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High School Ski Team/Academy

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

What ski team/academy in the intermountain west would you recommend for a 16yo Alpine ski racer from the Midwest whose outgrown his local opportunities?

 

Can't afford the toney East Coast private schools. He's also exceptionally bright, so he needs a decent school.

 

If he's going to do this, it ought to be a quantum leap better than what he can get at home, so seeking a program that would give him a chance to see his full potential and maybe even set sights on the US team. (he wants a program where he's on snow 5 days a week minimum.)

 

We have sort of eliminated Ski Club Vail because it's so huge, it's seems like a sausage factory and if he's not already at the top of the heap, he may be ignored. Also housing in Vail will be almost as much as tuition.

 

Winter Park and Summit are attractive due to the location, but we are told their race results are not that great. That true?

 

Steamboat has expressed some interest and it would be nice to know how it stacks up.

 

Rowmark (sp?)  Academy in Park City has been suggested by a friend.

 

Do you have to be invited to go to the USSA Academy there, or can one apply?

 

Sugar Bowl? (although the lack of snow in Tahoe the last few years is a bit frightening.)

 

Any other suggestions?

 

Just beginning to look into this, so general direction is appreciated, even if it's to eliminate schools/programs you all think suck.;) 

post #2 of 16

Can't tell you a lot about their results but the coaching staff is top notch!  Housing & cost of living are very reasonable in the area.

 

http://www.ovwsf.org/page/show/202059-ogden-valley-winter-sports-foundation

 

I also have friends with kids a Rowmark & have heard good things.

 

JF

post #3 of 16

By toney East Coast Academies, I am guessing you mean Burke, CVA, GMVS, etc. maybe Stratton Mountain is in that category too. You might look at Mount Mansfield Winter Academy in Stowe. It's not a year round school, so he'd only be away from November - April and costs are less. Plenty of US Ski Teamers and Olympic Athletes have come from there.

 

I'm actually proof-reading my daughter's application for it right now.

 

https://mmwa.org

 

I really don't know anything about Western ones, but maybe this can be an option for you.

post #4 of 16

My niece is also looking, mostly at Vail and Steamboat, and I talked to a friend the other day who had the same opinion of SSCV; he thinks the coaching at Steamboat is top notch. I think he also said academics better in Steamboat. But more scholarship money in Vail. 

post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone!

post #6 of 16

Many thoughts. This is pretty long, and I apologize.

 

Our two kids are graduates of two of the Eastern ski academies, and both did PG years {one did multiple PG years} at two additional programs, one in the East, one in the Rockies{where he followed one of his former coaches}. Our son has been a full time coach with one of the bigger programs in CO for the past four seasons. We've been very active with those schools, and with a third Eastern academy. I think I have a decent perspective. Our son started out at a traditional NE prep school with an exceptional ski program, and it was a nightmare, as his level of skiing at a young age was more than they could handle for a freshman. We were told that they could make it fit; they couldn't. We were a full pay family, and were in the independent education world. They were selling to us. If I knew then what I know now. We wanted him to be able to have it all, and have a lot of breadth and options. What if he was better at lacrosse? What if his real passion was art? It was, is, and will be ski racing. 

 

None of these academies are perfect. It is ALL about the right fit. Right kid, right family fitting into the right school/program for them, AT THE RIGHT TIME. Things can be quite fluid year to year in this world. The kids who thrive tend to be driven as athletes and as students, yet also are able to fit into a new environment socially, and make friends. That may seem like a given, but not every kid fits that package.

That's even more important entering mid-stream. Your son will be entering a program where others have been together for a few, or more years, and have deep relationships. One of ours entered as a 10th grader, and he already knew a lot of the boys at the academy he was going to, so it was an easy entry. 

 

Our kids did just fine academically, but they worked real hard at it. Both then skied for very good Eastern NCAA colleges, and both graduated with honors, in 8 semesters. It worked. They came out of their experience with a lot of drive and focus, many passions, and just loving skiing. Not just ski racing….skiing. While in their ski academy years, both reached US Nationals as juniors a couple of times, skied what was a mix of U.S., and Canadian FIS and NorAm races. Their race schedules were a lot less demanding in college. But the training took a lot more logistics…..and travel time. The ski academy experience helped prepare them for that. 

 

They were fortunate to be in classes at their schools with a really good group of peers. Kids that will be life long friends. They had not only very good coaches, but very good people who coached them. Not always the same thing. Real mentors. People who are in touch with them, in one case, nine years after graduating. The classes on either side of theirs to be honest were just not as tight. Not the same chemistry. But I know some classes at other academies in those years that seemed to be great. Luck of the draw and fit. It's a fluid thing, year to year. A couple of selfish boys, mean girls….you get it. 

 

In your specific situation, here is what I'd have my radar up for, and what I'd consider. You have some advantages to walking in as a 16 year old, and some potential challenges:

 

-Don't rule out the Eastern academies based on cost. They ALL offer very significant financial aid, to qualified families. If the right fit has a big price tag, and you truly can't afford it, it can likely be made affordable. Might be worth a look, or an initial investigation. Even a phone call. 

-Depending on the school/program and your son, coming in as a 16 year old, a U18, could be either a breeze, or a disaster. In most of the better programs, kids are starting as first year U14's. That means that the kids tend to be a tight group, and a lot of identifying has been done by the coaching staff. If your son is truly talented, and for example good enough to be in their top training group in his age group, that means that he'll displace another kid, and that could be very rough socially. Frankly more likely is your son having to work his way into that group based on results, or they'll position it that way. My son has a friend who switched schools as a junior, ended up as a three time NCAA All American, and had a really rough entry into the ski academy. My son was one of few to reach out to him. My son didn't feel threatened, and many others did, so he got many a cold shoulder. The coaches were not with them for a lot of the day, and they were oblivious. You need to dig into this. It could be a big issue, or a non-issue for your son. 

-I would ask the school how they determine who coaches what kids, how they set up training groups, and ask questions that they frankly do not want to answer. Their objective is to sell you, and add another athlete to the program. Be prepared to ask a lot of questions. Where do they see your son fitting in? Have those other boys been here for some time? How will you initially evaluate and place him?

-Many academies actually operate on the basis of having an entire program support one or two "chosen ones" in each age group. At my daughter's school, it was almost embarrassing how much one on one coaching  few girls received, versus their "teammates." If she hadn't been pretty talented, and a good coachable kid, it would have been a disaster. Nobody mentioned this, nobody acknowledged it, but the coaches operated very clearly on that basis. As one example, our daughter got some of the best speed skis in the country. The coaches worked over the ski companies, with vigor, for just a few of the 100+ alpine athletes. And those "speed wagons" made a difference. 

-If your son is going to be a boarding student at school ask a ton of questions about dorm parents, weekend dorm duty for faculty, what they have on the schedule for non-ski stuff in the shoulder seasons, etc. I know one ski academy that not only has no scheduled weekend programing, they don't even serve lunch on Sundays in the fall and after the season! Ask about nutrition. One of our kids schools talked a great game, and didn't deliver initially. Things changed drastically for the better in year two, after an uproar. Ski coaches in particular are often lousy dorm parents {or a bit lax in those duties}, and very often much of the faculty has little experience. That's not necessarily the case at the top of the heap in the East. Burke, GMVS, and SMS, in particular. I think they do a great job, but I'm sure there are horror stories.

-One of the posters mentioned MMWA, at Stowe. Excellent program, excellent coaches, kids who have gone on to very good colleges, and to the USST. I'll say this about ANY winter program, or a 5 or 7 month program. The transition in the spring, back to the "home" school can be a very rough one. Depends on the kid, on the school, on his teachers. What I have seen are rough transitions outnumbering easy ones 3 to 1. Just ask a ton of questions. Has nothing to do with the student's intellectual talent and drive. Has to do with the willingness of the home teachers to recognize that he may be ahead calendar wise in some subjects, and behind in others, and may need to be accommodated. If he's in an AP track, it can be worse. Why should we accommodate this kid, who's too good for us? Be aware of it. The ski academy is going to stress that they make sure it's all well coordinated. See my point? It's  two way street.

-Pose this question: "What will his days and weeks look like if he's injured and can't be on snow?"  Some have no plan B, whatsoever. It's a very tough time for a kid. I'd want a well thought out plan. How close is therapy and PT? In some cases it's right there, in others it's an hour away. Being injured at a ski academy can be a lonely time. 

 

Now, here's perhaps my biggest point. This is NOT meant to be cruel, or harsh. It's REALLY hard to catch up in this sport, when you plug into a top level academy, or program as a 16 year old. You mention SSCV as a "sausage factory." Actually, they have some of the smallest training groups in the country. They have a ton of coaches. The top U16 groups have as few as five kids in them. One coach with five 1999's for example. The thing to realize is that those kids have been on snow six days a week, skiing a ton of vertical in all sorts of terrain, from October through May {May at A Basin, on weekends}, since they were U12's. That program brings everybody to Mt. Bachelor for the month of May. They lease the whole mountain. The U18's head to Chile, and/or Austria at the end of August and in September. Most kids will be on snow for a couple of weeks mid summer. This starts to ramp up as they become U14's. They have U14's who regularly huck off huge cornices on big mountain skis, ripping 40mph SG turns through tough terrain, and that translates to their comfort in the race course. Was your son at the Rocky Central U16's?  Seems like SSCV athletes did quite well, and those kids free ski more, relatively speaking than most any other club in the country. Like the Austrian model. I was recently in Vail, and learned a lot about SSCV. Have a couple of close friends very involved.

 

People in the East describe Burke as super intense, and some are quite critical without knowing all of the facts. The results are pretty undeniable. Their kids do really well in the sport at the highest level, and in college. I think people love to hate everything about Vail, too, including SSCV. Ask the people running the USST which is the best program in the country, perhaps the world, and their answer may be SSCV. I've asked and listened. What has the most appeal, and is the best fit, may not be "the best."  Neither of my kids had any interest in Burke, once they visited, for example. Just didn't feel right. But to this day they'd say that for the right kid, it's tremendous. 

 

I just have to beat that "fit" drum, as it always seems to work out. 

 

Rowmark produces great skiers, and great students, and has for years. But entering as a U18, I would imagine, is not easy. Nor would it be easy to join the PCST, and the Winter Sports School. So, if I were contemplating either, I'd be asking many, many questions. 

 

There is always some turmoil and turnover in the coaching ranks, BTW, at EVERY program. I'm not going to bash any one of them. Not going there. You can "hear" that a program is great, enroll, and find that the program director, the head coaches, etc. have all left at the end of the season. My son was headed as a PG to one of the programs that has been mentioned, and over the summer, the PD, head alpine coach, head FIS coach, and the PG coach all left. Ruh-row……change of plans!

 

It's really hard catch up with that mileage, those hours, that experience. On the fit front, I'd really ask about a school's plan to help catch up. I have seen it SO many times, have spoken with countless parents with disappointed kids, who are really almost distraught at what they come to see and realize. My son had a new roommate join his quad in the fall of his junior year. New student. Great kid. The end result is that he graduated from an Ivy League school, and is about to graduate from another Ivy Med school. So we'll begin with that end in mind. He had grown up skiing weekends, and some weeknights at a small mountain in Southern New England. Hard worker, decent athlete. Did really well in that world of high school racing, and USSA races. 

 

He enrolled at the ski academy as he had dreams of skiing at the NCAA level, specifically for Dartmouth. His skiing improved, but he absolutely could not catch up. The other guys didn't stop advancing. He even made the decision to take a PG year, and after spending the summer on snow, working like a dog in dry land, going to Europe in the fall, and to CO in November, he had a real dose of reality in his first 8-10 race starts, and realized that he was never going to be a 40 point FIS skier, which he would have needed to be to follow his dream at the time. Maybe it's more like 30 these days. So, he withdrew, and pursued some other gap year options. And he's been in a great place since, and still loving to ski.

 

If you express concern about catching up on mileage, and that experience, it's probably going to catch a prospective program off guard, but I feel strongly that you need to ask. The easy assumption to make is that it your son is in one of those programs, he'll be skiing at the same level as the other boys right away. I have never seen that happen, and I've seen a lot. So ask. It may be some extra drilling. It may be that they've dealt with it many times before. I'm not trying to be a know it all, or an alarmist, I just want to help you to have your radar on. 

 

I will say that every kid who goes through this type of experience with some energy will come out of it with really exceptional time management skills. My kids were in demanding schools, skiing {which is about as time intensive as any sport}, and had plenty of time to be involved in a lot of things…..and doing a lot of school work. They also learned to carry a ton of luggage through countless airports, and to get by with the basics "where is the mens room?" in about four languages. Life skills. Great stuff. 

 

None of these programs are perfect. Make SURE to visit. Make sure that your son gets to not just meet, but spends some time with his future peers. Spend enough time. Ask every single question that you can think of. And in the end pick the one that feels like the best fit. This is something that will take an investment in your time to do right. And not to be dramatic, but getting it right is important. 

 

Best of luck to you and your son. Sounds like a great kid, and a strong athlete, with a loving and caring Mom. 

post #7 of 16
Before you rule out the east all together, you might want to look at both Holderness in NH and Gould Academy in ME. These are both prep schools with very strong ski racing programs. These schools may also offer financial packages and academically can't be beat.
post #8 of 16

Speaking as an alumnus of Rowmark (which is located in Salt Lake City and trains at Park City Mountain Resort), and as a current coach whose goal is to produce racers who will ascend to academies and/or college racing programs, here's my $0.02:

 

If your kid is bright (i.e. is looking at a future with a lot of honors, AP, and IB coursework in high school), you'll want to look at programs that have top-notch college preparatory programs. Rowmark Ski Academy (parent school: Rowland Hall), Holderness Academy, and Gould Academy are all schools, first and foremost, that have competitive (and independently selective) ski programs added into the mix. All place many graduates of both their ski and non-ski programs into top-tier colleges and universities, and all require that their students pass stringent academic entrance exams. Rowmark and Holderness also have very competitive admissions processes for their skiing programs with limited slots (as does Gould, although their program isn't as elite as the other two), so that will need to be kept in mind. And all three have incredible financial aid resources for their students.

 

If your kid isn't realistically going to be going the honors/AP/IB route, then look at the other programs you mention. And don't discount the New England academies, all of which have scholarship and financial aid programs to help families in need. Programs like Green Mountain Valley School, Stratton Mountain School, Burke Mountain Academy, and Killington Mountain School all aspire to attract top student athletes, so if your kid is at or near the top of his class, he's bound to get noticed and attract the financial assistance needed to get into the fold.

 

The Park City Winter School is now a public charter school, and is now far more competitive in terms of gaining admission. As they cater to all types of winter sports, they get many more applicants than they can possibly handle at this point. Not that is isn't worth a try, but it's going to be a battle to get in. And the USSA academy is invite-only, under the auspices of the USSA regional directors and development personnel. If you are interested in going that route, it's best to contact the Rocky-Central regional director of USSA to get guidance.

 

There was mention of the programs in Summit County, Steamboat, and Winter Park, and how they aren't as "elite." Don't let that stand in your child's way! Sometimes, a program that isn't constantly churning out US Ski Team and NCAA Division 1 racers is a better fit for a junior racer. While it's great to have high-end "rabbits" on a team, it can also be demoralizing for a junior racer if he can't keep pace with said rabbits on the hill. And then there's the "sausage factory" element you mentioned that is part of all the larger programs like Vail, Park City Ski Team, and Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation: sometimes the sheer size of a program will result in a racer getting lost in the woodwork. To these kinds of racers, being in a less competitive, less populous (yet still well coached and capable of producing elite racers) program could be the perfect fit. Note that many of the elite academies (Rowmark included) place caps on coach:racer ratios to keep the instruction more individualized to the athlete. It's the programs that aren't directly attached to schools that tend to be larger.

 

From my own coaching standpoint (coaching for a program in southern Pennsylvania that attracts racers primarily from the greater Washington DC area), I have many challenges to getting my racers (and their parents) on board with sending their kids to a ski academy. The racers who show academy-grade ski talent are often enrolled in some of the best public schools in the U.S. (e.g. schools in Montgomery County, MD, and Fairfax County, VA), and their parents aren't comfortable sending their kids away to programs where the academic reputation isn't as high, or where the kids live in an unmonitored situation (some of the live-in academies have less-than-stellar reputations for what the racers do in their downtime in the dorms). It's a tough battle, for sure, and I try to let them know that extremes occur anywhere, and some programs are better than others - but that it takes proper auditioning of programs and keen knowledge of your child's maturity to know which one is the right fit.

 

And as a U18, he'll be coming in a year after many of his peers in any program - something to keep in mind. At Rowmark, we had racers entering the team at every high school year level, as well as post-graduate racers (some of whom weren't in the high school component of the program). 

 

I'm impressed, @Mom, that you are looking at your son's ski racing future with such attention to detail. Moving up to a higher level program is never easy, either for the parent or the child, but it can be an amazing experience. And if your son has the drive and commitment to pursue an elite alpine racing career, you are taking some great first steps.

 

Good luck, and feel free to DM me with any questions.

post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your thoughtful replies.

 

His sister went to one of those Eastern ski schools, starting in 8th grade, and it worked out very well for her. (easier to get entry and scholarship funds for a girl who skis fast than a boy.) She's now in the college of her choice.

 

Not only a boy, but since he's applying in mid-course, so to speak, there are many fewer openings and a whole lot less tuition assistance available. He was wait listed at his sister's school because, he was told, there was no financial aid available for incoming kids in the upper grades.Also, he's very smart, probably smarter than she, but he's not as good a student, although he's in almost all AP classes (he went to U. of Chicago for summer physics program when he was 8).

 

I really appreciated the information on the issue of "catching up". He did go to the U16 JOs. (he's made the JOs every year he was qualified to enter) He did pretty well considering he trains on a bump,  but maybe that means it is too late to go the distance. But, it still worked out for your friend's kid. There's a lot to gain from the process and experience beyond becoming a great ski racer.

 

Again, Thank you for the thoughtful posts.

 

PS: I'm actually Grandma :eek

post #10 of 16

There are other options.  He could also join a full time  FIS Program like Mission Ridges.  He would probably live with a Host family and go to a local school. I know a couple kids that skied for Mission Ridge and then went on to US Ski Team. Its a Smaller Program he would gets lots of attention. It would probably be half the cost of an Academy.

 

http://www.mrst.us/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=95&Itemid=187

post #11 of 16

Nord - how does it work for school since their skiing schedule is pretty intense with more time away from school than in. One of the things that decided for us to send out son to an academy vs a local FIS team was the integration of school schedules while the local team was basically figure it it out and manage it for yourself.

post #12 of 16

I don't know the details of the Schooling. I think that one of their  US ski teamers was Home schooled. The other (ex-USST now CU)  was enrolled in a Private Catholic School. They have 2 full time  U16 programs as shown below plus a part time weekends holidays only program. I am not affiliated with this program.  I  did coach with 2 of their Coaches.

 

 

U16 Full Time

The Full Time program is for athletes who are looking for a more aggressive ski racing program with more time on snow, more options for training times, and no missed school for training. Athletes train Wednesday evening, Thursday evening, Saturday, and Sunday throughout the season and during the Holiday Camp.

Price: $2,510.00 with the Early Registration discount if registered by 09/01/2014 and $2,560.00 during regular registration after 09/01/2014 A team uniform package is included in the price of tuition. Click here to register

 

U16 Full Time +

The Full Time + program is for athletes who are looking for our most aggressive ski racing program and have flexible school schedules.  U16 + athletes train on the FIS Full Time schedule. Which includes up to 5 days a week of training usually on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and during the Holiday Camp in December.

Price: $3,825.00 with the Early Registration discount if registered by 09/01/2014 and $3,875.00 during regular registration after 09/01/2014. A team uniform package is included in the price of tuition. Click here to register

post #13 of 16

You should consider AVSC.  Johno's a hell of a coach.

http://www.teamavsc.org/

 

 

You could rent a 2br/2bath for $2500/month for both of you and that would get him in the Aspen School District, which is pretty dam good.

post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by NordtheBarbarian View Post
 

I don't know the details of the Schooling. I think that one of their  US ski teamers was Home schooled. The other (ex-USST now CU)  was enrolled in a Private Catholic School. They have 2 full time  U16 programs as shown below plus a part time weekends holidays only program. I am not affiliated with this program.  I  did coach with 2 of their Coaches.

 

 

U16 Full Time

 

The Full Time program is for athletes who are looking for a more aggressive ski racing program with more time on snow, more options for training times, and no missed school for training. Athletes train Wednesday evening, Thursday evening, Saturday, and Sunday throughout the season and during the Holiday Camp.

Price: $2,510.00 with the Early Registration discount if registered by 09/01/2014 and $2,560.00 during regular registration after 09/01/2014 A team uniform package is included in the price of tuition. Click here to register

 

U16 Full Time +

The Full Time + program is for athletes who are looking for our most aggressive ski racing program and have flexible school schedules.  U16 + athletes train on the FIS Full Time schedule. Which includes up to 5 days a week of training usually on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and during the Holiday Camp in December.

Price: $3,825.00 with the Early Registration discount if registered by 09/01/2014 and $3,875.00 during regular registration after 09/01/2014. A team uniform package is included in the price of tuition. Click here to register

 

 

It's the integration of school with racing/training that is the hard part. When they are on snow 100+ days a year in a 4 month window, it can be tough to manage especially if it is the regular school system. A ski academy has the advantage there, but some schools have sports study programs that are flexible. A lot of it comes down to how motivate the athlete is about keeping up.

post #15 of 16
Our local school, admittedly in a ski town, was very flexible with the kids when my daughter was racing. We supplied the schedule at the beginning of the semester. The teacher would give out study materials and homework for while they were away. The kids had to keep their grades up, no D's. One girl set a new school record for missed days with all A's in her courses. One kid I know was dropped from the team due to his grades, but it was to be expected with him. (Interestingly, he now has his own company with 20-30 employees.) I've heard of some of the kids doing online college courses for high school credit along with college credits.

They really weren't getting special treatment as the football teams had similar issues.
post #16 of 16
Since you're from the Midwest, look at Windells in MN.
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