Carrabassett Valley Academy

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Carrabassett Valley Academy
Carrabassett Valley Academy (logo).jpg
3197 Carrabassett Drive
Carrabassett Valley, Maine 04947
United States
Coordinates 45°04′44″N 70°18′39″W / 45.0788°N 70.3109°W / 45.0788; -70.3109Coordinates: 45°04′44″N 70°18′39″W / 45.0788°N 70.3109°W / 45.0788; -70.3109
Type Ski Academy
Established 1982
Headmaster Kate Webber Punderson
Staff 50
Enrollment 84 Students
Average class size 12 students
Student to teacher ratio 6:1
Campus 25 Acres
Color(s) Green, White
Athletics Skiing, Snowboarding
Mascot Big Dogs

Carrabassett Valley Academy is a private ski and snowboard academy offering most downhill winter mountain sports. Carrabassett Valley Academy is based in Carrabassett Valley, Maine at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. Established in 1982, the school has trained and schooled the likes of Olympic competitors Bode Miller, Seth Wescott, Kirsten Clark, and Emily Cook. Jeremy Jones, nine-time Snowboard Magazine Big Mountain Rider of the Year, also honed his snowboarding and academic skills at Carrabassett Valley Academy. Since 1982 CVA has produced 12 Olympians, 92 National Titles, 11 X-Games competitors, 26 NCAA and USCSA All-Americans, 39 national team members, and six world champions.


Sugarloaf Region Ski Education Foundation

The SRSEF was founded in 1968 as non-profit organization offering high-level ski training. In 1972 they were approved by the Maine State Board of Education as a tutorial program. Tutorial programs were held for four to five weeks during the winter. Student-athletes skied in the morning and were tutored in the afternoon. Their home schools provided work while the SRSEF provided tutors and a space to study. The SRSEF helped these student-athletes take their training to the next level. In 1982 the SRSEF helped start Carrabassett Valley Academy as a five-month tutorial program, and the following year, in 1983, CVA evolved into a nine-month ski academy. The SRSEF hosted all competitions at Sugarloaf from high-school level races to the US Alpine championships until 1992, when Sugarloaf created the Competition Center. In 1995 Sugarloaf and CVA took over the SRSEF’s weekend program. The program was first called the “Junior Competition Program.” Later Sugarloaf and CVA changed the name to “SCVA” (short for Sugarloaf Carrabassett Valley Academy). Now it is called the “CVA Weekend Program.”

Jean Luce

Jean Luce is the woman who had the idea to start the first school in Carrabassett Valley. CVA grew out of the SRSEF. Jean was very involved with junior ski racing in New England. SRSEF’s Tutorial Program students did their schoolwork at her dining-room table. With the help of Julie Bronson and Margaret Arbuckle, Jean wrote a prospectus and formed a board of trustees. Jean went to great lengths to get King Cummings to be on CVA’s board of trustees. The reason she wanted him on board was because of his experience forming other schools and his relationship with Sugarloaf. In June 1982, the papers were legally signed to form the academy. After going around to many people with “good deep pockets,” Jean met with a man from the Kellogg Foundation and received the advice she needed to help her raise the money to start CVA. The school bought the former Capricorn Lodge, which was an old inn, as the new campus for the school. In the following year, 1983 the school became a full nine-month program. Twenty students started the first school year. Since then CVA has expanded its programming athletically and academically and attracts students from across the nation and around the world. Jean was secretary of the board of trustees until the early 2000s.

King Cummings

According to Former Headmaster John Ritzo, King Cumming, a native of Skowhegan, Maine and alumnus of MIT, came back to Maine and became a manufacturer in the Woolens Industry. He had a shop in Gilford, NH. He went on to be an entrepreneur and successful businessman. He was a great outdoorsman who loved to sail, fish, ski and fly. King bought Sugarloaf from Scott Paper for $25,000. At the time the only lift was a T-bar. King was instrumental in founding CVA. He was the first major financial benefactor, and he acquired the Capricorn for CVA. King had a great vision for the school. He wanted to see young people in Maine take advantages of all the resources Sugarloaf had to offer and at the same time receive a good education.

Early Sports

Soccer used to be a big part of CVA, and the school went on to championships competing against other prep schools in the East. The season had to end early due to the start of on-snow training. CVA also offered an outdoor program with activities ranging from hiking to mountain biking. During the spring the school offered tennis, which CVA alumnus Bode Miller loved. As a fundraiser for scholarships, CVA annually led a bike ride across Maine. Fall sports ended in 2014 to fit in more dryland training. Although in the fall of 2016 some sports were added again on Wednesdays such as soccer, mountain biking and outdoor intramurals.


The CVA mascot is the big dog. This originated from CVA’s assistant headmaster and the athletic director, Jeff Colin. Jeff had two golden retrievers, Tiger and Wimbly. Jeff had a saying in the early ‘80s: "If you can't run with the big dogs, you better stay chained to the back porch." CVA’s mascot emerged from this saying. The big dog mascot is a replica of the Jeff’s dogs Tiger and Wimbly.


Over the course of CVA’s history, the school offered a number of different winter disciplines to its student-athletes. Programs that no longer are offered at CVA are ski ballet, aerials, and Nordic skiing. Former headmaster John Ritzo played a big role in the Nordic program from 1997-1998. In an interview conducted between Mr. Ritzo and current CVA students, Mr. Ritzo described how most Nordic athletes reach their potential in college, so it was hard to find athletes with interest in the sport. CVA’s ski ballet program thrived until the sport diminished nationally. In the same interview, Mr. Ritzo described how freestyle skiing began to quickly evolve. CVA now has a much larger and continuously growing freestyle program.

Orientation trips

CVA has been doing orientation trips since the early ‘80s. According to headmaster Kate Punderson, in the early 80s there were orientation trips in the Bigelows and the coast and in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. CVA continues the tradition today, offering a trip for each class. Today Freshmen Volunteer at Maine Huts and trails, Huts, Sophomores go kayaking to an island in Boothbay Harbor, Juniors raft on the Kennebec River, and seniors, canoe on Moosehead Lake. CVA’s orientation trips pull students and staff together and strengthen teamwork between students. It is a great way to quickly incorporate new students into the community.

Weekend Program

The CVA weekend program, previously known as SCVA, Started out in the early ‘80s. A member of the CVA board said, “We would take a bagged lunch up to what used to be the base of Sugarloaf and a man named John would go through the lodge and he would recruit people to help with the weekend program.” The Weekend Program has expanded since its inception and today the CVA Weekend Program has three main disciplines, Alpine skiing (Racing), Freestyle skiing (Including moguls), and snowboarding. CVA alumni often coach the weekend program. The weekend program focuses on developing athletes and is a pipeline to help student-athletes reach their goals before they are old enough to attend CVA full-time.

CVA in the late 1990s to early 2000s

The daily life at CVA through the 1990s to early 2000s was different than it is now. A building known as the Lumberjack was used as a girls dorm, but was sold in the 1990s. The Capricorn, CVA’s original building, was used for classrooms, dining, equipment storage, and the boy’s dormitory. Sports, such as soccer and kayaking, during the spring and fall used to be more of a priority compared to now, but they are still required at CVA today. Every spring the Capricorn building would flood. Previous yearbooks and alumni tell of people floating on mattresses and using kayaks in the basement. Disciplines available at the time included only Alpine Racing, Moguls, Freestyle, Snowboarding, and sometimes Nordic skiing. The student schedule started with a 6:30 morning run, followed by classes, and more athletics. The school day ended at 5:30pm with dinner, which was followed by study hall.

CVA Today

Murphey Hall, the dormitory is a three-story building housing students of both genders. First floor is for girls grades 8th through 12th and postgraduates that are taking classes, the second floor is 8th, 9th and 10th grade boys, while the third floor is for 11th, 12th grade, and postgraduate boys that take classes. The Capricorn is still in use today, but there are plans in place to construct a new building to serve the same purposes of equipment storage, dining, and staff housing. Fall and spring sports are offered, but are only one day a week. Also during the fall, school is six days a week with Sundays off. while in the Winter and Spring classes are held only five days a week. Classes and athletics are split between the morning and afternoon sessions. The school day starts at 7:30am and ends with dinner at 5:30pm with a mandatory study hall from 7pm to 9pm in the dorms and Check in at 10pm.

Student Travel

Today, CVA students are fortunate that they have iPads to stay in touch with their teachers and keep up with their classes while they are traveling. This is extremely important during travel for races and trips, where students have limited contact with their teachers. Before this technology was put into place, students often fell behind in their studies when they traveled. Today extra focus is put into making to make the transition between travel and class time as fluid as possible. With these new technologies, students are able to travel more often to races, competitions, and camps while also getting an advanced education.

CVA’s Relationships Abroad

CVA has students from all over the world, including Japan, Korea, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. CVA had a strong relationship and Greenland in the 1990s. Paul Fremont-Smith, a friend of the school, went to Greenland and helped the country open a ski mountain there. As Paul went back and forth, Paul grew a relationship with Greenland, and CVA started to invite athletes from Greenland to come to CVA for the winter. Some athletes from CVA went to Greenland as well. In 2010 or 2011 a relationship sprouted between CVA and Lycee Lannemezan, a winter sports school in the town of Lannemezan, France. When the two schools started communicating, it was discovered that the schools had much in common. Pen pals were developed and the bond between CVA and the Lycee Lannemezan grew stronger. In 2013 students from Lycee Lannemezan visited CVA and some CVA students recall this as a life-changing experience. Students from CVA then visited Lycee Lannemezan in 2014 and in 2015 a student from CVA visited Lycee Lannemezan. Lycee Lannemezan is CVA’s sister school, and it has opened up new experiences for students in the French program.

Facts in Brief

Enrollment/students (as of 8/13/2012[1])

It has an enrollment of 84 students (72% male, 28% female) with 83% boarding and 17% day. 43% receive financial aid.

Faculty The faculty consists of 14 teaching faculty and 15 coaching faculty for a 4:1 student/faculty ratio with an average class size of 17 students.


  • 12 Olympians - 3 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze medals
  • 39 National Team Members
  • 92 National Titles
  • 11 X Games competitors - 10 medals
  • 26 NCAA and USASA All-Americans
  • 8 Times Best Big Mountain Snowboarder of the Year


The campus has an area of 25 acres.

  • Antigravity Complex (29,000 sf) with trampoline and weight room, skate park with bowl, full basketball court, climbing wall and aerobics room
  • Sugarloaf - 2,820-foot vertical drop, the Legendary Snowfields
  • Appalachian Trail and miles of biking and running paths.


The Capricorn, for most of CVA’s history, was not only where student-athletes ate, but also where they slept, attended classes, and prepared for on mountain activities. Before the new dorms were built in 2007, the Capricorn was where everything happened. Today the Capricorn is used for employee housing, staff offices, the dining hall, ski equipment storage, ski tuning and space to prepare for on mountain training. The Capricorn is also home to the school's physical rehabilitation center, run by Tristy Wolfe, the school's athletic trainer. According to Punderson a new building to replace the Capricorn located closer to the dorms is planned for construction in the near future. “It's on the list” she said. And when asked about what would come of the old Capricorn, Punderson said that it would either be sold or CVA would keep it and use it for employee housing.

Anti-Gravity Center

Before the Anti-Gravity Center was built, there were weight rooms in the basement of the Capricorn and a half-pipe for skateboarding behind the Lumberjack, which was the girls dorms. CVA wanted to cover the half pipe, but the cover did not follow the building regulations in Carrabassett Valley. Sugarloaf's former owner, the American Skiing Company donated six acres of land for the facility. CVA raised funds to help build the AGC. The AGC in total cost $1.2 million; CVA paid half and the town of Carrabassett Valley paid the other half. The AGC was built in 2001 and provided the student-athletes with a skate park, skate bowl, indoor and outdoor trampolines, a combination basketball, tennis, and volleyball court, a multi-purpose fitness/meeting room, a weight room, a track, locker and shower rooms, a rock-climbing wall, and a kitchen.

Notable graduates and athletes

  • Bode Miller - 2004/2005; 2007/2008 Alpine Overall World Cup Champion; Olympic Gold, Silver, & Bronze Medalist,
  • Seth Wescott - 2006 and 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist, Snowboard Cross,
  • Jeremy Jones - 9 time Snowboard Magazine Big Mountain Rider of the Year, Star of Many Teton Gravity Research Films
  • Kirsten Clark - US World Cup & Olympic Ski Team Member. US National Downhill Champion
  • Emily Cook - US Olympic Freestyle Team Member
  • Julie Parisien - US World Cup & Olympic Ski Team Member. US National SL/GS Champion
  • Sam Morse - US Ski Team Member
  • Maria Wanner - Biomedical Engineer/Snowboarder


  1. ^ CVA Website "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-10-02. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
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