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Sun Valley launches ski academy

Ed Viesturs getting ready to trick-or-treat. Elaine Thompson/AP Images

An ambitious new ski academy is in the works in Ketchum, Idaho, and world-renowned mountaineer Ed Viesturs -- a new Ketchum resident -- has agreed to serve as an outdoor leadership advisor and help promote the school among potential students and donors.

The Sun Valley Ski Academy is a collaborative effort between the private Community School in Ketchum and the local ski club, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. "Our goal is to build the preeminent ski academy in the western United States," founders told supporters in an early newsletter.

The academy launched on a grassroots level this fall with four skiers living at the Bald Mountain Inn, which the school is leasing as it finalizes plans to build a dorm on campus that will eventually house 60 to 70 athletes. In addition to the traditional ski-academy racing programs, SVSA also offers freeskiing (park and pipe) and snowboarding programs through the ski foundation, head of school David Holmes said.

"Our goal is to recruit top talent from around the country," Holmes said, noting the school has hired ex-Olympic alpine racer Jonna Mendes to oversee recruitment.

Viesturs got involved with the academy after meeting Holmes at a fundraiser last spring hosted by local businessman and SVSA executive committee member Kipp Nelson. That gathering was highlighted by a Michael Franti and Spearhead performance and raised $250,000 for the school, Holmes said.

Viesturs -- the first and only American to climb all 14 of the world's 8,000-meter peaks, without supplemental oxygen to boot -- and his family moved to Ketchum this fall from their home in Washington state, intending to stay for a year. "We did this three years ago too -- kind of moved here and put the kids in school and lived the mountain lifestyle," said Viesturs, whose four young children attend the Community School. "With the ski academy, they asked me to help promote it, do some fundraisers, and do something with their outdoor program. It was a good time for us."

The academy is primarily designed for high school-age students, but eighth-graders also will be involved, Holmes said. Tuition, room and board will cost about $42,000 per student, with athletic costs ranging from about $2,500 to $10,000 depending upon the athlete's competition level and the amount of travel required.