A Day with Coombs Outdoors

A Note From Team Share Winter: On the surface, youth learn to ski and ride programs across the US seem similar. All it takes, however, is one visit to a mountain or conversation with a Director to realize that each program Share Winter Foundation funds is as different as the community it serves. Over the next year, we are excited to show you a behind-the-scenes look at our grantee programs- from what they do best to the challenges and barriers they navigate. Share Winter is committed to dismantling the traditional funding approach and allowing our grantees to be open with us about what works and what doesn’t – so we can all grow together. Telling authentic stories is part of that journey.

Coombs Outdoors, formerly the Doug Coombs Foundation, operates within a community synonymous with big mountains and winter culture – Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Share Winter is an enthusiastic funder of Coombs Outdoors because of their commitment to supporting youth from childhood through early adulthood, first in introducing youth to the outdoors, then in helping youth take mentorship and leadership roles within the industry. Coombs Outdoors also helps the Jackson Hole community navigate complex questions about who has access to the recreation that destination mountain towns are famous for.

Below, Coombs Outdoors Program Director Maggie Shipley hops on the Summit Lift at Snow King Mountain and spends a day with participant Marco, learning about Snow King through his eyes. Coombs Outdoors Marketing and Communication Manager Lily Krass tells the story.

By Lily Krass – Coombs Outdoors

Marco is six years old and he loves to ski. 

Every Saturday morning, Marco and his family show up to Snow King Mountain, Jackson Hole’s in-town ski hill, geared up for ski lessons through Coombs Outdoors. 

Photo: Orijin Media / Zach Montes

Photo: Orijin Media / Zach Montes

On this particular Saturday, half a foot of snow has fallen, and everyone is antsy to get up the mountain. Marco’s older sister, Quetzally, is in 5th grade, and splits off in the morning to meet the older kids in the Coombs Club ski program. Marco waves goodbye and joins his instructor, along with three other kids, eager to get on the lift with his friends. 

After a quick warm up run, the group hops on the Summit Lift, a 1,600-foot ride to the top of the mountain which accesses Snow King’s expert terrain. An adventurous run through the soft bumps in the trees takes the group towards the midmountain cat track, and Marco spots a small drop at the bottom of the trail. He zips through the trees, jumps off the roll and lands on the cat track. “That was SO much fun,” he hollers, still laughing as the group carries on down the mountain.

Last winter was Marco’s first season on skis, and he took to it faster than almost any other young skier in the program. He bobs up and down on the chairlift, keeping himself warm as the snow piles up on his jacket, excited to get off the lift for the next lap. “I love all the secrets on the mountain,” he says, referring to all the hidden runs he loves to explore in the trees. With a grin that only a six year old could pull off, he takes off into the forest with his group trailing behind him.  

Photo: Orijin Media / Zach Montes

Photo: Orijin Media / Zach Montes

Marco’s mom, dad, sister, and cousins have all learned to ski. On Sundays, the family comes to Snow King to ski together outside of their own lessons. Marco loves his lessons, but he says he loves skiing with his family even more. “I love to ski with my dad and sister because they show me cool stuff,” he says, pointing down from the lift to skiers snaking through the trees. “But I love to ski with my mom too, she only learned to ski two years ago.”

Marco is the kind of leader that encourages other kids to love skiing too. On the Summit Lift he waves at skiers riding by below him, shouting encouragement and cheering for them as they make their way down the mountain. When he slides out on a slick patch of ice, a short wave of frustration washes over his face before he bursts into laughter, back to his feet to give it another go. He leads the rest of the kids through some of his favorite lines through the trees, and each time the run drops off onto the cattrack, he stops and shows his classmates how to ski through safely. “You can do it!” he says with encouragement as he watches one of the younger skiers struggle to weave through the trees behind him. 

Marco is the kind of leader that encourages other kids to love skiing too.

Throughout the winter, Snow King is buzzing with activity from the Coombs Learn to Ski programs. Kids arrive for lessons every day of the week, geared up and both nervous and excited for ski and snowboard lessons. This season is the biggest winter yet for Coombs Outdoors, thanks largely in part to support from the Share Winter Foundation. Coombs is providing winter ski programs for over 300 participants this winter, with 200 of those in introductory ski and snowboard lessons at Snow King.

Photo: Orijin Media / Zach Montes

Photo: Orijin Media / Zach Montes

Through the Learn to Ski program, Coombs provides 12 weeks of lessons at Snow King, season rentals, and ski passes, all at little to no cost for the participants. Coombs also provides warm outdoor winter apparel, helmets, goggles, and gloves as needed to children and their families. Once they feel comfortable, participants are free to use their gear and lift passes outside of their lessons, to ski together as a family like Marco’s, or join their friends on the weekends. One of the best things about Snow King programs is the accessibility from town. Situated right in the heart of downtown Jackson, Snow King is often a walk or easy bus ride away for Coombs participants. 

Once they feel comfortable, participants are free to use their gear and lift passes outside of their lessons, to ski together as a family like Marco’s, or join their friends on the weekends.

As Marco gets older, it is the goal of Coombs Outdoors to continue to connect him with purposeful outdoor recreation opportunities. Coombs’ Activate, Engage, and Empower programs create inclusive and age-appropriate outdoor experiences for students as they rise through elementary, middle and high school. Starting with introductions to a wide range of outdoor activities, including alpine skiing, the organization’s year-round programming evolves with each child, providing consistent mentorship, support for involvement in recreational and local teams, leadership and life skills development, and an increase in confidence, independence, and sense of belonging.   

Coombs Outdoors believes that every kid growing up in the mountain town should have access to the amazing opportunities for recreation Jackson holds. 

Smart, curious, and a natural leader, Marco brings a contagious energy to skiing that inspires us to continue to grow the Coombs Outdoors Learn to Ski programs. Coombs Outdoors is honored to have the opportunity to watch kids like Marco grow up on the slopes, and can’t wait to see where skiing takes him.

About the Author

Lily Bio.png

Lily Krass performs a wide range of duties for Coombs Outdoors including, managing social media, monthly eNewsletters, grant writing, and administrative support for fundraising and activities. Lily graduated from the University of Colorado, majoring in Spanish and Italian, while pursuing a career in skiing/outdoor journalism. When not at Coombs, she works as a freelance writer, with work published in a number of well known magazines.

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