SUGAR BOWL ACADEMY
Riley Plant grew up racing for Sugar Bowl Ski Team, eventually transitioning to the academy in order to dedicate more time to his ski racing goals. These days, Plant skis for Middlebury College in Vermont, a top school on the EISA circuit, and SBA played a major role in his success there.
“SBA has turned me into an organized thinker with an open mind for learning where you might not suspect there to be an opportunity to do so,” says Plant. “SBA taught me that success as an athlete comes from the same recipe at every level: hard work, elite coaches, and great facilities.”
Not only does SBA offer rigorous academic curriculum, but their new facilities have over 10,000 square feet of professional academic space, an 8,000 square foot dormitory, a world-class Performance Training Center and easy access to the Van Ruiten Race Arena, an area designated exclusively for SBSTA athlete. It’s the ultimate ski-in, ski-out academy experience.
VAIL SKI & SNOWBOARD ACADEMY
Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy (VSSA) is the first public ski and snowboard academy in the country, as part of the Eagle County public school system. VSSA is a college preparatory school that challenges students with a rigorous academic curriculum in parallel with supporting an elite training and competition schedule.
“Having the Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy as part of the public school system is an incredible opportunity for all the athletes and students — something I wish I had when I was growing up,” says American ski racing star, Lindsey Vonn. “It’s an amazing opportunity. … It’s a huge achievement [for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail] to have been on top for such a long period of time. To maintain that position is very difficult. I think the leadership at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is incredible, and their vision is incredible. I think they’ll continue to be on top because their program is really amazing.”
VSSA students develop a level of independent learning, maturity, confidence and leadership qualities — life skills that distinguish our student-athletes in sport, higher education and career.
CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR EAST COAST OPTIONS? EXPLORE OUR ENTIRE ACADEMY DIRECTORY HERE.