Ski academies aren’t for every student, but they do offer ski racers a balance of academics and athletics that most schools don’t offer. “These schools are specifically designed to support students exploring their athletic potential and well-balanced academic and residential life programs,” says Willy Booker, Head of School for Burke Mountain Academy, the alma mater of two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Mikaela Shiffrin.
Not every graduate will follow in Shiffrin’s footsteps, but many academy students do go on to ski race for top-notch colleges, not to mention learn the virtues of discipline, hard work, and motivation. Ski academies often have individualized academic and athletic training, specially designed to work with rigorous winter travel schedules. Teachers and coaches understand that students travel during the winter months to compete, so all the staff is on board to help facilitate learning in a non-traditional way.
Academies have different offerings, but most include full-term board, which costs between $50,000 and $60,000, while full-term day student programs cost around $40,000. Some offer shortened “winter terms” and most academies have financial aid opportunities.
The following 12 ski academies span the U.S.—from Maine to California—and all offer what Sugar Bowl Academy sums up nicely: “A not-so-typical path filled with a mix of mental and physical tests, science and snow, algebra and altitude.”
Burke Mountain Academy, Burke, Vt.
Burke Mountain Academy is located near the slopes of Burke Mountain, in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. It was founded in 1970 when a young ski racer asked her coach, Warren Witherell, to help create a school that worked with year-round training so that she could pursue her goal of making the U.S. Ski Team. Over the past 50 years, 36 Burkies—as students and alums are called—have participated in the Olympics. Students are encouraged to embrace hard work and be the best they can be, whether ski racing or learning in the classroom. All students are required to take a job assignment on campus to build responsibility.
Green Mountain Valley School, Waitsfield, Vt.
Set in Waitsfield, Vt. near the slopes of Sugarbush Resort, Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS) combines ski racing with a liberal arts tradition and the goal of creating well-rounded scholars, athletes, and citizens. With a focus on science, GMVS has a nutrition program and sports psychology to support athletic endeavors, while small class sizes and engaged faculty support academics. GMVS also has a musical theater program along with competitive mountain bike, lacrosse, and soccer teams. The ski racing program benefits from an expansion on the race trail, with future plans of expanded snowmaking, a new T-bar, and renovations to the ski club building.
Killington Mountain School, Killington, Vt.
Killington Mountain School is located minutes away from Killington Resort, the largest resort in the East, which has hosted the only women’s World Cup events in the U.S. The resort’s size means athletes have access to four racing hills, including a homologated super-G run. KMS started in 1974 as a highly individualized program, designed to create a balance between ski racing, school, family, and friends. The school’s mission includes respect, integrity, leadership, and excellence, and includes STEM-based academics. KMS offers high-school curricula at all levels including honors and accelerated courses.
Stratton Mountain School, Stratton, Vt.
Stratton Mountain School began in 1972 out of an old ski lodge at the base of Stratton Mountain. Twenty years later, the school moved to a new campus on 10 acres close to southern Vermont’s highest peak. Forty-six alums have participated in the Olympics. The SMS alpine program is a 12-month program including dryland, on-snow training, and competition along with college prep curriculum, with only core classes taught during the competition season. The school’s mission encourages student-athletes to demand excellence of themselves both on snow and in the classroom. SMS also offers on-snow and dryland development camps for non-SMS racers.
Carrabassett Valley Academy, Carrabassett Valley, Maine
Carrabassett Valley Academy (CVA) is located in the western mountains of Maine, minutes from Sugarloaf Mountain, and includes a FIS-certified downhill course. The academy’s training center features an Antigravity Complex, with trampolines, climbing wall, track, and gym. CVA’s individualized Academic Success Program (ASP) provides a skill-based focus directed toward helping students become independent learners while at school or traveling for competition. CVA also has a backcountry ski program, which teaches mountain skills such as avalanche safety and wilderness medicine.
Northwood School, Lake Placid, N.Y.
Located in the heart of the Adirondacks in Lake Placid, N.Y., the Northwood School is the result of a partnership with the U.S. Ski & Snowboard certified Gold Club New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF). Its mission is to create a flexible academic program for competitive ski racers. Athletes train at Whiteface, the 1980 Olympics ski venue, known for having the most vertical drop of any resort in the Northeast. Focused on fostering growth in young people, the Northwood school offers a nine-month academic and training program as an independent boarding and day school, while NYSEF additionally offers month-long terms as an introduction to a boarding school program.
Waterville Valley Academy, Waterville Valley, N.H.
Waterville Valley Academy was founded in 1972 and is located in the small community of Waterville Valley, N.H. The school is operated by the non-profit Black and Blue Trail Smashers Snowsport Educational Foundation, an offshoot of the BBTS Ski Club, organized in 1934. WVA winter-term students integrate their home school curriculum with their training and competition schedules. In the off-season, students take ACT and SAT prep courses along with attending dryland training. As a U.S. Ski & Snowboard Gold Certified club, WVA employs the Burdenko Method of Training, which integrates six qualities of performance into the program including balance, flexibility, coordination, endurance, speed, and strength.
Rowmark Ski Academy, Salt Lake City, Utah
Rowmark Ski Academy is a division of Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School, a top college-prep school located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Founded in 1982 by Olle Larsson and Dr. Carl Kjeldsbery, Rowmark is now a designated U.S. Ski & Snowboard Gold certified club. Rowmark skiers are full-time students at Rowland Hall, which integrates academics with year-round racing. Training takes place at Park City’s Olympic Race Arena, site of the 2002 Olympic games, as well as Snowbird Resort. Rowmarkers, as they are called, are encouraged to develop their potential as elite ski racers as well as to become engaged students, positive role models, and contributing members of society.
Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy, Vail, Colo.
Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy is an academic partner of Ski and Snowboard Club of Vail (SSCV), located in Vail, Colorado. The original Ski Club Vail was founded in 1962 so that Vail could host FIS-sanctioned races. Vail Valley Academy was created in 1992, but in 2007, the academy worked with the Eagle County School District to create the first public ski and snowboard academy, now known as Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy. Student athletes work with full-time tutors who manage workloads, helping to accommodate each student’s competition travel schedule. Athletes train daily out of the Golden Peak base area on the newly expanded speed venue, utilizing SSCV’s new clubhouse.
Steamboat Mountain School, Steamboat, Colo.
Steamboat Mountain School is located in Steamboat Springs, Colo., a town that has produced more winter Olympians (98) than any other town in North America. The school traces its origins back to 1957 when it was the Lowell Whiteman college prep school. It became Steamboat Mountain School in 2014, several years after Whiteman passed away. The academy works in conjunction with the decorated Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and Steamboat Springs High School. A ski coordinator communicates with coaches and parents to provide proctor study halls or exam times when racers are traveling. Teachers from Steamboat Springs High School support the rigorous travel schedule through video, pre-packaged work, and Google Docs.
Squaw Valley Academy, Olympic Valley, Calif.
Squaw Valley Academy is a combination of the Lake Tahoe Preparatory School and the Squaw Valley Ski Team. Lake Tahoe Prep’s educational foundation is based on personalized attention and offers a program tailored for student-athletes training and competing at a high level. Academy students matriculate in with Lake Tahoe Prep classrooms during the off-season, while working with designated travel tutors during the competition season through digitized assignments and monitored study halls. The creed—we train hard, we train smart, and we train together—complements Squaw Valley Ski Team’s rich competitive ski racing heritage and Squaw Valley’s history of hosting the 1960 winter Olympics.
Sugar Bowl Academy, Norden, Calif.
The Sugar Bowl Ski Team Foundation was founded in 1998 in the Lake Tahoe Basin by Tricia Hellman Gibbs, a former member of the U.S. Ski Team. Her father founded Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, and she wanted to follow in his footsteps by creating a ski academy on the West Coast with a team-oriented atmosphere. Sugar Bowl Academy students train on a private race area with ski-in/ski-out access to the historic Sugar Bowl Resort. According to SBA, the academy “takes the classroom on the road during competition season” with individualized curriculum developed by coaches and staff to work best for each student athlete.