Getting kids outside might seem like an antiquated yet obvious sentiment, but for many young people, consistent outdoor participation (like skiing and snowboarding) is far from a reality.
SOS Outreach (a non-profit that inspires its participants to ski, tackle the terrain park, or navigate their first double black) gives us these 6 reasons why kids need to get outside and play.
Headquartered in Eagle County, Colorado, with eight additional program sites across Colorado, Utah, California, Oregon and Washington, SOS’s curriculum empowers kids to build their confidence on and off the slopes, acquire healthy habits, learn how to take advantage of community resources and exemplify academic improvement when they return to school. For those who lack the financial means, transportation, or positive adult role models, SOS not only offers low-cost participation, but also an entire support system.
By positively impacting youth and our communities, SOS Outreach and Liftopia aim to make skiing and snowboarding more accessible to the masses.
1. Outdoor recreation promotes healthier, more active lifestyles.
It is no secret that Americans are trending towards a dangerously sedentary lifestyle—overweight and obesity rates for US youth have doubled over the past two decades. Outdoor recreation is a proven remedy to obesity, disease, poor immune systems and decreased life expectancy, not to mention, it’s awesome.
Adventure sports like skiing and snowboarding make physical activity enjoyable, provide the excitement lacking in other forms of exercise, and often result in lifelong participation.
SOS participant Noah recently told us, “SOS has taught me how to go out of my comfort zone. When people talk about me, they’re like ‘Oh Noah, he does crazy stuff, he’s the one that goes out and does cool stuff outside, but before SOS, it really wasn’t like that at all. I’d stay inside and not be active, not get out at all.”
2. It’s not all just physical—there are mental health benefits of skiing and snowboarding too.
The majority of mental health ailments—stress, depression, poor self-worth, to name a few—have all been proven to dissolve through outdoor activities like skiing and snowboarding.
Kids involved in outdoor recreation also find that they discover things new things about themselves. There is a lot that goes into a person’s identity and for most of us, our hobbies and passions play a huge role. When outdoor activities are viewed as a form of self-expression, young people find an escape from the stressors in their lives, strengthen their identities, and define themselves in a way they may not have previously.
As an organization that recruits youth who come from lower socioeconomic families, SOS Outreach works with youth who are hindered by more risk factors than the average kid. Pacific Northwest participant Aaliyah recently told us, “Growing up in my family wasn’t easy. We needed more than we had and I allowed myself to be angry. I refused to do my homework or listen to my teachers. My mom needed to work long hours and we couldn’t afford daycare, so I had to take care of my sister.” Aaliyah’s experience is not unique – stories like these are common amongst our students.
3. It builds confidence.
Outdoor recreational experiences have been proven to increase the self-confidence of participants. Though skiing and snowboarding can be group activities, they are fundamentally individual in nature. Unlike most sports, there’s no one waiting on the sideline to sub you out and your progression depends entirely on your mental toughness and willingness to push yourself to improve.
SOS Outreach capitalizes on this, aiming to harness the inherent power of individual sports, while providing support to youth as they develop their leadership abilities. SOS participant Maria tells us, “Before SOS I wasn’t that confident. I was shy to lead the group. I was shy to raise my hand in class and stuff like that. As the years and my time in SOS went on, I’ve started talking more and began taking charge. SOS teaches you to be a leader, not a follower”.
4. It builds stronger communities.
Recreational opportunities are essential to a healthy community, plain and simple. They bring neighbors together, encourage safer and cleaner shared spaces, and contribute to the cultural fabric of our communities. Recreation reduces alienation, loneliness and isolation, drawing people out of their homes and into the community. For young people, positive outdoor outlets are exceptionally important, as free time presents as a risk factor more often than not.
SOS prioritizes expanding recreational opportunities to provide low-cost participation for the children who live in our communities. In an increasingly diverse world, it is more important than ever to find common ground and bring people from all walks of life together. Our communities depend on our ability to make connections with our fellow community members, despite our differences. In our mountain communities, on-hill sports are just about the most common thread that connects us. By fighting to include our communities more marginalized populations, we are increasing commonalities, supporting cultural sensitivity and learning to work together.
One of our local elementary teachers, who doubles as an SOS Coordinator and recruiter, recently explained, “There is a visible rift in the classroom between the kids who have grown up skiing and those who haven’t. Unfortunately, this rift further polarizes the class among racial lines, as the kids who ski are predominantly White and those who don’t are predominantly Latino. SOS is changing this. Last winter, I witnessed the SOS kids connecting with the kids who had grown up skiing in a way that they never had before. In a community as diverse as ours, participation in SOS programs have proven to be an equalizer.”
5. It promotes greater academic achievement.
Evaluations continue to demonstrate that young people who participate in outdoor recreation, like skiing and snowboarding, perform at a higher academic level than their peers. Through outdoor participation, kids gain a wide array of skills necessary to build and strengthen academic achievement.
Physical activity leads to increased brain functioning imperative to high academic achievement, with concrete connections between increased activity and stronger concentration and memory skills.
Many youth based organizations (including SOS) also encourage increased academic performance as a requirement for participation in the program. SOS participant Alex told us, “SOS really encourages us to do well in school and I like that, because I don’t just want to be successful athletically, I want to be successful academically too.”
6. It cultivates environmental responsibility.
There’s no better incentive to start taking care of our shared outdoor spaces than the understanding that someday in the not-too-distant future, they could be gone. America’s young people must be engaged in outdoor participation to ensure healthy and active communities, as well as a future for outdoor conservation efforts.
SOS strongly encourages participants to consider the interconnected nature of the mountains, the lakes, the forests and, most importantly, their role in the protection of their community’s natural resources in order to ensure outdoor recreation and enjoyment for many future generations to come. Not only is SOS dedicated to introducing youth to the outdoors, but strives to cultivate responsible young stewards to protect and enjoy our shared outdoor spaces responsibly.
SOS Outreach would not exist today without the time, energy, commitment and enthusiasm of individuals just like you. Each year, they rely on the support of a diverse group of over 800 volunteers on and off the mountain.
No matter your experience or skills, if you have a passion for inspiring youth, we invite to join our ranks. We have an array of meaningful projects ranging from working outside with our youth programs, supporting events and off-mountain opportunities at each of our program sites. To learn more and get involved, visit www.sosoutreach.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.