Becoming an Olympic athlete doesn’t just happen overnight. For most, it involves years of hard work on and off the slopes. Fortunately, a number of ski academies exist nationwide. At these ski academies, young student athletes have the opportunity to focus intensely on their ambitious athletic goals without having to sacrifice their education. While some of these academies, such as Stratton Mountain School, consist of year-long training regimens, others such as Mount Mansfield Winter Academy offer its programs only in the winter. Despite their many differences, the 15 great ski academies on this list all have on thing in common: to train the future Olympians.
Though it’s one of the more underrated ski academies on our list, Alpine Race Academy in Loveland, Colorado deserves to be ranked among the best. Thanks to the Academy’s 5:1 athlete to coach ratio, student athletes get individualized attention every single day of the year. Students and their families have their choice of a slew of different schooling options, from various homeschooling curriculums to local public schools. When it’s time to train, they hit the slopes at Loveland, one of best mountains in the world for skiing.
East Burke, Vermont
Since its founding in 1970, the prestigious Burke Mountain Academy has produced a number of skiing’s best athletes, including Nolan Kasper, Tommy Biesemeyer, and Mikaela Shiffrin. On the academics side, the Academy’s year-round curriculum is at a college prep level, though teachers provide students with narrative evaluations instead of the more traditional letter grades. On the training side, the Academy embraces an ethos dependent upon:
- hard work
- risking failure
- learning from success
The result is that Burke Mountain Academy is one of the most sought-after youth athletic development programs in the country.
Located in the wilds of northern Maine, Carrabassett Valley Academy (CVA) provides student athletes with a culture that revolves around winter sports, and especially around alpine skiing. Students at Carrabassett take part in a rigorous academic curriculum in the classroom. On the slopes, student athletes follow the U.S. Ski & Snowboard development system in order to reach their highest potential. According to three-time Olympian Kristin Clark, “Being at CVA with a group of athletes with the goal of making the U.S. Ski Team pushed us all to work harder on the mountain and in the classroom. The small school setting was such a great environment for one-on-one interaction with coaches and teachers.” Besides Clark, Carrabassett is also the alma mater for Olympic champion Bode Miller.
Located near Sunday River ski resort in Bethel, Maine, Gould Academy is a full-time school and training program for student athletes in grades 9 through 12, and the first post-grad year (winter terms are also available for seventh and eighth graders). The academic curriculum is rigorous, and puts a focus on responsible citizenship. Students take part in weekend service and outdoor leadership projects. They also have the opportunity to study abroad. When it comes time to ski, the student athletes enjoy unique opportunities at nearby Sunday River where they train with coaches determined to help them achieve their best.
Nestled in the heart of one of the country’s best skiing regions is Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS). This challenging college prep environment is well-known for its ability to prepare students for excellence both on and off the ski slopes. Says Daron Rahlves, legendary American downhiller and winner of the 2001 super-G World Championship: “When I first came to GMVS, my dreams were to be a fast ski racer and to have fun doing it. That’s just what happened.” When GMVS’s student athletes aren’t working hard in the classroom, they’re working hard with their coaches on nearby ski slopes.
Park City, Utah
While many of the ski academies on our list put an intense focus on academics, GroundSwell Athletics chooses to stress to its students a more scenario-based educational platform. After all, the name reads GroundSwell Athletics, not GroundSwell Academy. Students who learn and train at GroundSwell are taught to keep their mind healthy, and to gain real-world skills that will serve them well in a post-ski racing world. Speaking of ski racing, GroundSwell works hard with each student athlete to prepare them for their ultimate goal, whether that’s making the national ski team or earning a spot on a college team.
Plymouth, New Hampshire
Located in Plymouth, New Hampshire, Holderness offers students a challenging college prep curriculum where students can choose from a variety of interesting courses. In the classroom and on the slopes, students work with instructors in small groups to ensure they receive intimate and personalized training. During the ski season, Holderness students enjoy unprecedented access on the slopes of Mittersill. The off-season brings opportunities for
- field hockey
- mountain biking
- rock climbing.
Killington Mountain School seeks to shape the entire athlete — mind, body, and spirit. So it’s no wonder that academics, athletic training, and character formation all share equal parts of the school’s experience. Students as young as grade six are eligible for admission into Killington Mountain School. Once there, they’ll:
- take classes through a rigorous STEM-based curriculum
- take part in a humanities-based Seminar Series
- serve in various community service roles
- excel on the ski slopes
Killington Mountain School enjoys an excellent reputation for training some of the best athletes in winter sports.
Unlike many of the other schools on our list, Mount Mansfield Winter Academy only offers its courses during the winter. This unique arrangement allows students to stay at their primary school for half of the year and focus on skiing during the winter months. Each student follows their own individually designed academic program, which can be arranged in a small group setting or one-on-one with an instructor. Every day, Mount Mansfield students hit the slopes of the legendary Stowe Mountain Resort, a facility which allows them to work with top-notch coaches on terrain consistent with World Cup and Olympic standards.
Mt. Snow, Vermont
- Mount Snow
- The Hermitage Club
The students at Mount Snow Academy are committed to excellence both in and out of the classroom, and passionate about their sport. Some of Mount Snow Academy’s alumni include Olympians:
- Eliza Outtrim
- Kelly Clark
- Devin Logan.
Lake Placid, New York
Student athletes wanting both a traditional academic experience and an intensive athletic training program would do well to consider Northwood School. Located in Lake Placid on the site of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, Northwood is a co-ed boarding and day school. When students aren’t in the classroom, they train with the prestigious New York Ski Education Foundation, recently named by the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association as a Gold Certified Club. Some of Northwood’s alumni include Olympians Thomas Vonn and Andrew Weibrecht.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Associated with Rowland Hall (independent) school, Rowmark Ski Academy is a full-time educational institution for high school age skiers. In the classroom, Rowmark students are expected to focus on their academics and character. On the slopes, they’re drilled on:
- physical conditioning
- sports psychology
Says Olympic alpine ski racer Breezy Johnson, “Rowmark was the hardest thing I ever did … I learned so much, both in skiing and life skills through those four years; I felt prepared for continuing in the sport.”
Olympic Valley, California
Stationed on the site of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games, Squaw Valley Academy (SVA) is known as one of the best in the business. The Academy has produced countless champions, including a number of Olympians. In addition to training on one of the country’s most challenging mountains, students focus on a rigorous college prep curriculum. Each athlete works one-on-one with a college counselor, and as such, the Academy enjoys a 100% college placement rate. One alum credits Squaw Valley’s unique schooling and training structure for his success as both an athlete and a citizen: “The ‘Jedi-like’ personal mentorship endured from the institution’s fabulous teachers, instructors, and dorm parents was a godsend and beyond all else, SVA the friendships, the challenges, the experiences, and the lifestyle assisted me in unlocking a deep-seated passion for the mountains; one that I have based my entire adult life around. I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything in the world.”
South Londonderry, Vermont
The mountains of Vermont may not be covered in snow year-round, but that doesn’t stop Stratton Mountain School’s intense training regimen. Student athletes at Stratton take part in a 12-month program which includes:
- dry land preparation
- on-snow training
Students on the school’s prestigious competition team spend much of the winter traveling throughout the world to represent their school at World Junior Championships, NorAms, U.S. Nationals, Can-Am, European FIS events, and U18 and U16 Nationals. Of course, Stratton’s success follows students into the classroom, too, as evidenced by the fact that many of the school’s graduates end up at top universities.
Sun Valley, Idaho
Associated with the well-respected Community School, Sun Valley Ski Academy puts just as much focus on a student’s academic career as they do their ski career. Students train each day at Sun Valley Resort, one of the best skiing mountains in the country. During competition season, students are accompanied on their travels by an academic coordinator. This dedicated teacher, along with a fully online support system, ensures that students don’t sacrifice their learning for the sake of their skiing career. Sun Valley Ski Academy has produced a number of top athletes, including Gretchen Fraser and Picabo Street.