If there's one thing I've learned about snowboarding, it's that the sport is a lot like life. You fall down—a lot. You get up, brush yourself off, and keep going. When you're learning, you get bruised up and banged around. You heal. With persistence and determination, you eventually reap big awards—like swooshing down a mountain on a bluebird day—carefree, connected to nature, in complete control of your physical self.
SOS Outreach is a nonprofit that uses snowboarding, skiing, and snowshoeing to teach "Core Values" such as courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, and compassion. Started in 1993 as Snowboard Outreach Society, the organization merged with Meet the Wilderness, a summer adventure program, in 2009.
Now, SOS Outreach serves nearly 5,000 young people each year with the help of 45 mountain resorts. And this summer, 18 students in their program attended the Olympics in London. Not too shabby for a group of at-risk kids from Colorado.
SOS Outreach can use your help this winter. Here are three ways you can use your winter sports talent for good.
1. Snowcore: This is a one- or two-day mountain excursion where kids learn to snowboard at Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, or Beaver Creek. Volunteers help youths navigate the rental shop, get fitted for gear, and assist instructors throughout the day's lessons.
2. Learn to Ride Programs: These are longer programs (five days) centered around introducing a new core value each day. Pro instructors teach the lessons—you'll be there to provide encouragement, tips, and positive reinforcement for those that need a little extra help.
3. Winter-long Mentorship Position: If these shorter volunteer opportunities are a good fit, consider a longer comittment for next year. SOS Outreach matches up participants with a sherpa—a mentor who works closely with SOS youth for an entire season. Typically sherpas sign on for 10 hours per month, from September through May. Find out more about how to be an SOS sherpa here.
—Image courtesy of Shutterstock