Catching airLocal teen invited to prestigious sports academy in Vermont
Anyone who knows 13-year-old Zeb Powell knows about his many athletic abilities — but it was his passion and talent for snowboarding that earned him a spot at Stratton Mountain School for the next school year.
Stratton Mountain School is a winter sports academy based in the mountains of Vermont. SMS combines college preparatory academics with training programs available to alpine and Nordic ski racers and snowboarders.
Stratton Mountain School was established in 1972 as a way for children to train and compete in high level alpine skiing without interrupting their high school education.
Many graduates join NCAA teams, and more than 100 of the school's alumni join national teams or Olympics games. The Olympians include two Gold Medal winners, two Silver Medalists, a Bronze Medalist and several top-10 placements.
After filling out a grueling application and traveling to Vermont to snowboard in front of school officials, Powell has now been invited to try out the new school for a year and see if it’s the right fit. He will be leaving his Waynesville home in November to spend the next six months in Vermont.
“I’m really happy I got it,” he said, adding that he would miss his friends and family. “I get to do what I love best. This is going to open new doors for me.”
Zeb’s mother, Valerie, has always been a huge supporter of his athletics, but she admits to being extremely nervous about him leaving for school.
“Now that we’re only a month away, I’m freaking out,” Valerie said. “It’s a good thing he’s my fifth child. I would have freaked out big time if he had been my first.”
In addition to snowboarding, Zeb is also an avid skateboarder and wake boarder, but he admits that snowboarding is his favorite sport.
Zeb has been snowboarding since he was 9, and is mostly self-taught, though his mom said he has received tremendous support from the community, Luke and Jake Sutton and Bobby Baker at Cataloochee Ski Resort.
After spending many weekends snowboarding at Cataloochee, Zeb said he was ready to work with coaches and snowboard on the hilly terrains in Vermont.
“I’m probably most excited about the new mountains,” Zeb said, adding that he also would get to snowboard on real snow. “The (mountains) are so much bigger — plus they have all the training parks and everything.”
Zeb always told his mother that he would be a professional snowboarder, and she is beginning to believe him now more than ever.
“He’s a freak of nature,” Valerie said with a laugh. “He was walking at 18 months — he’s just had uncanny balance his entire life. We have a little joke about him in our family; we say, ‘He’s happy as long as he’s flying.’”
Zeb has mastered several tricks on his boards and said he hopes to perfect his double flip on snowboard once he gets to school.
Valerie described Zeb as confident and unafraid to try any sport or trick.
“I can really play anything I want — it’s really not hard,” Zeb said. “My friends will ask me to do flips and they don’t expect me to do them, but I just say ‘OK.’”
While at the school, Zeb will be snowboarding all morning and will have academic classes in the afternoons.
“One thing I’m excited about is there will only be about five to 10 kids per class,” Valerie said, adding that teachers would be able to be more attentive to the students. “This may be his one-time shot (at the school). He may not like it, but he could also graduate from there.”
Zeb also has a sponsor, Never Summer Industries, a Colorado-based snowboard and longboard manufacturer, which provides him with plenty of boards.
Zeb will return home from Vermont in April 2014. He said he would just have to wait and see how he likes the school before deciding when to go back.
While he doesn’t know what the future holds, Zeb said he plans to be doing something with sports. He said he might consider living in Oregon someday.
“It has lots of snow,” Zeb said.