How a ski academy helped
harmonize my life By Emily Cook ACT Balancing
It’s a delicate balance. Each athlete wants to do all he or she can to maximize potential and
reach the top. But the question for many athletes is the same: “How?”
As a young girl, the answer for me was simple. I wanted balance. I wanted to continue my education,
but I also wanted to be the best aerialist in the world. The answer for me was a ski academy. Looking
back today, I’m extremely happy with the decision I made to exchange a traditional method of education for one that allowed me the freedom to pursue my dreams.
I grew up skiing at Sugarloaf Mountain, a four-hour drive from my hometown of Belmont, Mass. Every
winter my dad and I would repeat the same routine. He would finish his workweek on Friday evening
and pick me up from gymnastics with dinner in the car. Together we made the drive to Sugarloaf for
the weekend. On those drives my dad and I would laugh, catch up on the week and discuss life; and
I would crank out as much homework as I could to free up the weekend for training.
As I got older and began competing, the travel was no longer to Sugarloaf and back each weekend
but extended across the country and eventually around the world. Though I studied on the road,
my high school would not tolerate the amount of absences necessary for me to complete a season
— especially when, at age 17, I qualified for the U.S. Ski Team with the opportunity to compete on the
My dad and I realized that if I wanted to continue a rigorous path in sport I needed more freedom to
learn independently and travel with the team. I knew it would be a challenge, but I dreamed of being
an Olympian. I decided to apply to Carrabassett Valley Academy, and when accepted with a partial
scholarship, I chose to attend during the winters of my junior and senior year.
I loved academy life, and looking back today I realize that the lessons I took with me extend far beyond the classroom. At CVA I learned accountability, the ability to live with others, the ability to share
space with others, communication, teamwork and respect. Education was approached differently for
each student. Teachers would lay the foundation for knowledge, but while I was on the road I was
often personally responsible for learning new material, sending in assignments and taking tests independently. To me, this kind of guidance nurtured true education and it served to prepare me for life
after high school. From this type of study I learned lessons I still use today including balance, accountability and the vital skills of compartmentalization and time management.
Academy life is improving dramatically. Long gone are the days of grungy gyms and cramped dorms.
CVA has upgraded and added many amenities including the Anti-Gravity center with trampolines,
skate park, basketball court and a fitness facility. The dorms have been rebuilt and a new dining facility and academic wing are in the works. At its core, a ski academy remains to me a place to prepare
student-athletes for a successful life beyond high school, to learn from like-minded students, teachers, coaches and advisors and to create friendships to be cherished for a lifetime.
Today the options are seemingly endless. Many student-athletes are able to remain in traditional
school while others attend virtual or online classes. The USSA’s Center of Excellence may even have
its own academy in the future, and USSA officials have dramatically expanded the opportunities for
team members to pursue higher education while working toward Olympic gold.
Some people believe it’s impossible to have it all. I disagree. I’m currently completing my last two
classes at the University of Utah to graduate with honors in the spring, and I’m still living the incredible
life of an athlete striving to represent Team USA in my third Olympic Winter Games. Finding a method
to have it all is up to you, but the possibilities available today make being an athlete a rewarding and
SkiRacing.com NOVEMBER 21, 2011 | 62