For the past three years I have been looking forward to the start of February for a new series of storms to start rolling though, but also for the annual CHILL program to start up again at Brighton Ski Resort. Jake Burton founded the CHILL program in 1995 as a way to give back to communities and help fellowship disadvantaged youth to get motivated in learning to snowboard. Not only does Burton and their support sponsors pay for lift tickets and instructors, but also donate gear to be used by over 1,000 kids annually. It’s a huge undertaking to round up these kids and get them to the resorts around the country and they need all the support they can generate. Which is where me and other volunteers come into the picture. Each year I dedicate six weeks to the program and help teach, mentor and shred with kids, who some have never been in the mountains before, to actually get snowboarding down in six days. We meet up at the Salt Lake gear space and gear the kids up before bussing them up the mountain, usually between 5-8pm; they receive over an hour of instruction time and up to two hours of free-riding time. Each week is also themed into life lessons in patience, persistence, responsibility, courage, respect and pride. These lessons encourage the kids to stay dedicated to learning something new and also a time to reflect on the individuals around them and the support from their friends and peers.
Week one started as the others before it, mostly with a lot of confusion. The groups of fifty kids are composed up of seven agencies from the Ogden and Salt Lake Valley. Nearly all of them have never been to a resort before or ever put on snowboard boots and clothes. The learning curve is steep the first week, but levels off after the second and third weeks. Once we get to the mountains, the group breaks up into smaller, manageable, packs and they receive instructions from certified snowboard instructors working at Brighton. This is a tremendous advantage for kids to get the necessary, hands-on help they need to understand the basic functions and mobility of this foreign sport. Although, within an hour, each kids is on the lift for the first time and starting to grasp the basics of edge control and balance. Sometimes the frustration is palpable, but when the going gets tough, the tough get volunteers! We encourage and lend knowledge where we can when the instructors are off the hill during free riding. I have been there before and have learned to assist when I’m needed. The rewards are full grins and high-fives.
Today I helped introduce fifty more riders to a sport that has changed my life. For the next five weeks, this passion will be spread across all their faces and will be eagerly awaiting each drive up to the resort and another new adventure to be had. Thanks Burton for providing such an amazing program. Brighton Ski Resort for implementing a Learn-To-Ride program and working with CHILL. And finally the other volunteers and instructors that help change lives for the better every day!
To help support or get involved with CHILL, please visit the site here: Burton CHILL