Dillon Travers ’09 Leaves PA For Olympic Training

Just days ago, Dillon Travers ’09 said goodbye to Phillips Academy in order to pursue his goal of competing in Alpine Skiing in the 2010 Winter Olympics. While most of us were packed into the Chapel for All-School Meeting on January 9, this former Upper packed up and moved out of his Foxcroft dorm room and headed for Aspen. Though his departure seemed sudden to his peers, the decision to leave Andover was well thought out between Travers, his father and his ski coach. In order to train intensely enough to be a viable Olympic competitor, Travers had to go. The Phillips Academy calendar allowed Travers to train about 30 days of the year during winter and spring vacations. This was a dramatic decrease for the passionate skier, who began attending a ski-specific school at age nine and arrived in Andover just months after carrying the torch and reading the opening speech at the 2006 Turino Junior Olympics. Situated in the Les Houches, France, The British Ski Academy (BSA) holds classes in the evening, allowing students to ski every morning in the French Alps. For three years, Travers attended BSA from November to April, in addition to three-to-four-week race-training summer camps in the Alps with both BSA and the Down Hill Only club (DHO) — one of the oldest alpine ski clubs in the world. Such ski academies and camps allowed Travers to train and race on snow for between 140 and 180 days out of the year, in addition to dry land training. This commitment to the slopes produced rapid improvement and several notable successes early in Travers’s career, especially in the Giant Slalom and Super-G. After two years at BSA, he earned not only four first-place medals in international races—at the British Alpine Racing Ski Club, English & Kaunertal (Austrian) and two at the Vail Valley Cup—but he beat everyone in the age group above him in at the English Championships. As an international stand-out, Travers skis with the elite. At the previously mentioned Vail Valley Cup, he outraced the second-place finisher, who later joined the U.S. National ski team. One year later at the English Race, he overtook the skier in front of him who began 30 seconds ahead of . This skier is now a member of the Jamaican ski team. The Scottish Alpine Race that same year proved to be another memorable race for Travers, in which he “crashed on the last gate of the GS and skied backwards across the finish line in third place.” After three years at BSA, Dillon was well-established in the alpine ski world. The British Alpine Ski Team recruited the young teenager and trained him alongside the British and Scottish National Teams, including Alan Baxter, who finished seventh in the World Cup that year. To focus on academics, Travers enrolled in ninth grade at the Harrow School, a boarding school in London. There he competed in Alpine skiing for his school, but on a level nowhere near his previous standards, causing his withdrawal from the British Team. Instead, he skied for the Cayman Islands, competing in the 2006 Junior Olympics in Turino where he placed 77th overall in the Giant Slalom among 140 elite skiers from 44 nations. Why did Travers enroll at Andover? When applying as a new Lower, he was under the impression that PA had a ski team. Four days after his arrival, he realized his mistake. Travers stayed for one and a half years, before making this crucial decision. He said, “Andover is an amazing school. If it was possible to stay there and ski I would, but to be competitive at skiing at my age I need around 200 snow days a year. “My coach said that I needed as many snow miles as possible in all four seasons to get back my technique, strength and confidence as a racer. Two seasons in the Northern Hemisphere, two in Southern Hemisphere, Chile, and glaciers during summers,” Travers added. Travers transferred to the Aspen Public High School, allowing him to ski every afternoon and weekend. He is currently training under Coach Jon Meckem, ex-US Ski Team member and ex-French National Team coach, with the hope of representing the Cayman Islands Confederation and Assosiation of Snow Sports (CICASS), or the Cayman National team, in the 2010 Olympics. In order to qualify, an athlete must compete in races to earn International Ski Federation (FIS) points. Each competitor begins with 999 points at age 16 (Traverss current age), and must reduce his or her score to at least 110 by beating other talented competitors. Travers’s focus right now is to bring down his score to 110 in Slalom and down to 40 in the Giant Slalom by racing this winter in the US, the Alps, and the Southern Hemisphere during the summer. His eyes are on the 2010 Olympic slopes of Vancouver.