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20 Organizations Making Winter More Accessible

By Morgan Tilton

Skiing for All

Nothing compares to the giddiness of flying down a snow-covered slope on a piece of dressed-up wood. We all remember that first day on skis or a snowboard. 

Skiing hasn’t traditionally been the most inclusive sport. These companies and organizations are working to change that. PHOTO: Chris Bartkowski

But even in the simplicity of this sport’s joy, experiencing that inaugural morning of snow-sliding isn’t easy. Often, heading to the ski area can be prohibitive for many people due to the high cost of gear, transportation, and education as well as stereotypes.

Fortunately, a handful of industry pioneers are helping to make ski resorts and these sports as a whole more accessible to newcomers nationwide. 

Among dozens of nominations, here are 20 organizations, nonprofits, companies, ski areas, and brands that help make downhill skiing and uphilling more inclusive and accessible.

Alpine Skiing

Snowbasin Resort 

Located in northern Utah and east of Ogden, Snowbasin Resort offers the Learn & Earn Program, an award-winning multi-year program that reduces the cost for newcomers to skiing and snowboarding. Over the course of three winter seasons, adults and kids receive full-day and private lessons, a season pass, and gear for a capped price ($699-$849 for adults)—and in season two, participants keep their equipment. The program recently received the 2022 National Ski Areas Association Conversion Cup Award for introducing new folks to downhill snow sports. 

National Brotherhood of Skiers

Founded in 1974, the nonprofit National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS) unifies ski clubs that are led by people of color across the country. Today, NBS continues to provide ski and snowboard trips and education for economically disadvantaged youth and adults through the organization’s 53 affiliated clubs nationwide. NBS also hosts an annual summit for skiers and riders of color—and is celebrating the 50th Anniversary Summit in 2023—plus an Olympic scholarship fund to support competitive athletes. 

PHOTO: Courtesy of National Brotherhood of Skiers

Winter4Kids

Founded by Schone Malliet, the private ski slopes of the National Winter Activity Center provide a fun, educational-rich haven for inner city youth through the Winter4Kids nonprofit. Located in Vernon, New Jersey, the program offers free-of-cost youth ski and snowboard education interwoven with life mentorship. Students are provided with snow sports equipment, winter clothing, and healthy meals at each session over the course of six meetups per season. 

Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center

In Colorado, the world-renowned Breckenridge Adaptive Ski and Snowboard School provides adaptive ski and snowboard lessons to people with various disabilities from autism to visually impaired and offers a range of methods: four-track, three-track, mono-skiing, and bi-skiing. Operated by Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC), the school also provides a 5-day mono-ski camp to help athletes refine their skills or learn race techniques. The programs are all provided at a reduced cost and scholarships are available for those in financial need. 

PHOTO: Dani Ammann

Chill Foundation

Founded in 1995 by Jake and Donna Carpenter, the founders of Burton Snowboards, The Chill Foundation offers free-of-cost snowboarding programs for inner city youth which includes all the gear and group transportation to and from the city hub to the ski area. Throughout the day’s snowboard lesson, value-based discussions take place such as topics on social, racial, and climate justice. The end of the day wraps up with a debrief and lessons on how to integrate their new lessons into everyday life. The Chill Program also includes at DEI strategy that includes an increase of staff diversity as well as amplifying the voices of marginalized youth. To date, programs are offers in Baltimore, Boston, Burlington, Chicago, D.C., Denver, Los Angeles, Manchester, New York City, Portland, Reno, Salt Lake City, Seattle, and West Michigan. 

Park City Mountain

For kiddos across Utah, Vail Resorts offers the Epic SchoolKids Utah Pack completely free of cost. Kindergarteners through 5th graders get five days of lift-accessed skiing or riding at Park City Mountain. 

Mt. Holiday 

It’s not often that the nostalgia of mom-and-pop ski resorts remains preserved, and it’s especially surprising given current lift ticket prices. On the edge of Traverse City, Michigan, the local ski hill Mt. Holiday still offers up economic lift tickets for $20-$30 daily and $15-$25 rentals. To top it off, the ski area also offers scholarships for families in financial need.

Youth Sports Alliance Park City

The Youth Sports Alliance Park City received the 2022 Aspen Institute Project Play Champion award for the organization’s focus on after school programming in the rural communities of Summit and Wasatch Counties, Utah, in addition to an increase of Latinx participation. The organization is also a recipient of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Russel Wilder Award for service to youth. Close to 30 percent of the participants are low income students that receive full scholarships and equipment to enjoy the snow. The Get Out & Play program includes transportation and is available for elementary students. The ACTiV8 is provided for middle and high schoolers including home schooled youth.

High Fives Foundation expands the ski culture's reach
PHOTO: Chris Bartkowski

High Fives Foundation

The High Fives Foundation provides door-to-door resources and community support for folks after life-changing injuries. Including grants for participants, the nonprofit helps athletes with disabilities get back on snow with a focus on positivity and mentorship. To date, the organization partners with Achieve Tahoe at Alpine Meadows, National Sports Center for the Disabled at Winter Park, and Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports at Killington. Participants join from across the country. 

Vermont Fifth Grade Passport

Nearly 20 ski areas across the state of Vermont participate in the Fifth Grade Passport, a $20 per season program that allows fifth graders three days of alpine skiing at each ski area. 

No Boundaries

Based in the Northeast, the organization No Boundaries was launched eight years ago to funnel regional lift ticket deals to members at no annual cost. In March 2022, they connected members with a free day skiing at Black Mountain of Maine, for instance. They also fundraise to support Youth Enrichment Services, a nonprofit that introduces Boston youth to skiing and snowboarding. 

Share Winter Foundation

Share Winter is a grant making organization that studiously vets youth ski and snowboard programs nationwide then provides donations for 3-5 years of program development: at least 4 days of skiing and snowboarding are required for each program participant. The organizations sticks around for monitoring and support of the programs, too. The grants are distributed to urban and rural areas, public schools, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Clubs, non-profit ski mountains, and departments of recreation. 

Colorado Ski Country USA

For $59, the nonprofit Colorado Ski Country Ski Passport program provides a youth ski pass to 20 ski areas statewide that includes four days at each partner resort. Students must be in the 3rd through 6th grade. 

Uphill and Backcountry Skiing

Monarch Mountain

Mom-and-pop ski area Monarch Mountain offers the annual Backcountry Day: a full lineup of skills clinics, gear demos, and educational talks on backcountry exploration. Based in Colorado, all of the lessons are accessed inside the ski area boundary. The event is also free of cost and open to all experience levels. 

Making Ski Culture More Accessible
PHOTO: Courtesy of Monarch Mountain

Weston Backcountry

Every year, Weston Backcountry launches scholarships to help newcomers, especially disadvantaged populations, get into the backcountry. This year, the organization is partnered with SheJumps to offer six spots for women among AIARE Level 2 courses in the Cascades region. Weston Backcountry also provides a free-of-cost backcountry video called Slay at Home, on-resort demos of their backcountry gear, and a community through the Weston Backcountry Community Facebook group to meet backcountry partners.  

Voile BIPOC Backcountry Scholarship

Voile recently launched an essay-based contest for BIPOC-identifying (Black, Indigenous, people of color) individuals to share why they want to get into the backcountry in exchange for multiple scholarships. The grand prize is a $1,600 credit toward backcountry gear and $500 toward avalanche safety education followed by a second place prize: a $700 stipend for gear and $500 toward avalanche safety education. 

Inclusive Ski Touring

The Inclusive Ski Touring nonprofit helps to introduce folks to ski touring and splitboarding through weekly group meetups, open to all uphill experience levels, to ascend the slopes at Mt. Abram in Maine. Ski touring rentals area available on-site. The $15 uphill ticket is provided to members free-of-cost. A women’s-specific uphill touring series, led by women, is also offered throughout the season in addition to the weekly morning and afternoon in-bounds tours. 

Coalition Snow 

Coalition Snow, one of the first-ever snow sports companies owned and operated by women, recently introduced an annual Indigenous Backcountry Scholarship with ambassador Deenaalee Chase-Hodgdon. Five recipients each receive $1,000 cash scholarships toward avalanche training plus backcountry skis or a splitboard and a beacon, shovel, and probe.  

SheJumps

Dozens of women throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado can apply for SheJumps Snowpack Avalanche Scholarship Program to support AIARE Level 1 or 2 course education. Plus, 50% of all recipients are reserved for women of color. The organization also offers an Ikon Pass scholarship to women of color. 

Tahoe Backcountry Alliance

To help lower travel costs for backcountry enthusiasts while mitigating trailhead impacts, the Tahoe Backcountry Alliance partnered with Tahoe Sierra Transportation to offer free shuttles for backcountry skiers and splitboarders. The first-come, first-serve shuttle offers residential pick-ups and trailhead drop-offs in the west and north regions surrounding Lake Tahoe.

Read How to Help Someone with a Developmental Disability Get on Skis

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