Mikaela Shiffrin, Nolan Kasper and others will be big skiing names at the Sochi Olympics. You can thank Burke Mountain Academy.

Even though I don’t completely understand why a city would pay for the Olympics, they do start up in a few days — and that’s somewhat exciting, if only for my misguided feelings of nationalism. (I jest.) I’ve started trying to figure out the key events and who to root for — this is akin to reading preseason CFB mags just so I can tell my friends about some sick WR on Wyoming that no one’s heard of — and because I’m in the early stages, I’m still dealing with the big names, like Mikaela Shiffrin, i.e. “the next Lindsay Vonn,” who is literally everywhere right now. She competes in the slalom. She was just profiled on 60 Minutes Sports; here’s a taste.

Basic narrative with her is that she’s young (18), she represents the U.S.’ best hope for a gold in slalom since Vonn is out with an injury, she has essentially a tiger mom, and she’s already won world championships (yes, at 17). Here’s some broader context:

The Sports Illustrated Olympic Preview magazine came out last week. Who’s on one of the four covers? Shiffrin, front and center, smiling alongside the headline: “The Next Lindsey Vonn.”

She is already famous and known simply as “Mika“ in Europe, where last February in Schladming, Austria, her career truly took off. At 17, she became the youngest female world ski champion since 1985 and the youngest American ever to hold a world title.

So far this season, she has won three of five World Cup slalom races and finished second once, making her a bona-fide favorite in Sochi. She could also medal in the giant slalom, where through five races she has a second-place finish and a third-place finish. 

Here’s a key thing to know: at age 11, she enrolled at Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont (Burke Mountain is a ski area in northeastern VT), which is essentially a prep school for elite skiers. Over the years, it’s produced 130 U.S. ski team members and 45 Olympians. I could have this fact wrong, but I think nine of the U.S. slalom members (both genders) are from Burke Mountain Academy. Nolan Kasper, on the men’s side, is a graduate too. Liz Stephen, a cross-country skier, switched from Alpine to Nordic skiing while enrolled at Burke Mountain. (Alpine is basically downhill, FYI.)

When I said nine above, I really meant five U.S. Olympians this year are from Burke Mountain Academy — but still, that’s a ton for one prep school, especially if Shiffrin brings home some gold:

“I learned a lot from Burke,” Shiffrin says. “I learned a lot about time management and about how I need to be able to juggle skiing and school and I really developed a love for learning there, and I made a lot of really close friends.”

Check out this development camp race from Burke Mountain. It’s intense as all hell and these aren’t even necessarily the most elite of the bunch:

It looks like women’s slalom — Shiffrin’s big event — is on February 21; you can get the other Alpine schedule times on that link as well.

Ted Bauer