About 400 kids from Wasatch and Summit Counties participate in a winter program that offers underserved youth a chance to learn to ski and snowboard.
Vail Resorts was one of the original founders 25 years ago.
The national non-profit SOS Outreach program has been in Park City for the past four years. It replaced the long standing Nino's on Skis program which had operated for more than 20 years in Park City. SOS Outreach Utah Program Manager Abby Eddy says their objective is to increase access and diversity in the snow sports community. They work with Summit and Wasatch County school districts to determine who is eligible to participate.
“We work with students in grades 4 through 12 and we provide a progressive program for them. So in the first year or two in the program they do a program of learn to ride, which we partner with ski school at Park City and they do five Saturday or Sundays of ski school, and then they learn about the sport. And each week during that we talk about one of SOS’s core values."
They integrate six core values into the program which are courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, compassion and humility.
“We try to integrate those lessons into their time with ski school and then once they have a good foundation of skiing they move into our mentor program.”
Students move into the next level of the program where they are divided into small groups with an adult mentor. They receive a season pass from the resort and in addition to the lessons they learn on the mountain, they participate in life skills off the mountain.
“So, once a month they go skiing with their mentor and then one other time a month they're doing a service project with their mentor or a life skills development workshop, talking about coping skills, empathy and responsibility and communication and debriefing and reflecting with them as well. So, it's more explicit and more obvious for them.”
Eddy says the program requires kids to participate in community service efforts which could be anything from volunteering at Swaner Eco Preserve, The Christian Center or working at the Nuzzles and Co ranch.
“Seeing themselves as truly part of the Park City community of which giving back is such a huge pillar of being a member of this community.”
Gear, clothing and passes are provided for the students either free or for a nominal fee because they want to break down the cost barriers for participation. SOS Outreach is focused on skiing and riding, but Eddy says they plan to open a summer program this year.