It’s November, which means all is perfect in our world. It’s the time when optimism reigns, when promises of a robust winter shower down on the skiing and snowboarding community like the fruits of a massive low-pressure system moving in from the southern Atlantic and colliding with a jet stream chilled by Canadian air.
It’s also an important time for families who might be thinking about a ski academy for their youngsters to start getting a little more serious. New England is rich with ski academy options, so finding the perfect fit is virtually guaranteed with a little time and effort.
The earlier the better is the common recommendation from admissions offices when it comes to the question of when to begin the process. Typically, families are urged to get started early in the winter a full year prior to a prospective student’s anticipated enrollment date.
Stratton Mountain School (Stratton, Vt.), for instance, begins accepting applications on Nov. 1, and admissions counselors will review them on a rolling basis. “Since admission is highly competitive, we encourage you to submit all parts of the application as soon as possible,” SMS recommends.
At Okemo Mountain School (Ludlow, Vt.), applicants are advised to begin their research in November or December, complete an interview and shadow day in February or March, and then submit an application by the priority deadline of April 1 for admission that following winter.
But before you scramble to your kitchen table to begin filling out application forms and writing your sick ski session essays, there are some things to consider.
Why pursue a ski academy?
There are many reasons why a ski academy might be the right choice for you, whether you’re an athlete dreaming about future Olympic gold, or a passionate skier or snowboarder who wants to open collegiate doors while working hard to improve in your sport.
Mariel Meringolo, head of school at OMS, says academy students are gaining admission to colleges at a very high rate because they stand out as being unique. “They are distinguishing themselves among a stack of applications,” she says. “They are able to successfully transition in and out of different programs, they’re able to go through a rigorous schedule, they excel in time management and personal responsibility. What they’re gaining out of it is so much more than the academic and athletic. It’s the intangibles, the life skills.”
Academy students across the board are challenged to balance a rigorous training/performing schedule with academic requirements. At OMS, student-athletes spend their mornings on the mountain, training in their respective disciplines. Classes are conducted in the afternoons in a tutorial style.
At Green Mountain Valley School (Sugarbush, Vt.), the philosophy is to push students beyond the high level of training they undertake in alpine and nordic ski racing to embrace an equally challenging college preparatory academic program. “We put ski racing and studies into the broader perspective of competition and adventure,” GMVS states. “We know that the patterns of accomplishment carry over into every aspect of a student-athlete’s life, especially after graduation.”
Is an academy right for me?
There are three legs to this stool, says Tory Amarello, Burke Mountain Academy’s (East Burke, Vt.) director of enrollment, financial, in addition to being a U-16/U-14 coach. “Academics, athletics and community,” Amarello says. “It’s a little bit of a sliding scale. When kids are younger, we look at effort and enthusiasm, and technical skills as opposed to their results. If someone is looking in older grades (11-12), then we start looking more heavily at their results.”
At Carrabassett Valley Academy (Sugarloaf, Maine), admissions officers are seeking motivated student-athletes who want to “push their personal limits and achieve their full potential.” Admission to CVA and other academies is based primarily on a careful review of each candidate’s academic, athletic and extracurricular record, as well as personal recommendations, the family interview and an evaluation on students’ ability to benefit from and contribute to the program.
“Applicants should be able to perform in a demanding but supportive college preparatory academic program and want to compete in skiing or snowboarding or join our non-competitive program,” the CVA admissions office states.
BMA is after passionate ski racers who are eager to pursue their limitless academic and athletic potential.
“All applicants must be competitive alpine or nordic ski racers who exemplify extreme passion and unwavering dedication to their sport,” Burke states. “Student-athletes must be willing to embrace our ethos in which hard work is held in the highest esteem, and both risking failure and learning from success are a celebrated part of the everyday journey.”
Cindy Mumford, GMVS’s director of admissions, says, “If you are a passionate alpine skier or nordic racer willing to be challenged daily to push beyond what is easy in academics and sport, then GMVS is likely the perfect place for you.”
What should I expect?
In a word, ski academies offer student-athletes specialization. Whether a particular academy focuses on full-year programming, winter terms only, or shorter, more targeted terms, prospective students can customize the perfect balance between academic and athletic scheduling to best fit their goals. Academies will plan their school calendars and daily schedules to maximize training time and competition schedules.
“Most parents know when they come here they’re specializing,” says Tucker Barnaby, Waterville Valley Academy’s (New Hampshire) head of academic programs and student life. At WVA, the 10-month program appeals to older students, those who have made the move to specialize in their discipline with the goal of moving on to compete at an NCAA Division 1 program or higher.
That’s similar to the way top-level athletes in other sports are specializing during their junior and senior years. “Kids can go on to race in college from the five-month program and can still achieve,” Barnaby says. “It just becomes a little more difficult.”
For its five-month and shorter terms, WVA works with each student’s sending school to personalize academic programming that dovetails with the curriculum from their home school. This is common among ski academies.
At Okemo Mountain School, for its shorter terms, which are designed around specific age-group competition schedules, OMS pairs one teacher for every two students in developing individualized academic plans that are coordinated with the students’ sending schools.
“Our community of students, teachers, coaches and administrators share the pursuit of excellence in education and sport,” says Christopher Kaltsas, Stratton Mountain School headmaster. “SMS has a strong tradition of college preparatory academics combined with the most comprehensive and innovative training programs available to alpine, freeski, freestyle, nordic and snowboard athletes.”
How do we get started?
Most families who are considering a ski academy for their child likely started the process years ago. Between 75 and 85 percent of students enrolled at WVA have been participants in weekend seasonal ski and snowboard programs run at the resort.
Feeder programs like this are essential to the success of ski academies. The Killington Ski Club/Killington Mountain School Development Program is a perfect example of how the process works. KMS alpine, freestyle, freeski and snowboard program directors offer guidance and provide on-snow curricula to assist the KSC/KMS development programs, so when families sign up for a weekend seasonal program, they’re already being groomed as potential academy students. These programs serve as the primary development pipelines for the ski academy.
“We are in the business of developing young, well-rounded athletes who are pursuing their love of the sport through training and competition,” KSC/KMS states. “These programs develop competitive athletes who are shaped by the ideals of athleticism and who are inspired by a lifelong love of their sports.”
Many OMS students enroll after participating for years as children in competition center programs at Okemo. The kids race on the weekends or compete in freestyle events. “Working with that program, we know those kids,” Meringolo says. “We can tell at the outset who would be a good fit and can steer parents in advance.”