Making history at Stratton Mountain School is no small feat. And while Caroline Claire accomplished just that as a member of the SMS Class of 2018, her sights are now set on adding to the school’s impressive and ever-growing list of alumni accolades.
Claire made history as the first student from the school to compete in the Olympic Games while still enrolled there, which she achieved as a member of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Freeski Team competing in slopestyle at PyeongChang, South Korea, last February.
Since its founding in 1972, Stratton Mountain School has helped 46 athletes go on to compete in the Olympics (amassing 75 Olympic team placements overall), and SMS alumni have won a combined total of six Olympic medals — including three golds, one silver and two bronze. In all, more than 100 alumni have been named to national teams.
Claire’s result at PyeongChang wasn’t what she hoped for, as she finished 23rd in slopestyle. “I gave everything I could today,” Claire said after that experience. “The Olympics are indescribable. Having everyone at the bottom cheering for you, even when you fall, words can’t describe that feeling.”
Stratton Mountain School folks who know her best and have worked with her most believe her hard work and neverquit attitude will propel her to still greater heights in the sport.
“I have coached Caroline here at SMS for all four of her high school years,” said Jesse Mallis, freeskiing program director who also coached Claire when he served as the head freestyle coach at Mount Snow Academy. “She came here as a freshman from Mount Snow with a very strong skill-set for skiing, though she lacked physical strength and yearround programming. Ever since starting here, she really started to develop — growing stronger physically, balancing her time between academics and athletics, setting her sights high.”
A native of Manchester Center, Vt., Claire, who’s been accepted to Boston College but is deferring a year in order to focus on competing, followed up her Olympic performance with her first-ever World Cup win, claiming the top spot on the podium in slopestyle at Seiseralm, Italy, on March 16. She opened the 2018-19 World Cup season with a second-place finish in big air at Cardrona Alpine Resort, New Zealand, on Sept. 7.
Off the 75-foot kicker at Cardrona, she performed a switch 900 octo grab on her first jump, followed by a left 720 tail grab on her second to land on the podium just behind Canada’s Elena Gaskell.
“Some of the qualities that make Caroline stand out on snow are her smooth style, her ability to grab in her tricks/spins, and her ability to perform when it matters,” said Mallis, who was named 2018 Freeskiing Coach of the Year by U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “She is a fierce competitor and sets very high standards for herself in her skiing, training and long-term goals. I am super proud of the progress she has made over the years and look forward to seeing what she’ll accomplish in the future.”
With her third-place finish in slopestyle at Stubai, Austria, in November 2017 and her third-place finish at the Mammoth Slopestyle World Cup last January (both as a 17-year-old to help qualify her for PyeongChang), Claire now has four World Cup podiums to go along with a long list of top finishes at FIS Junior World Freeski Championship events, U.S. Revolution Tour events and USASA nationals.
It was 2014 when Claire broke onto the freeskiing scene when she won USASA nationals. In the 2015 season, she earned two U.S. Revolution Tour podium finishes and a bronze medal at the FIS Junior World Championships in Italy.
She went on to dominate the Revolution Tour in 2016, earning podium finishes in every appearance, including wins at Winter Park, Colo., and Seven Springs, Pa. She turned 18 years old a week before the Olympics and was named to the U.S. Pro Slopestyle team last spring.
“After her first year here at SMS, she was named to the U.S. Rookie Slopestyle Team, validating her hard work up to that point,” Mallis said. “She remained focused on improving and working hard, and never stopped. Though she didn’t get the finish she was looking for in PyeongChang, she said it was the best week of her life.”
In addition to skiing at SMS, Claire maintained high honors for all four years and she excelled on the soccer field where Mallis, also her soccer coach, said she was one of the top goal scorers on the team. Since graduating in May, she’s already been back on campus this fall, contributing to SMS’s winning culture by joining with fellow Olympian Alice Merryweather (SMS alpine, 2015) to work out with students and answer their questions.