Riders take studies south to the Andes | AspenTimes.com

Riders take studies south to the Andes

Matt Terrell
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL ” Bryan Daino spent his mornings learning math on his laptop and his afternoons snowboarding the Andes mountains.

Daino, a Battle Mountain High School junior, was one of several Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy students who spent two weeks in Chile in September and October for intensive preseason training. Snow conditions there were like they are here in March and April: slushy.

This was also one of the first big tests determining how academy students would handle their studies away from home. The academy was created to put some rigor into the schoolwork of competitive skiers and snowboarders, who often miss hours of class time and can easily fall behind in their lessons.

Now, they’re traveling with laptops and taking online classes so they can keep up with their studies.

“The online classes are super hard,” Daino said. “Teaching yourself math and pre-calculus is ridiculously hard ” teaching yourself all those exponents.”

Students spent most of their time in Chile skiing or studying. They stayed in Valle Nevado, a small resort village above treeline that is open only during ski season.

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Students requested most of their schoolwork ahead of time or worked with online teachers. Some students even had to take exams while they were on the trip, said Tanya Tanner, academic director of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.

“The students did a great job, came back on pace with their classmates with only a little bit of makeup here and there,” Tanner said.

It’s quite a striking experience to ski in the Andes, said Aldo Radamus, executive director of the ski and snowboard club.

Students from different disciplines ” freestyle, free ride, Alpine and snowboarding ” had a chance to train together at one location, which is rare.

“From the top of the ski slopes, you could still see mountains above you in excess of 20,000 feet,” Radamus said. “It’s a very dramatic mountain environment.”

Aside from skiing and studying, students spent time learning about Chilean culture. They met with kids at a local school about 30 minutes away from the ski village.

It’s a very poor community, and the Academy students donated many school supplies like notebooks and backpacks to the students, Radamus said.

“It was fun going to see the all the kids,” Daino said. “They were so stoked on all the stuff we gave them.”

Daino said Chileans weren’t as uptight as Americans. “They’re a more relaxed people.”

Minturn Middle School Principal Toni Boush went on the trip. She hopes to someday establish an exchange program with a school in Chile, and she spent her time meeting principals and visiting schools. Officials in many schools seemed interested in an exchange program ” it will just take some fundraising here in Colorado to help them out, she said.

“They live a really simple life, and that was huge for me,” Boush said. “It’s not about work, work, work, consume, consume, consume.”

What is the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy?

There’s not much after-school skiing on Vail Mountain. You can’t flip on the stadium lights or move freestyle practice into a frozen, snow-filled arena. For the high school athletes, there’s no choice but to train and compete during school hours.

This creates a problem for kids who want to prepare for college but are basically nonexistent during the second trimester, the major skiing and snowboarding competition season. Some of them miss so much class they can’t be considered full-time students.

At the Ski and Snowboard Academy, a partnership between Ski and Snowboard Club Vail and Eagle County Schools, students make up class time lost during the season by starting the school year earlier and ending later.

Students will be in class full seven-hour days in the first and third trimesters and half days during the second trimester, when they’ll focus solely on core classes like English, math, social sciences and a foreign language. In the offseason, they’ll take extended blocks of lab science and choose electives.

Students signed performance contracts to hold them responsible for keeping up with assignments.

Two or three teachers who are able to teach multiple subjects will instruct the classes, and any specialized subjects they can’t handle will be outsourced to computer services such as Colorado Online Learning, which has actual teachers on the other end creating lessons and teaching with the students.

Students are required to take laptop computers on the road with them to keep up with lessons.