For many years, Wasatch Academy has provided an outstanding ski and snowboard program for students who want to spend winters hitting the slopes in addition to their academic pursuits. The program experienced a natural evolution this year with the development of an elite competitive program. The new program follows in the footsteps of the school’s other widely recognized programs such as our nationally ranked boys’ varsity basketball team. “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mr. Loftin in the development of this new program. His vision has made this opportunity possible by laying the groundwork and opening doors for the entire Wasatch Academy community. It is a privilege to be part of the development and growth of this exciting new team,” said Coach Chris Nester, Director of the Snowsports Program.
The new competition ski team provides student-athletes the opportunity to train and compete at the highest level with the benefits of a high-caliber education coupled with a typical high-school experience. This team provides opportunities that many ski and snowsports student-athletes otherwise don’t experience.
The program has already welcomed its first A-list athletes, Cael McCarthy and Axel Bonenberger. “They are both on a competitive level that gives them a real opportunity to be on the USA Olympic Freeski Team, and I feel very fortunate to have found them,” states Nester. “I had the opportunity to see them compete at national competitions last year and after talking with their families and learning more about them, I quickly realized that both of these athletes were a perfect fit for Wasatch Academy.”
Axl and Cael are motivated and talented young men, both 14 years young. These boys joined the Wasatch Academy family as freshmen and are already making a huge impact on campus and on the snow.
Axl is from Breckenridge, Colorado and is a natural athlete. Axl jumps off everything! He has a competitive spirit that makes you wonder if he is superhuman. He consistently performs well in competitions and the classroom. “I have no doubt he has the ability to podium at several events this year!” said Nester.
Cael is from Steamboat Springs, Colorado and has an incredible work ethic that is going to pay-off big this upcoming season. Cael is unbelievably comfortable in the halfpipe. He is all business and has the Olympic halfpipe team in his sights. “There is nothing standing in his way; it’s going to be a real privilege to watch him reach his goals,” comments Nester.
Cael is a strong competitor and is talented in riding and competing in the halfpipe. Axl is more of a jump and rail skier so look for him to do well in the upcoming Slopestyle competitions.
Both of the boys pre-qualified to compete in the Rev Tour and the Futures Tour as well as the USASA nationals event.
To be well prepared for the season, the team started training in September. Pre-season training is a big part of success for competitors at this level. Both students have taken advantage of the facilities at the Utah Olympic Park. Air awareness is another off-season activity that keeps their skills sharp. Trampolines, airbags, and, of course, weight room training are all part of the training rigors.
The team attended their first competition of the season, Futures Tour at Copper Mountain, a halfpipe competition, on December 5. Cael had a strong performance and made it to the finals. He fell on his first run but had a great second run and placed 4th overall. Axl did not make finals but showed strong improvement in his halfpipe runs.
The boys attended the Rev Tour Halfpipe competition on December 20 and 21. This is a higher caliber competition than the Futures Tour. The boys will continue to train through the winter break and attend a Slopestyle event in Park City at the end of January. In February, the boys will compete at Mammoth Mountain, California, Aspen, Colorado, and Park City, Utah. In March the team makes its appearance at Mammoth and Park City again, and in April they end the competition season at Copper Mountain Colorado for nationals. Coach Nester states, “I expect the boys will improve just by gaining more experience in high-level competitions.”
As the team coach, Nester enjoys being able to share his professional background in skiing as well as his passion for the sport. “The two boys on the Freeski Team have blown the barn doors off my expectations! Already the faculty and other students are noticing the hard work and focus it takes to compete at this level. Simply, the gain is watching the team thrive,” said Nester.
For those students who just want to enjoy the fresh powder that Utah is known for, the Wasatch Academy recreation ski and snowboard program is alive and well. Students can enjoy an exclusive ski-in ski-out lodge right on the slopes at Brighton Ski Resort each weekend of the winter season. “My favorite part of the recreation program is watching student faces as they come in and flop down on the couch. Big smiling faces all winter long,” said Nester.
Follow the Freeski Team and recreation programs on Instagram: waskiingandsnowboarding