The next generation of skiers and snowboarders are getting a little help from a non-profit you probably haven’t heard of (yet). The National Winter Sports Education Foundation (NWSEF) is a non-profit committed to improving the lives, health, and fitness of youth through winter sports. This year, NWSEF is funding more than 25,000 youth in learn to ski and snowboard programs across the United States, from Nordic skiing programs in rural Alaska to snowboarding programs outside of New York City. Why? Because NWSEF believes that (1) every kid should get a chance to experience the joys of skiing and snowboarding, and (2) getting and keeping kids healthy and active in the winter is an important step in the battle against childhood obesity.
Founded in 2012, NWSEF has a goal of getting 100,000 kids on snow, every winter, by 2028. A big goal, but an achievable one, given that NWSEF is working with a wide variety of programs, partner mountains, and industry leaders, nationwide, to reduce barriers to access and give more kids the opportunity to join in on winter fun.
NWSEF uses their grants as a way to empower organizations and communities, making strategic investments to remove common barriers to skiing and riding such as (1) cost (equipment, lift tickets etc.), (2) transportation, and (3) a lack of someone to ski/ride with. NWSEF funds a wide variety of programs. In 2017/18 alone, NWSEF funded 11 different programs (including 2 not-for profit ski areas), serving youth in 20 states. The grantees operate in urban areas, suburbs, and mountain towns.
By working closely with a diverse group of organizations and programs, NWSEF strives to shed light on improving low ski/snowboard participation numbers, increasing diversity in snow sports, and getting and keeping more kids healthy and active in the winter.
Here are a few examples of NWSEF’s Ski and Snowboard Grantees:
- The Pico School Program at Pico Mountain, Vermont
The Pico School Program is a 6-week ski/snowboard lesson program offered to students in grades first through twelfth in local Vermont schools. Lessons are 90 minutes long, held once a week. NWSEF funded 8 schools for the 2017/18 season, subsidizing costs from lift tickets to bus transportation, helping bring over 350 youth to the mountain.
“Pico Mountain is committed to sharing our passion for an adventurous lifestyle through skiing and riding with our local students,” says Katherine MacLauchlan, manager of Pico Snowsports, Competitions and Child Care. “This is an opportunity many students may not get otherwise, and through this program we are developing a passion for winter sports and love of the outdoors.”
- Y|Ski at Solitude Mountain, Snowbasin, and Nordic Valley, Utah
The Y|Ski Program, operated by the YMCA of Northern Utah, serves youth from the Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah areas. NWSEF supports 175 youth in learn to ski and ride programs, providing assistance for transportation, instruction, lift tickets, and staffing costs.
“The NWSEF’s support for the program is so important. It’s designed to get kids outside during the winter months and gets them to take part in some wintry fun. Youth participating in winter sports not only plays an important role in exercise, but also promotes mental well-being,” explains Rich West, CEO of the YMCA of Northern Utah.
- SHRED Foundation at Windham Mountain, New York
SHRED’s learn to ride program is a six week snowboarding program that brings youth from just outside New York City to Windham Mountain. Each of SHRED’s participants gets 6 lessons, rentals and lift tickets at Windham. NWSEF funding covers transportation to and from the mountain, as well as support for a part-time program coordinator.
NWSEF builds strong relationships with each of its grantees, and funds programs, on average, for 3-5 years. The goal is for the funding to last long enough for programs to establish a strong foundation, analyze outcomes, produce data and acquire additional funding. NWSEF’s system is called “game-changing grantmaking.” At its core, this process is a partnership with the grantees, their communities, and local ski areas in an effort to introduce more youth to these sports and create pathways to lifetime participation.
“I have been doing youth programming through snowboarding for over ten years, it is really difficult to find a funder who understands the importance of simply getting kids to the mountain,” explains SHRED Founder Danny Hairston. “As snowboarders, we intrinsically understand the life skills and life-changing experiences snowboarding brings. I am grateful for NWSEF because it allows SHRED the ability to bring a whole new generation to snowboarding while remaining truthful to the spirit of the sport.”
NWSEF is on a mission to share winter. If you’d like to help, you can get more information by visiting www.nwsef.org or emailing email@example.com. You can also follow National Winter Sports Education Foundation on Facebook and Instagram.
Constance Beverley is the CEO of the National Winter Sports Education Foundation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.