Students get a high school education on the slopes of Sugarloaf

Posted Feb. 16, 2012, at 6:52 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 17, 2012, at 7:24 a.m.

CARRABASSET VALLEY, Maine — When Sam Morse was in public school, he says he dreamed every day about going to Carrabassett Valley Academy. “When you travel [for ski races], it’s really hard to be in a public school,” said Morse, who grew up in Carrabassett Valley. “But a place like CVA, which is completely aimed at having athletes travel, you’re able to go on the road for weeks at a time and you come back and you’re still on par with your school work.”

CVA, which began operating as a ski academy in 1982, is located at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. This year, 92 students from the U.S. and several other countries, including England, Russia and Japan, are enrolled in grades eight through a post-high school year. The school’s close proximity to Sugarloaf, with its world-class alpine run, Narrow Gauge, and top-notch mogul runs and terrain parks, is a big draw for aspiring racers, freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

During the winter trimester, students are often on the road, competing throughout the northeast and Canada. High-level athletes sometimes travel to Europe for major competitions. To keep students on track, CVA teachers give out electronic “packets” that allow course work to be downloaded onto a school-assigned laptop. Teachers and students can keep in touch through email or Skype. Morse, a junior, recently wrote a lab report during a 4-hour ride to a race in St. Sauveur, Quebec.

The school has produced 11 Olympians, including Maine snowboarder Seth Wescott, a two-time gold medalist in boardercross. The school’s mix of demanding athletics and academics routinely helps place its alumni in prestigious universities.

After CVA, Morse wants to take skiing as far as possible. “I definitely want to race World Cup, go to the Olympics. … That’s the goal,” he said. “I’m also interested in going to Dartmouth and getting a degree in architectural engineering. There’s not much money to be had in ski racing, so you might as well have an education when the skiing is done.”