Gould Academy Takes to the Snow
We recently spoke with Mark Godomsky, Gould Academy’s On-Snow program director. On-Snow results from Gould’s commitment to using and connecting the school to its surroundings. In Bethel, Maine, this means students on and in the snow- in programs ranging from recreational skiing, to ski patrol, to a competition program the trains year round.
Question (Q): Can you tell us about the genesis of the On-Snow program? What are its roots? Did it grow out of an earlier program?
Mark Godomsky (MG): It’s not a stretch to say that skiing has been at Gould for nearly as long as it has been in America. I’ve got a pair of jumping skis that belonged to an alum from the class of 1933. They were presented to me by the former Gould Nordic coach, a man by the name of Dick Taylor who was also captain of the 1964 U.S. Olympic X-C Team. There is a lot of tradition here of outstanding snow sports and outstanding coaches. People like Dick and going back to the 1950′s people like Paul Kailey, a Middlebury alum who helped develop the competitive skiing program here and who was also a pioneer in developing Sunday River. Gould’s On-Snow Program today is a continuation of a historically strong offering that is steeped in tradition. Along the way we’ve added “newer” elements like the competitive freestyle and snowboarding programs and Ski Patrol. Like those before use, we continue to look for ways to make the programs better and continue the tradition.
Q: Why On-Snow right now? Anything special about the opportunities or timing?
MG: These high quality programs offer a variety of opportunities for student-athletes in the winter that are tough to find within the traditional boarding school realm.
A student at Gould can spend six days a week on the mountain snowboarding or freeriding, developing his/her skills and staying fit. Another student might spend six days a week learning life saving skills, working toward certification as a member of the National Ski Patrol. And finally, a student can train hard six days a week with a qualified, full time coaching staff made up of former NCAA Division I racers and coaches. There is something for everyone who enjoys being on the hill or on our 40km on-campus trail system.
Q: Do you envision On-Snow growing into a pillar or major component of the school?
MG: I’d say it is a large component and one of many unique programs that sets Gould apart from other traditional New England private boarding schools. We’re only six miles away from Sunday River Ski Resort. The backside of the mountain is the backdrop for our campus. Our relationship with and proximity to arguably the best ski resort in the northeast with some of the most varied terrain is very attractive and difficult to find anywhere else in the East. But, it’s not about being a pillar or a major component. As I heard recent alum and current U.S. Ski Team member Bump Heldman ’07 say this past fall, “At Gould, I got a great education and could ski with the U.S. Ski Team.” He was a standout catcher on the baseball team, a positive member of the community, a great student who was accepted at strong schools, and was the recipient of this year’s Eastern Ski Writers Association Award. One of our core values at Gould is to develop the whole person. The On-Snow Program is part of the package.
Q: Can you lay out the pieces of On-Snow and what each might mean to a participating student? Competitive versus non competitive?
MG: Gould’s Competition Program provides student-athletes the opportunity to train and compete at the highest level in a number of disciplines: Freestyle, Snowboard, Alpine and Nordic. Skiers and snowboarders compete between 30-50 times a year, travel all over the country and the world, and are on-snow four hours a day six days a week including school vacations. During the off-season, they train in trampoline and water camps and in a variety of summer conditioning programs both on-snow and off. Due to the number of hours required, the Competition Program requires a student-athlete who is truly committed to athletic and academic success.
For students who enjoy competition but are looking for a less rigorous program, Gould offers its Prep Program. This is designed as a traditional prep school team sport, where student-athletes participate in a school race league and compete once a week. The program requires a commitment of three hours a day five days a week when school is in session.
On the non-competitive side, Gould offers some very unique programs. A large number of students take advantage of the Rug Rats Program, teaching local elementary school kids how to ski and snowboard three days a week. Those who participate find the experience to be very rewarding.
Gould’s Ski Patrol Program is the only one in the country that helps students become certified members of the National Ski Patrol. The program requires training six days a week including one day of classroom work. Students work with full-time Sunday River patrollers. It typically takes three years of training before a student becomes a certified member and requires a strong commitment.
We also offer a Ski & Ride Program which gives students the opportunity to spend four days a week on the mountain with one day of conditioning. This is a popular program that gives students a way to stay fit and enjoy Sunday River. There are no weekend commitments and the groups are small averaging eight students to one teacher.
Q: How large is the program? What percentage of the student body participates in On-Snow?
MG: It is a large program. This past year approximately 80 percent of our student body (roughly 250 students) were involved.
Q: Is On-Snow designed to work and serve as the focal point of winter sports? Either way does this mean anything for other winter sports such as basketball and hockey?
MG: It is certainly a very popular and robust program, and we have a different class day schedule in the winter to maximize day light hours on the mountain and Nordic trails. The program has little to no impact on our basketball program. Our varsity boys’ team won the western Maine Championship two years ago and were in the post season again this year as was the girls’ team. Overall, our competitive athletic programs are strong.
Q: On-Snow seems outdoor oriented, does Gould have any notions of expanding On-Snow into the fall or spring programs- giving them any more of an outdoor flavor?
MG: We offer a lot of opportunity for dry land training and conditioning in the fall and spring. This summer we are offering an on-snow training camp at Mt. Hood in Oregon. Going back to our whole person core value, along with academics, athletics, arts and community l
ife, we believe that intensive experiences in the natural world is an important part of developing the whole person. Our location in western Maine on the edge of the White Mountains is a terrific asset and plays a role in our identity. Gould also offers rock climbing, fall student orientation trips, an eight day winter camping trip for the junior class, and each fall the entire school takes a day off to climb a mountain together.