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Get Involved: SOS Outreach

Share your love of the mountains with Colorado’s underserved youth.

—Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort & Residences Vail

In 1993, Vail snowboarding instructor Arn Menconi realized his sport had a major PR problem: The perception of snowboarders as on-mountain hooligans had gotten so bad that Vail was considering banning all riding. To offer a positive spin, Menconi founded the Snowboard Outreach Society, a nonprofit that organized competitions to benefit local charities. In 1995, the organization became SOS Outreach, which aims to make snowboarding and other Colorado sports more accessible to low-income youth. In addition to supplying kids with gear, SOS assigns volunteer mentors to accompany participants on one- or five-day outdoor excursions throughout the year. To date, the nonprofit has brought more than 45,000 underserved kids into the great outdoors. This ski season, SOS is looking for volunteers to help organize gear inventory, track attendance, and/or mentor kids. While mentors should have experience in the sport they instruct, the most important qualification, says SOS executive director Seth Ehrlich, is “a desire to make a difference in the lives of these youths.”

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Get Involved: SOS Outreach

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.

Get Involved:

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

Follow digital assistant editor Davina van Buren on Twitter at @davinavanburen or on Pinterest.


Get Involved: SOS Outreach

A 2010 U.S. National Wildlife Federation study found that by the time an American child has reached kindergarten they have watched, on average, 5,000 hours of television. That terrifying number is why the nonprofit SOS Outreach is bridging the digital-outdoor gap for kids who could use some time on the slopes.

By bringing kids outside to snowboard, ski, snowshoe, and hike, SOS Outreach’s goal is not only to get them moving, but to build character, self-respect, compassion, and courage—lessons largely absent from Keeping Up With the Kardashians. That’s where you come in.

Get Involved: If you’re going to spend your winter on the slopes anyway, why not share your love with a grommet? Winter Program volunteers spend two to five days on-hill with the kids, teaching them basic skills. Sherpa and Youth Mentors commit to a 10-day, winter-long program that also includes teaching your mentee the importance of giving back by joining him or her for community service projects like volunteering at animal shelters or ringing bells for the Salvation Army.

Have gear but not time? You can donate old boards, tents, hiking boots, and more to SOS Outreach for their year-round programs.

Have money but not time? From now until October 20th, all donations up to $10,000 are being matched by The North Face through their Double the Love campaign. Click here to donate.

To sign up or for more information, contact SOS Outreach at or (970) 926-9292.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock