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New outdoor sports academy to open in Whitefish

By Kevin Lessard, KCFW Reporter, klessard@kcfw.com
Published On: Apr 30 2014 05:58:10 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 30 2014 09:30:36 PM MDT
KALISPELL, Mont. -

A new outdoor sports academy is set to open in Whitefish in January.

Students will focus on academics and practicing mountain sports, such as freestyle snowboarding or downhill skiing.

Billy O'Donnell was a professional backcountry skier who teaches waterskiing in Wisconsin during the summer. He has dreamed of opening an outdoor sports school.

Now, he's turning his dreams into a reality by starting Ridge Mountain Academy.

"Working with student athletes has been a hope of mine for a number of years, and I kind of finally formulated a plan or feel confident that this is the mode in which I want to try and do that with," said O’Donnell.

The academy will teach students for a semester or a year, where they'll spend time training for a specific sport along with academics.

"Learning how to eat healthy, nutrition, cross-training for sports.  You have an education component, an internship component, and then we're going to be training as mountain sport athletes on a daily basis," O’Donnell said.

O'Donnell says the ideal academy student is an advanced senior in high school looking for a different type of semester, or someone who recently graduated but may not be ready to go to college.

He wants to strengthen their passion for sports as well as help them transition from a teen to a young adult.

"It's been a number of years in the works for me, and being able to pull it out and put it together, and look at the way it makes the most sense to structure to get it off the ground has been tough and a challenge. I hope that we're on the right path now, and I feel that we are," said O’Donnell.

O'Donnell hopes to begin the program for the upcoming winter season in December and January.