Nobody really calls it that, of course. Using “The” implies a singular entity, one that is unique, at least among its peers.

And Carrabassett Valley Academy, while renowned for its ability to educate and train some of the best alpine skiers, freestylists and snowboarders in the world, is not alone in its endeavor. Burke Mountain Academy and Green Mountain Valley School are two others in New England alone.

Then again, perhaps CVA isn’t alone, but it’s starting to pull away.

“We actually are moving toward having an edge,” Mike Savage said, a hint of pride peeking through his white-rimmed sunglasses.

Savage is CVA’s Alpine Program Director, and this week, he’s been like a proud father watching a handful of former students compete at the U.S. Alpine Championships on the very hill on which CVA trains daily.


“Everybody is still trying to create relationships and snow conditions with their mountain management,” Savage said. “No school owns their own mountain. But I think our relationship with Sugarloaf rivals any in the United States, because Narrow Gauge, that is our training site. And that is the relationship. We’re not trying to get that one or two days a week, that’s ours five days a week, and our weekend program uses it as well. Our hill never leaves us.”

And a daunting hill it is. Following her run in the women’s slalom Saturday, the world’s best slalom skier, Mikaela Shiffrin, noted how tough the course was having never skied it.

“It’s a really high speed course and those faster courses are more difficult, even though you think it’s straighter and easier to handle,” Shiffrin said Saturday. “It’s a challenge for me because these are the courses that are tough.”

With the toughest hill possible in its back pocket, CVA can preach its primary focus a little more loudly.

“The biggest thing is the balance,” Savage said. “Whenever you include sport with academics, you have to have balance. What CVA allows you to do is be a part of the appropriate amount of hours and days and challenges to go to the school of your choice academically, and at the same time in the athletic world, with Sugarloaf in its backyard, allows the athlete to reach the top level as well.”

Savage’s boast isn’t bravado. Since its inception in 1984, more than 120 colleges and universities have accepted CVA students, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Brown, Bates, Bowdoin and Colby.


A dual focus and a commitment to time management, Savage said, is a big reason why. That, and the school’s commitment to technology.

“The hours are flexed in the fall and the spring, to make sure the winter hours allow spending more time on snow,” Savage said.

“The technology helps set us apart, as well,” he added. “The kid can be running around in Austria, hit the app on their iPad, see the assignment, do it, and send it back. If there’s a video, they can video all the classes they want.”

And when the student-athletes are at home?

“You can take a test at eight o’clock in the morning, and you’re done at 9:45, walk over, put your boots on, grab your skis, somebody shuttles you up here at 10, you take eight or nine runs on that hill, and you’re back down for lunch,” Savage said.

Not bad for a little mountain school in the western Maine woods, one that started as a five-month, winter term tutorial program.

Sure, CVA is known for Bode Miller. And Seth Wescott. And the DiGravio brothers. And a host of other U.S. Ski Team and U.S. collegiate All-Americans.

But going forward, even if another Olympian or X-Games champion isn’t in the immediate offing, Carrabassett Valley Academy — excuse me, “The” Academy — will continue to thrive.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.