Program will provide academic support, training for athletes as young as third grade

VAIL, Colo. — Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (SSCV) will fulfill one of its key strategic goals next winter by partnering with Red Sandstone Elementary to facilitate more on-snow training days with academic support for children as young as third grade.

The program was carefully crafted by SSCV and Eagle County Schools to enable third, fourth and fifth-graders enrolled in a qualified SSCV program to train on snow four days per week (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday). The offering is currently confirmed for alpine athletes (ski racers) for next winter. Pending demand from the community, SSCV is also expecting to extend this opportunity to snowboard, freeski (park & pipe), freestyle (moguls) and Nordic.

“This has been one of our top strategic initiatives at SSCV, which is integral to our vision of being the premier snowsports club in the world,” said SSCV Executive Director Kirk Dwyer. “If you look at all the greats in snowsport competition — Mikaela Shiffrin, Lindsey Vonn — all of them have one thing in common: a lot of time on snow during the golden age of skill development, which generally begins at age eight.”

The program is the first cooperative arrangement between SSCV and Eagle County Schools to provide enhanced training opportunities for children of this age group. The partnership represents SSCV’s ongoing commitment to accessibility and the belief that all local children, regardless of means, should be able to participate in a competitive snowsports program. SSCV program fees, as always, are eligible for financial aid up to 75 percent, and there will be no additional cost incurred by the family for the academic support sessions.

“When we created Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy (VSSA) as the first public school for snowsports athletes ten years ago, we validated the importance of balancing athletic training with challenging and engaging academics,” said Jason Glass, superintendent. “This new program at Red Sandstone Elementary will enable younger students to train during the week while also insuring they thrive both on and off the mountain.”

As an academic partner, VSSA currently serves students in grades five through 12 who are full-time athletes at SSCV. This new cooperative with Red Sandstone Elementary expands that relationship and provides a one-year overlap (fifth grade) for students to determine if they want to take the next step to VSSA.

“Kids can’t be expected at a young age to truly understand what they’re passionate about,” said Dwyer. “They are simply dipping their toes in the water and developing a feeling for activities that may grow into a passion. Our job isn’t to push them into becoming world-class athletes. Our job is to make sure — if they do ultimately decide to pursue one of our sports at a high level — we’ve given them the foundation to be successful, and that includes frequency of practice at a young age.”

During the school week, athletes will train from 1:30 p.m. to close on Wednesday and Friday and participate in a study session at Red Sandstone Elementary supported by an SSCV academic coordinator immediately following their day on the hill. Transportation to and from Red Sandstone will also be arranged and supervised by SSCV.

“We’re committed to the success of our students academically first and foremost,” said Marcie Laidman, principal at Red Sandstone Elementary. “We also recognize that we have students who wish to pursue their athletic dreams in snowsports at younger ages, and this relationship with SSCV will provide the best of both worlds for these student-athletes. We’re excited to be able to offer this unique program to any qualified elementary student in Eagle County.”

Participants will need to be accepted into a qualified SSCV program. For alpine, existing program offerings include U10 Age Class and U12 programs. For freeski, freestyle and snowboard, SSCV’s hope is to garner enough community momentum to create four-day programs in each discipline.

Although the open enrollment period for Eagle County Schools has expired, Red Sandstone Elementary is prepared to accept late enrollment of student-athletes who have been accepted into a qualifying SSCV program. As part of that application process, students will need to have completed an on-hill evaluation this season. Those arrangements can be made through the SSCV offices. Participants should contact the school to enroll immediately after acceptance into the SSCV program.

For acceptance into the U10 alpine program, athletes will typically have had experience with gate training and entry-level racing. SSCV’s YSL program is an institutional stepping-stone into the U10 age class, but SSCV will also consider candidates from outside programs.

For general questions related to SSCV programs, contact Director of Admissions & Academics Sharon Schmidt at (970) 790-5161. For school-related questions, contact Angie Swim at RSES at (970) 328-2913.