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This snowboarding and skiing-focused high school is about to get a U.S.-first feature

Wy'East camp coaching
Wy’East camp coaching Image used with permission by copyright holder

High school can be a rough time. Even if you fit in, many kids have interests that aren’t mainstream for their environment. It’s sometimes difficult to “find your people” in school. It’s not that their communities don’t exist; they may not exist at the school they have to attend.

But what if the school was their community? What if the school supported those kids in achieving as much academically as with the sports they’re passionate about?

What if the school had a perfect graduation rate and supported students in pursuing their lofty goals of becoming a professional athlete?

What if the entire school was also a skate park?

Enter Wy’East Mountain Academy, a small school nestled in the hills of Oregon near Mt. Hood. Given its graduation rate of 100 percent and the number of kids accepted to four-year colleges and universities (100 percent of graduates), it would be fair to call it a “prep school.” But the kids who attend aren’t “preppies” by any stretch. 

Wy'East Academy classroom
Wy’East Academy classroom Image used with permission by copyright holder

A unique school with a mission

In some ways, Wy’East is like any other high school; students are expected to excel academically before the extracurriculars are possible. If you don’t keep your grades up, you can’t ski, snowboard, or mountain bike – which is why kids go to WyEast in the first place. 

Students are high-school age, which is by design. “Our student body tends to skew towards older students because moving away from home for school is usually a step that families do not take until they are 18,” Mike Hanley, Head of School at Wy’East, tells The Manual. “Typically, roughly 20 percent of the student body is 7th-9th grade, 20 percent in 10th grade, 30 percent are juniors & 30 percent are seniors or post-grads.”

The accredited curriculum is bespoke for each student. WyEast tells us the coursework students take is online-based, with teachers on-site to help them with their work. In a classroom, you may see a senior working next to a sophomore, each doing their own thing. Moreover, it’s plausible two seniors would have unique coursework, too. Though sports are foundational for WyEast students, their education remains paramount.

Wy’East isn’t a large school. Last year’s graduating class was 19, the school’s largest-ever class. 

Wy’East also isn’t cheap. Tuition is $59,500 per year. Hanley adds, “We are able to help offset those costs up to 20 percent for qualified candidates” who meet academic, athletic, social, and other needs-based requirements for tuition assistance.

Small and expensive, Wy’East is 100 percent worth it for the right type of student. At Wy’East, the extracurriculars are why kids are there; students attend the school because it has facilities that support their passions. For starters, the entire school is a skate park – literally – and there’s a massive barn (or B.O.B. – “building out back”) with a 12,000 square-foot indoor skate park, fitness room, and trampolines to help perfect tricks.

Wy’East staff tell us students are encouraged to compete in the sports they love, typically twice yearly. Like in a traditional school, kids have to keep up with their schoolwork before they can compete. 

The school’s mountain bike trail is intense and growing; there are several ski and snowboard dry slopes to choose from, too, where Wy’East plans to stand out in the coming years.

Wy'East Academy dry slope and airbag
Wy’East Academy dry slope and airbag Wy'East Academy

A U.S.-first for Wy’East Mountain Academy

Wy’East is currently fundraising to get a massive dry slope installed, which would be the first of its kind in the United States and second in the world. It’s the same type of dry slope Olympians practice on, and Wy’East hopes to attract more snow sports students with such a marquee feature.

The dry slope is a massive downhill jump that launches students skyward before a giant airbag cushions them before they hit the ground. It’s a popular, modern method for extreme sports athletes who want to push boundaries without risking injury. 

And you may have seen it before. The slope and bag were designed (and will be manufactured by) BangerBag, who own and operate the only other dry slope of this kind in Austria. The Wy’East bag is 80 feet wide and 200 feet long. 

This U.S.-first slope and bag will allow skiers and snowboarders to “ride out” tricks rather than simply being caught by the bag. The bag has a 30-degree sloped landing zone, which is meant to simulate natural competition conditions. 

Wy’East expects the airbag will attract students, but it’s also hoping to get more professionals and Olympians training at the facility, too. Wy’East Mountain Academy’s goal is to foster the next generation of global ski and snowboard talent. We already have a world-class training facility, but the addition of this new airbag will allow us to become a destination for aspiring riders worldwide. We made it clear to our donors that we were investing in only the best tools for progression, and we couldn’t be more excited to serve riders in such a big way,”

— Kevin English, Wy’East president

And Wy’East is close to fully realizing its project. The $3.5 million slope and airbag are set to be completed by Fall 2024, but Wy’East is still raising money for a Magic Carpet to transport students up the hill. Until Wy’East gets the $500,000 necessary to install the Magic Carpet, students can walk uphill if they like, but English notes this isn’t ideal. “This [type of] uphill transportation mechanism allows the world’s best high-performance athletes to train more effectively and safely. When people come from around the world, it will allow them to expend more energy on hitting the jump instead of hiking a hill. 

The Magic Carpet will also increase safety. By conserving energy to safely reach the lip of the jump and perform the maneuver they are practicing or learning, the incidence of injury will decrease.”

Due to the severe incline of the hill that the dry slope will sit on, the Magic Carpet has to zig-zag up the mountain, which requires a bespoke build-out. The trail for the Magic Carpet is already being dug, and it’s the same path students will use to walk up the hill until the carpet is installed. (The artist rendering, seen above, shows a straight uphill conveyor gondola system, which Wy’East staff tells us will not work for the needs of its students.)

Wy'East Academy full campus
Wy’East Academy full campus Image used with permission by copyright holder

Why this matters for Wy’East

The dry slope and airbag are game-changers for the Mt. Hood snow sports scene. The nearby Timberline resort has nearly year-round skiing and snowboarding available, with athletes and influencers often dropping by late in the season to get turns in. A world-class training apparatus like a dry slope and airbag will draw attention and provide more opportunities for Wy’East to continue self-funding and reinvesting in its campus, which it does (in part) via camps featuring athletes.

The Magic Carpet was chosen, in part, because it’s best for all students. Mountain biking is a huge part of the Wy’East culture, and the Magic Carpet will help bikers get up the hill, too. The Magic Carpet may seem like icing on the cake, but it’s an essential final step for Wy’East. The hill is steep; high-level snow sports athletes rely on repetition, which requires efficient use of time, and walking uphill is inefficient. Sure, it’s great for pros, but it’ll be more helpful to students. 

Widen the lens, and you can see this dry slope and airbag help legitimize the Mt. Hood snow sports scene, too. Snowboarding great Shawn White grew up riding at Mt. Hood but had to train elsewhere once his riding reached a certain level. In the future, many skiers and snowboarders can drive a few minutes down the hill to Wy’East to get the professional-grade facilities that will push them – and their sport – to the next level.

Nate Swanner
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nate is General Manager for all not-Digital-Trends properties at DTMG, including The Manual, Digital Trends en Espanol…
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