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|Articles - September 2011|
|Wednesday, August 24, 2011|
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Over at the park, teenagers are riding rails and catching air and hooting out to celebrate crashes. Each camper rides in a small group with a coach, but it is difficult to tell campers from coaches because they are all shredding together with great freedom.
Windell says one of the central tenets of the camp is to encourage creativity. “We’re open to anything,” says Windell. “We allow kids to rollerblade. We allow kids to scooter. We allow kids to ride whatever it is they want to ride. Why not?”
Dodging our way around boarders, rails and ramps to the bottom of the run, we catch up with Mike Hanley, the president of Windells Academy. Hanley is trying to build up the Windells Academy from 20 students to 40 or 50. Academy students head up to the mountain every day, study for four hours upon returning and follow online curriculum while traveling to compete. Hanley says the goal is to keep top athletes in an accredited school even as their sports careers are taking off, and “to establish a sense of balance.”
That is a tempting proposition for athletes like Nick Goepper, an outrageously agile 17-year-old who says he would spend his life on a trampoline if he could. Goepper grew up skiing a 300-foot hill in Nebraska that gets about 10 inches of snow a year; after three years of Windells camps he’s perfecting his double-cork 1080 and pursuing Olympic dreams.
Goepper wouldn’t be the first athlete to go big-time after attending Windells. Alumni include legends such as Shaun White and Gretchen Bleiler (who recently bought a condo at Government Camp to support her summer training routine on Hood). Such star power makes it easy to recruit the next wave of campers. Repeating that success with a $35,000-per-year academy is the latest maneuver that Windell is eager to master.
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