Students get a high school education on the slopes of Sugarloaf

Posted Feb. 16, 2012, at 6:52 p.m.
11:31 -  Zack Carrier, a park and pipe rider from Scarborough, Maine, performs a trick off a jump at Sugarloaf.
11:31 - Zack Carrier, a park and pipe rider from Scarborough, Maine, performs a trick off a jump at Sugarloaf. Buy Photo
9:26 AM - A little shredding to start their day; George Scott, a student who grew up in England, leads CVA snowboarders  through a terrain park at Sugarloaf.
9:26 AM - A little shredding to start their day; George Scott, a student who grew up in England, leads CVA snowboarders through a terrain park at Sugarloaf. Buy Photo
11:07 AM - Head alpine coach Doug Williams, left, works with racer Vincent Daigle, of St. Sauveur, Quebec, on the giant slalom course at Sugarloaf.
11:07 AM - Head alpine coach Doug Williams, left, works with racer Vincent Daigle, of St. Sauveur, Quebec, on the giant slalom course at Sugarloaf. Buy Photo
1:09 PM - CVA ski racer Sam Morse, a junior, rides his unicycle after lunch. The activity helps improve balance.
1:09 PM - CVA ski racer Sam Morse, a junior, rides his unicycle after lunch. The activity helps improve balance. Buy Photo
3:16 PM - Juniors Sam Morse, left, and Jamie Marshall, during a light moment before the start of pre-calculus class.
3:16 PM - Juniors Sam Morse, left, and Jamie Marshall, during a light moment before the start of pre-calculus class. Buy Photo
4:18 PM - Teacher Ian Hubbard leads a discussion in history class. At CVA students address their teachers by their first names. &quotRespect doesn't come from what you call each other but how you treat each other," said Head of School Kate Punderson.
4:18 PM - Teacher Ian Hubbard leads a discussion in history class. At CVA students address their teachers by their first names. "Respect doesn't come from what you call each other but how you treat each other," said Head of School Kate Punderson. Buy Photo
3:18 PM - Sam Morse wears flip flops and totes a heavy book pack. CVA &quotis casual in that you may see a kid go to class in his slippers. That's fine as long as he's pushing himself academically and is a good community member," said Kate Punderson, head of school.
3:18 PM - Sam Morse wears flip flops and totes a heavy book pack. CVA "is casual in that you may see a kid go to class in his slippers. That's fine as long as he's pushing himself academically and is a good community member," said Kate Punderson, head of school. Buy Photo
4:01 PM - Sam Morse, a junior, works on pre-calculus exercises. He hopes to pusue a degree in architectural design at Dartmouth after graduating next from CVA.
4:01 PM - Sam Morse, a junior, works on pre-calculus exercises. He hopes to pusue a degree in architectural design at Dartmouth after graduating next from CVA. Buy Photo
1:02 PM - Jamie Marshall, left, and Henry Townsend announce the word of the day during the daily school meeting after lunch at Carrabassett Valley Academy.
1:02 PM - Jamie Marshall, left, and Henry Townsend announce the word of the day during the daily school meeting after lunch at Carrabassett Valley Academy. Buy Photo
12:37 PM - Students relax in the lounge before the start of afternoon classes at CVA. &quotWe have a lot of different athletic disciplines but that doesn't divide the kids," says Head of School Kate Punderson. &quotThe competition is left on the mountain."
12:37 PM - Students relax in the lounge before the start of afternoon classes at CVA. "We have a lot of different athletic disciplines but that doesn't divide the kids," says Head of School Kate Punderson. "The competition is left on the mountain." Buy Photo
8:23 AM - A bus takes Carrabassett Valley Academy skiers and snowboarders to Sugarloaf ski resort, just 2.5 miles from campus. The close proximity allows students to train in the morning and return to school for academics in the afternoon.
8:23 AM - A bus takes Carrabassett Valley Academy skiers and snowboarders to Sugarloaf ski resort, just 2.5 miles from campus. The close proximity allows students to train in the morning and return to school for academics in the afternoon. Buy Photo
4:47 PM - Ryutaro Koda, a freshman for Japan, melts wax onto the base of his racong skis. &quotWe do two things after school: we do our homework and we tune our skis," said one student. Most students have multiple pair of skis that need daily attention.
4:47 PM - Ryutaro Koda, a freshman for Japan, melts wax onto the base of his racong skis. "We do two things after school: we do our homework and we tune our skis," said one student. Most students have multiple pair of skis that need daily attention. Buy Photo
10:45 AM - Jamie Marshall, of Carrabassett Valley, hits a gate while training on the giant slalom course.
10:45 AM - Jamie Marshall, of Carrabassett Valley, hits a gate while training on the giant slalom course. Buy Photo
9:47 AM - A composite image shows the revolution made by snowboarder Stephen Just, of Ellsworth, as he catches some air off a jump while training in the terrain park at Sugarloaf.
9:47 AM - A composite image shows the revolution made by snowboarder Stephen Just, of Ellsworth, as he catches some air off a jump while training in the terrain park at Sugarloaf. Buy Photo
10:45 AM - Jamie Marshall heads into a turn on the giant slalom course as coaches look on at Sugarloaf, Tuesday, Feb. 7.
10:45 AM - Jamie Marshall heads into a turn on the giant slalom course as coaches look on at Sugarloaf, Tuesday, Feb. 7. Buy Photo
5:20 PM - Classes go until early evening during the winter trimester at CVA. The school's classrooms and cafeteria are in a former ski lodge at the base of Sugarloaf mountain. Plans are in the works for a new school building to be attached to a recently completed dormitory.
5:20 PM - Classes go until early evening during the winter trimester at CVA. The school's classrooms and cafeteria are in a former ski lodge at the base of Sugarloaf mountain. Plans are in the works for a new school building to be attached to a recently completed dormitory. Buy Photo

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.”

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