Ridge Mountain Academy Grooms Student Athletes For Mountain Sports Careers
Just graduated from high school, not ready for college and looking for a career in the mountain sports industry? Ridge Mountain Academy in Whitefish, Montana, may be just what you are looking for.
The academy, in its inaugural year, offers a campus-based gap year enrichment program that revolves around mountain sports. It’s designed for student athletes ages 16-20 as a program between high school and college to develop balance, purpose and potential. Students live and study on a 16-acre campus. Whitefish was chosen as the site because of its access to backcountry terrain near Whitefish Mountain Resort and Glacier National Park.
Students engage in physical training and coaching in their chosen discipline of backcountry skiing or snowboarding, with additional disciplines of Nordic skiing, ice climbing and skimo racing. Fall activities transition to mountain climbing, trail running and mountain biking.
Courses are required in avalanche safety and wilderness medicine, as well as a mountain snow science course accredited by the University of Montana. The curriculum also includes innovative health and nutrition programs, photo and video training, community internships, and academic tutoring.
The academy was founded by Billy O’Donnell, a former international ski athlete, based on a desire to share knowledge, experience, focus and passion for mountain sports with student athletes.
O’Donnell and his staff of more than a dozen coaches and instructors believe that the mental and physical challenges where action sports meet the backcountry will transfer into self-exploration, focus and discovery of new passions. Each student creates a customized curriculum based on individual needs with coaches assigned for specific disciplines. Students will leave the program with a plan crafted by their coaches and mentors.
Photo: Top --Spend that "gap year" in the mountains (Ridge Academy); Below -- Ridge Academy is in its inaugural year (Ridge Academy)