Lane Henry’s path to a life centered around alpine ski racing has not followed a typical script.
The 12-year-old East Hampton resident has seen more of the world than most people twice his age, but the areas where he has spent most of his young life—the East End of Long Island, New York City and New Zealand—aren’t exactly infamous for producing competitive ski racers or even ski enthusiasts. Yet, the seventh-grader is now enrolled full-time at the Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, a boarding school specifically focused on grooming athletes serious about winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, and he finished the winter season ranked first among 12-year-old boys in southern Vermont by the Vermont Alpine Racing Association (VARA) and Southern Vermont Council (SVC).
Henry has followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Brent Henry, who also attended Stratton Mountain School and was a competitive ski racer but is now back at East Hampton High School for his junior year and is currently a member of the track and field team.
The brothers were introduced to the world of competitive ski racing while living part of the year in New Zealand, where their father, Brian Henry, is from. According to their mother, Kiri Borg, the family decided to spend part of the year in New Zealand and part of the year in East Hampton after the September 11 attacks, at which time they were living in New York City. Lane was enrolled in kindergarten at John Marshall Elementary School in East Hampton at that time, and the family would live in New Zealand during the summer months, which of course were the winter months in the southern hemisphere.
In July 2009, Lane, 9 at the time, and Brent, 13, put on a pair of skis for the first time to join their friends at a small hill in New Zealand. Those friends introduced the boys to the sport of ski racing, and the Henry boys literally took off after that initial introduction. In a short period of time, they were members of the New Zealand junior ski team and traveled to Switzerland, along with their parents, to compete with the team in the winter of 2009-2010. They did the same the following year, living in Switzerland for more than four months, an opportunity that was afforded to them because of their parents’ flexible work schedules. Ms. Borg explained that she and her husband started their own software company in New York City and it was successful in a relatively short period of time, allowing them to go public with the company. While the boys were competing in Europe, they kept up with their schoolwork with a combination of home schooling and tutoring. But Ms. Borg said she knew that that type of arrangement couldn’t last forever.
“We realized it wasn’t a formula that could be sustained, because [the New Zealand junior race team] didn’t have the education part sorted out,” she said.
That’s where the Stratton Mountain School came in. Another young skier on the New Zealand team had recently started attending the school, which has built a reputation for academic excellence along with its reputation for grooming talented young skiers and snowboarders. Attending the school, Ms. Borg said, afforded her children “the best of both worlds.”
Getting into the school is not easy, Ms. Borg said, as it has become popular for families seeking an environment where their children can excel at both academics and the specific winter sports. Last year, when Henry was a sixth-grader, he was granted a special exception to attend the school’s winter session, but this year, he became a full-time student, and was officially the youngest student in the school, which includes grades seven through 12. Students train in their respective sports all morning, have lunch, and then attend school until 5:15 p.m. After school, there is conditioning in the gym, then they prep their skis and equipment and then attend study halls before going to bed and getting ready to do it all over again.
Lane and his family still head down to New Zealand during the summer months in the U.S., where he continues to ski and train, essentially making the sport a year-round pursuit. According to both his mother and his coach, Josh Bedard, that has helped him make big strides, particularly this past winter. In races this winter, Henry was consistently in the top ten and often in the top three, which ultimately led him to the number one ranking in his age group. The season runs from January through the end of March, but the Stratton students attend training sessions prior to the start of the season—they went to Chile in October 2012 and trained in Colorado in November.
Bedard said the time spent skiing in New Zealand went a long way for Henry this past winter.