Friday, February 1, 2013

Sun Valley Ski Academy is off to early season successes

Collaboration working, on and off the slopes

Sun Valley Ski Academy/Community School freshman Jay Fitzgerald is one of 32 alpine athletes this winter in the 55-student upper school SVSA enrollment. Additionally, there are 13 cross-country skiers, eight freestylers and two snowboarders.
Courtesy photo by Heather Black, Heather Black Photography

For the Express

     Ski racing fans from around the nation are taking notice of Sun Valley Ski Academy athletes who are succeeding with top results on a competitive level in the early parts of the 2012-13 season.

     SVSA was created two years ago by the Community School in collaboration with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. Now, SVSA includes 56 student-athletes, including skiers from distant locales such as California, Washington, Utah, British Columbia and Sweden.

     The new Community School Residence Hall at Warm Springs houses 14 SVSA athletes who decided to move to Sun Valley to enroll at Community School, train with SVSEF coaches and compete alongside other SVSEF and SVSA skiers.

     Jonna Mendes, a two-time Olympian and World Cup medalist, moved to Sun Valley and Community School 18 months ago and has been reaching out nationally to tell the story of SVSA, Community School and SVSEF.

     “I’m very gratified by our success in bringing skiers to our valley,” Mendes said. “The students, supported by their parents, are seeking an outstanding independent school education and a proven avenue for realizing their ambitions as skiers. These are great kids who bring wonderful qualities to our school and community.”

     Moving away from one’s family to pursue an education and engage in skiing at a high level is a new experience for SVSA students.

     Jessica Wasilewski, a Community School grad and former SVSEF Nordic competitor, heads up the new dorm and the residential life program. Wasilewski and four resident teaching interns have created a sense of community among the 24 residents.

     Community School Headmaster David Holmes said, “What was just a dream two years ago is now a reality. Thanks to our collaboration with the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and the support of many others, we have an exceptional program for ambitious skiers who desire an outstanding education.”


It takes a village

     The success of SVSA athletes, including alpine, Nordic, snowboard and freestyle competitors, is a product of the combined efforts of many people.

     Fundraising events, hosted by Kipp Nelson and Steve Shafran, provided seed money to begin SVSA. Shafran, former Community School parent and board member, became SVSA’s first director and provided inspiration and leadership. The boards of the school and SVSEF have worked together in developing the SVSA concept.

     SVSEF coaches have provided training and guidance to ambitious SVSA student-athletes. The Community School made available its barn at Sagewillow for development of a state-of-the-art dryland training facility under direction of SVSEF.

     On the academic side, Community School restructured its calendar to include a winter term and a thriving summer school. The new academic calendar enables students to take core courses in the summer and a reduced academic load in the winter. The restructuring facilitates the academic success of skiers who travel extensively in the winter.

     Community School faculty and staff, SVSA students and their parents, and SVSEF coaches work collaboratively to plan each student’s academic and skiing programs.

     Supported by a grant from the E.E. Ford Foundation, 10 Community School faculty members implemented an Online Learning Institute last summer. The teachers produced videos of weekly core concepts in their winter courses. The videos allow skiers to stay connected to their teachers and implement coursework while traveling.

     Through Google Course sites, teachers post their homework assignments for the entire winter term. It enables winter athletes to anticipate major assignments, do work before competitions and develop plans for making up work.

     The Community School has also assigned a teaching intern, Hannah Mangham, to work closely with SVSA students. Hannah, a former varsity skier at Williams College, travels with the skiers and supports their academic endeavors.

     Interviews with SVSA athletes indicate their satisfaction with the decision to come to Sun Valley.

     Sophomore Kyla Miller moved from Lake Stevens, Wash., to join SVSA.

     “I’m a student in the Residential Hall and I love it,” she said. “It’s my way of escaping from the real world and being able to focus on my studies as well as training. It’s what I now call home.”

     Another alpine ski racer, Sofi Leroux of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, plans to head off to college next year.

     She said, “For my postgraduate year, I wanted the perfect mix of athletics and academics and I’ve found it! I am really glad I moved to Sun Valley. I like getting to know my teammates by living with them, and I think it fosters a whole new level of competition.”

     Miller added, “I would be crazy not to take the opportunity to train with some of the best coaches in the country and to take advantage of the wonderful education that comes along with it.”


Upper School Sun Valley Ski Academy athletes



     · Alpine: Sofi Leroux (boarding from Vancouver, B.C., Canada).

12th grade

     · Alpine: Cole Caulkins; Veronica Gaspar (boarding from U.S. Virgin Islands); Ben Kanellitsas; Christopher Nalen; Logan Shipley; and Kipling Weisel.

     · Cross-country: Sofia DeWolfe; Laurel Fiddler (moved here from Mammoth, Ca.); Zach Lindahl; Gunnar Ohlson; and Maranda Stopol.

     · Freestyle: Timothy Gould.

     · Snowboard: Chase Josey; Connor Smith (boarding from Boise).

11th grade

     · Alpine: Taylor Adler; Mackenzie Bachmeier (moved from Yelm, Wash.); Jordan Fitzgerald; Jenna Jansky (boarding from Portland, Ore.); Marc Leroux (boarding from Vancouver, B.C., Canada).

     · Cross-country: Katie Feldman; Nate Thomas; Sarah Williams.

10th grade

     · Alpine: Josie Allison; Payton Anderson (boarding from Boise); Hannah Cobb (boarding from San Francisco, Ca.); Trenor Gould; Will Harder; Tanner Josey; Jordan Lane (boarding from Anchorage, Alaska.); Madison Milgard; Kyla Miller (boarding from Lake Stevens, Wash.); Patrick Riedinger; Gavin Shipley; Linnea Tenerz (boarding from Sweden).

     · Freestyle: Perry Boyle (boarding from Darien, Conn.); River Curtis; Hayes Gilman; Cutter Grathwohl; Claire Siderman.

9th grade

     · Alpine: Alexandra Black; Samantha Busby; Griffin Curtis; Kristian DeWolfe; Jay Fitzgerald; Grace Palmer (moved from Santa Monica, Calif.); Tanner Riedel (boarding from Salt Lake City, Utah); Will Snyder.

     · Cross-country: Lukas DeWolfe; Tom Gillespie; Annika Landis; Emily Siegel; Max Tanous.

     · Freestyle: Trey Potter; Gilbert Viesturs.

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