Located at Lake Tahoe, California, Sugar Bowl Academy is a fully accredited college preparatory high school for competitive skiers. It's a world-class ski academy for Alpine, Nordic and Freeride athletes.

First Year Reflections

By Ryan Aldrich

I knew much of my first year was a listening tour, which it certainly became. I connected with our alumni families and students, long time SBSTA families, prior board members, our founder, Villagers, and our greater ski community.

The ski academy experience is a journey. Whether it starts like my own son, on mini mites, or later, ski racing early on teaches young kids important things like how to have fun/play, how to be healthy, and how to be active.  Then, for most of our student-athletes, there is a critical point in their lives— typically when they are 14 years old. At this point, there is a major off-ramp on the ski academy highway. This off-ramp occurs because in order to be competitive at the highest levels at U16 and U19,  you have to train and compete full time. Weekend-only training or competing will no longer be enough. The other challenge is students that want more on-snow time and training isn’t realistic if the student is attending a regular high school. That’s the problem SBA is fixing, and what so many families share with me, which is passionate skiers need to either sacrifice academics or athletics to pursue their skiing goals or vice versa. SBA’s solution to this problem is to provide young skiers with world-class athletic training, an exceptional college-preparatory experience, and innovative, value-driven and community-based opportunities for personal growth.

Indeed, this last part, of personal growth kids is paramount to the belief that we have an ethical and moral responsibility to develop our student athletes as good people, not just as ski racers. This is where SBA stands out. We steward this through our core values and through so much of our student-athlete programming such as homeroom, family dinners, point person work, All-school meetings, residential life programming, orientation, experiential education, and more.

Committing to the ski academy experience requires considerable extracurricular and social sacrifice. Their lives and schedule are fully vested to a sport and a passion that develops important habits and life lessons. One of the most important lessons is developing the skill of balance. In their world of competing priorities, our kids need to learn to balance travel, training, coursework, and a social life. Finding that balance is key to success and will help them as young adults in college and throughout their lives.

As they get older skiing and Academy life builds confidence through physical and mental toughness. Our senior class remembers training sessions called, Shut up legs, and wearing rubber gloves in a steady downpour at 6:00 a.m. Grit and perseverance are outcomes from these early ups, challenging conditions, and rigorous coursework.

Fundamentally, I know as an athlete myself, to be successful in any sport and especially skiing, you have to want it and be passionate about chasing success. Why else would these adolescents get up at 5:00 a.m. for a grueling workout, followed by six hours of rigorous academic classes, followed by afternoon conditioning, and finally coursework at night? Our student-athletes choose this path because they understand what it can do for them--that they have the best chance of reaching their academic and athletic goals.

What I saw from our student-athletes this year is passion and effort both on the hill and in the classroom. When you pair passion and effort with the opportunities and resources SBA provides, the outcome will be nothing less than success in their goals. I am thrilled for this coming year and all the experiences we will share together in this community.



Ryan Aldrich


Back to posts

Recent posts