Ready, Set, Go: Ski Academies For Competitive Spirits
Kids with a competitive spirit regularly join ski-area competition programs. Those with extraordinary drive and dreams go on to attend ski academies for secondary educations. Student athletes committed to succeed in academics and winter sports are best suited to the rigorous schedule of a ski academy.
While not every graduate will qualify for the National Team or Olympics, students learn to balance academics with training and fitness, gain attributes like discipline and self-reliance, and often get into top colleges. As college-prep independent schools, ski academies boast an above average rate of graduates going on to college with many continuing to compete.
Academies range from full-term boarding (around $52,000/year) to full-term day attendance ($38,000). Winter terms cost less and financial aid is often available.
With only 16 U.S. ski academies in seven states and varying application requirements, research and visits are advised to assess the “fit” that would be conducive to a student athlete’s success and future. Also worthy of consideration are private schools with strong ski programs among their offerings.
New England Academies
Burke Mountain Academy (BMA), the first American ski academy (founded 1970), has produced 144 National Ski Team members and 36 Olympians, including Mikaela Shiffrin. Head of School Willy Booker notes that exceptionally dedicated athletes integrate academics with rigorous training and demanding schedules. BMA offers full year and winter terms for grades 8-12 and PG Alpine programs and a U-12 U-14 Development program.
Stratton Mountain School — full and winter terms with day and boarding options for Alpine, Nordic, snowboarding, freestyle, freeskiing — and Green Mountain Valley School — Alpine and Nordic ski racing — followed BMA and along with Killington Mountain School (KMS) created a Vermont lead in academies with notables like Ross Powers (SMS), Daron Rahlves (GMV), and Michael Morse (KMS).
KMS transitioned from a tutorial program to boarding, day, and winter-term options in Alpine, freestyle and snowboarding for grades 6-12 and PG. Plans are to double the size of facilities to bring “a higher quality facility” to the school’s 120 students, notes Headmaster Tao Smith.
Okemo Mountain School remains a winter-term academy for ski racing, snowboarding and freestyle athletes who train full time in their sport while pursuing academic studies and living with a host family or at their family’s vacation home. Mt. Mansfield Winter Academy and Mount Snow Academy are winter term only with day and boarding options for Alpine, snowboarding, and freeskiing.
Waterville Valley Academy (New Hampshire) serves student athletes grades 6-12 in Alpine, freestyle, and snowboarding with full and winter terms.
Maine’s Carrabassett Valley Academy, where Bode Miller trained, serves grades 7 to 13 and PG with 9-, 7- and 5-month terms in Alpine, freestyle, snowboard, ski cross, and backcountry programs.
Squaw Valley Academy offers Alpine, Nordic, freestyle, freeskiing, and snowboarding programs on boarding or day basis.
Rowmark Ski Academy in Salt Lake City offers grade 9 through PG programs and a junior program for 3rd through 8th grade.
The Winter Sports School in Park City, Utah, runs secondary school classes from April to November with students competing in winter. “It would have taken me another year to make the Ski Team if I didn’t have that set-up,” 2002 graduate Ted Ligety notes.
Rounding out western academies: Sugar Bowl Academy (California), full-year, grades 8 through PG; Sun Valley Ski Academy, boarding or day for grades 9-PG (new Ketchum Campus 2017); Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, a public ski/snowboard academy working within the public school system for grades 5-12; and Steamboat Mountain School, a boarding and day school with Nordic, Alpine, Telemark and snowboard programs offered in conjunction with the Steamboats Springs Winter Sports Club.
Independent schools with strong ski programs include the Holderness School (New Hampshire) which has produced 17 Olympians, six World Cup Championship Team members, 15 Collegiate All-Americans, and 38 National Team members. Proctor Academy (New Hampshire), Northwood School (New York), Gould Academy (Maine), Vermont Academy, and Ridge Mountain Academy (Montana) also offer an array of programs for winter athletes.