Story/Interview November 22, 2021
The Carrick-Smith family on their journey to the Olympics
The Carrick-Smiths have dedicated their lives to mastering the art of skiing. They uprooted from their family home in Scotland in 2005 to pursue a life on the slopes in the beautiful Tarentaise valley in the French Alps. The children’s aim is to compete in the Olympics and studying online at King’s InterHigh has helped them juggle their education while pursuing this goal.
We spoke with the whole family, including parents Emma and Phil, who run the skiing tuition company Snoworks, and their three sons Luca and twins Freddy and Zak, who are all competitive skiers aiming for world titles. Emma has competed at 5 Olympics and Phil was a member of the England Skiing Squad. We asked them about their plans for the future and how online education can help them make their dreams a reality.
What subjects do Luca, Zak and Freddy study?
Phil: Luca is 16 years-old and he is studying A-Level Business. Freddy and Zak are 14 years old. They’re both studying French (as they were born here in France) and Biology as they want to understand the human body to help further their athletic careers!
Emma: All three boys want to set up their own business once they finish competing, so they take Business Studies very seriously. It’s great they have so many passions which could take them anywhere in the world.
When did you realise the boys had a talent for skiing?
Phil: When they put skis on for the first time! They all started skiing at two-and-a-half years-old. Freddy moved his feet like I’d never seen, and Luca was just born for competing – he loves it. Similarly, I remember Zak straight lining a slope and our hearts were in our mouths! Their talent isn’t surprising given their mother is a 4-time Olympian.
Why do you love skiing so much?
Emma: We love the mountains, the fresh air, the scenery, the feeling of harnessing gravity and working in harmony with a mountain. You feel free and able to use such natural power.
Freddy: I really like travelling to different countries and getting to stay in different places. It’s a cool experience!
Zak: I love travelling too, it’s great.
Luca: I love skiing because it’s technical. The feeling of achieving an awesome turn feels fantastic and nothing beats getting faster!
How did you find studying at a traditional school while trying to train?
Phil: It was really tough, the boys had no flexibility and missed out on lots of training. We sent letters to their school asking if we could take a week off for a race. Luckily, they had a reasonable headmaster, but in their previous school we faced significant challenges around taking our kids out of school! It would be impossible to go back to traditional school now.
Freddy: When we were young, we didn’t race or travel as much as we do now, and we could only ski on the weekend because we were at school during the week. Now we’re older it would be even harder to balance schoolwork with skiing because we’re so much more involved with the sport.
Why did you swap to online schooling?
Emma: Training and racing involve so much travelling that it became impossible to juggle in-person education and their ski careers. By the end of this year, we would’ve travelled to five countries to ski. We would never be able to do this if the boys were in physical schools.
Phil: When the kids came out of traditional school, Emma spent lots of her time sourcing tutors for the different subjects they were studying. Some were online, some came to the house and sometimes we were in hotels which was incredibly difficult to organise. Then, Covid-19 hit and it got really complicated. It was a very stressful juggling act! Since discovering King’s InterHigh, we never have to worry about the boy’s education. It’s a weight off our shoulders.
How did you discover King’s InterHigh?
Emma: Our training partner recommended it to us. We looked at it online and went wow! This is for us. We were slightly concerned the kids might struggle with concepts or topics they didn’t understand, but this hasn’t been a problem. The teachers have been very responsive and engaging – it’s great.
What made you decide to change your lifestyle so drastically, moving from a five-bed home for a one-bed flat on the slopes, to support your children’s careers?
Phil: We lived in Scotland when Luca was born but every winter, we travelled to France so we could coach skiing. Travelling so much with a family was tough so we chose to move to France. We found ski resorts too expensive so the only way to live here was to downsize considerably. At one point we had five of us living in a one-bedroom flat, using the bathroom as an office – it was crazy! But it was all worth it as we can focus on the sport and lifestyle we all love.
What would you say to other students or parents considering alternative schooling?
Emma: If a student is sporty or has other passions, online schooling can help them pursue these because they can work wherever they need to. Mainstream school works for some, but online schooling provides you with more freedom. It enables students to build a life they love, around which they can mould their education, which is fantastic!
Do you think online schooling should be mainstream?
Phil: Definitely! Family time is so important and it doesn’t last forever. Stepping into online schooling is scary at first, but for us it only has advantages. It will become more mainstream as more and more parents realise the flexibility it gives you.
Has King’s InterHigh helped you with interpersonal skills?
Luca: We used to get told what to do in previous schools because the teachers would always be there to direct us. When we were being home-schooled, our mum told us what to do! Now I’m developing much more self-responsibility because we manage our own timetables and deadlines. This is an amazing stepping stone to helping us learn independently and it’s only going to get better.
Has online schooling helped strengthen your family unit and training team?
Phil: For our parental relationship, it was incredibly stressful to deal with headteachers at previous schools and then schedule tutoring to support our children’s learning. We found it really hard to juggle schooling with sporting and timing this around the weather. Since joining King’s InterHigh, our stress levels have plummeted. We can easily do everything!
For example, as the boys can now learn from anywhere, we were able to go surfing in September in middle of nowhere! They could bring their computers and as long as we have Wi-Fi, they have access to education. Next week, we’ll be at 3,100 meters high and they’ll be working at the top of a mountain! This has helped strengthen our family bond as we can spend much more time together and create memories we wouldn’t have time for otherwise.
What are you currently training for?
Emma: The boys are training for the Olympics and World Championships, although it’s early days and this is a long-term goal. This year the boys will compete at international races where they will gain the competition points and experience they need to take them to the next level.
Luca has just moved out of the Youth 16 Championships into the Federation International Ski circuit, which means he competes with everyone over the age of 16. This is a really exciting time for him and we can’t wait to see how he progresses.
What are your plans for the future?
Phil: Of course, the boys will continue to compete in skiing competitions, but they’re also pursuing other passions. They all have an entrepreneurial spirit and King’s InterHigh allows them time to develop their business ideas and strategies and apply this to the other subjects they’re studying.
Luca: I’ve started my own clothing brand called Traax clothing. The name relates to choosing your own path in life and about making good choices. It’s an organic brand and I can’t wait to build it further. I’m studying Business Studies at King’s InterHigh which is hugely helpful! One of my teachers helped me set my business up and it’s really exciting!
What other careers would you be interested in had you not pursued skiing?
Freddy: I’d go for surfing because you can take a surfboard and a wetsuit anywhere, whereas most sports are quite expensive.
Luca: I think I’d focus on my business and entrepreneurship and perhaps other sports!
Zak: I’d definitely travel the world making films. I love photography and making videos.
Emma: We feel blessed and lucky to have found King’s InterHigh. It’s transformed the boy’s education. We now feel confident about their future as they have more time to train and travel. The whole family has bonded since they started studying online, especially now they’re in charge of their studies. It’s a revelation.