What’s better than getting gifts during the holidays? Getting — or in this case, giving — gifts that give back.
Blow the dust off that bin in the garage labeled “snow gear.” Broom the cobwebs off that stack of skis leaning in the corner. Throw those last-season (or 10 seasons ago) jackets and pants in the washing machine (with tech wash), and get them ready for their next adventure! If you live in a cold climate, you probably know exactly what we are talking about.
Even the best of us (minimalist, gear-swap-loving folks included) have an old stash of outgrown gear. Wondering what to do with it, or where to take it this season? No, not to the local thrift store or the refuse station. This gear has the opportunity to do much more: namely, increase kids’ access and inclusion in snowsports.
Your (or your kids’) past-season gear can keep a kid warm and dry during their first snowboard lesson. Instead of collecting dust, it could be the crucial piece for a child to develop core values over years of a skiing and snowboarding program.
So gather up every pair of gloves, goggles, jackets, pants, boots, skis, and snowboards, and join us this holiday season in giving the gift that keeps on giving.
What to Do With That Gear? Donate to Youth Programs
Did you know that there are ski and snowboard youth access programs that center on underserved youth? Maybe you’ve noticed a large group of littles, waddling around the learners’ area, paper tickets dangling from jackets, and mismatched gloves swinging from wrists. Maybe you’ve read a headline about Vail donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to a nonprofit, feeling proud to ski at a resort that does good.
But, what have you done to welcome these groups to your resort? Have you thought about donating money to sponsor a youth through your program? Have you wanted to be involved, but aren’t a ski instructor, or don’t have time to volunteer? The answer: donate old gear.
SOS Outreach is one organization that facilitates a child’s first experience at a ski resort while fostering belonging, community, and life skills. Their mission is to “change young lives, building character and leadership in underserved kids through mentoring outdoors.”
When risk factors — like low income, mental health struggles, or foster care — look like roadblocks on their journey, the program helps navigate these challenges and builds stronger, more resilient, youth.
SHRED Foundation honors a “feel, fail, flow” mentality that comes from the “style, joy, and freedom” inherent to snowboarding and skateboarding. Their mission is “to provide life and career skills to youth” through these sports.
In both of these programs, the outdoor activity is the vessel for positive change, giving kids the same shot at their dreams as the rest of their peers. Sometimes, this is as simple as bringing an adult mentor into the youths’ lives, when they otherwise wouldn’t have one.
Getting to learn a new sport is the cherry on top. Sounds perfect, right?
The Financial Cost of Ski Gear
Most assume that financial cost is the only deterrent. Although fear of not having the money, or having to ask for the money is a factor, even with scholarships, there are other barriers for why some youth never get into snowsports.
Youth, whether they’ve grown up in an urban center or mountain town, may only associate snow with shoveling the driveway. Or only be familiar with wet, heavy snow (not amazing, fluffy powder). Another reason: Without the proper gear, snow is cold, and not very inviting.
Finally, many of the youth in SOS Outreach’s program are people of color or speak English as their second language. When they trudge up the steps of a resort, they usually don’t see faces or hear voices that look or sound like them. Skiing and snowboarding can be a very foreign and confusing experience, but it doesn’t have to be.
This Is Where the Gear Comes In …
… so kids feel as warm, safe, comfortable, and as rad as any other child on the hill! Wearing an outfit that fits and feels good is important for everyone’s skiing or snowboarding experience.
We all want that neon Helly Hansen jacket, the fun fleece onesie, or those sick magnetized goggles from Smith. The kids in these programs deserve to feel the same confidence from proper gear as anyone else on the slopes.
So pass it along. One parent who recently donated shared, “I’m glad they’ll be used again/for the first time. I don’t like waste and this is a great solution.”
If you don’t already have items to donate, start sorting through your kid’s gear now. Did they ask for a new pair of goggles or skis? Did they grow out of their jacket and pants last winter? Those are great items to pass along.
Don’t have kids? Tell your neighbor or friend about the opportunity to donate, and offer to drop off the gear. Don’t know anyone with kids? These programs serve high school students also, so adult-size clothing is of use too.