Through national ski industry partnerships, Share Winter supplies over $250,000 worth of gear and ski passes to youth learn to ski and snowboard programs across the US.
Ski and snowboard enthusiasts know the wrong gear – a thin jacket on a windy chairlift, soaking wet gloves and frozen fingers, painful blisters from an ill-fitting pair of boots – can lead to a miserable day on the slopes. Layers to brave the cold and well-fitting, functional ski and snowboard equipment are necessary for a great day on the snow. This is especially true for “never evers” experiencing winter sports for the very first time.
Sourcing quality gear for growing youth is an ongoing cost and logistics barrier facing learn to ski and snowboard programs across the United States, but it is not insurmountable.
Share Winter Foundation, a grantmaking and strategic support organization, acts as an invaluable logistics liaison between the winter sports industry and well-vetted, high-impact, youth learn to ski and snowboard programs. In 2021 alone, Share Winter distributed over $250,000 worth of in-kind donations from partners such as Hestra (gloves), Surefoot (ski boots), Shred Dog (outerwear), and Indy Pass (ski passes). These in-kind donations helped amplify and enhance the impact of Share Winter’s grantmaking, supported this winter in part by financial contributions from Head, Rossignol, evo, Seirus, and Salomon.
“Many brands are inundated with requests for products and services, without any mechanism to assess or analyze the individual programs or collaborate for industry-wide impact. That’s where Share Winter comes in. We exist to collaborate with the industry to maximize impact and share resources in a way that grows participation, and creates a more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming winter sports community,” explains Constance Beverley, Share Winter’s CEO.
To facilitate impactful giving, Share Winter routinely surveys their learn to ski and ride program grantees to understand their in-kind donation needs. Grantees provide “wish lists” detailing equipment and outwear needs, including requested sizes and quantities. Share Winter then reaches out to partner organizations and supporters within their network to gather requested goods. Sometimes, gear is sourced from within the Share Winter grantee family itself. For example, in 2020, Share Winter grantee SOS Outreach helped Share Winter meet the outwear needs of fellow grantees the Service Board, SHRED Foundation, and the YMCA of Greater Flint. “Share Winter is creating a shared platform that maximizes impact. Rather than any one program sitting on unused gear, we can come together, share what we have, and get more kids on snow. That is success. That is how we can all come together and create change,” explains Seth Ehrlich, Executive Director of SOS.
Share Winter is creating a shared platform that maximizes impact. Rather than any one program sitting on unused gear, we can come together, share what we have, and get more kids on snow. That is success. That is how we can all come together and create change.
Seth Ehrlich, Executive Director – SOS Outreach
As new industry partners bring additional resources to Share Winter, available donations are assessed and distributed to programs with the highest need at the time, with a focus on programs that will use the gear immediately. Receiving gear, which grantees would normally use grant funds to purchase, frees up funding for other important program needs, such as staffing and transportation. Moreover, the outerwear and equipment sent directly from industry partners is generally of higher quality than individual programs can acquire given limited budgets.
“Not having appropriate winter gear is a huge barrier to having a positive experience skiing and riding. We do our best to find used clothing or cheap gear at area box stores but often it doesn’t fit or isn’t great quality,” explains Brian Godfrey, coordinator of Snow Motion, a Share Winter grantee in Richmond, VT. Snow Motion serves around 1000 youth and needed fifty ski/snowboard jackets for students who were unable to purchase them on their own. Through a partnership with Shred Dog, Share Winter routed 50 high-quality, ski and snowboard jackets to Snow Motion. In total, Shred Dog donated 125 pairs of snow pants/bibs and one hundred jackets, sent to programs in Vermont, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Idaho.
Gloves are the most common “wish list” item from Share Winter Grantees. Many youth that come from non-skiing/snowboarding families show up to their first day on snow with cotton gloves, which often makes for a rough day dealing with cold fingers. Hestra helped Share Winter meet the high demand by donating over 350 pairs of gloves, an in-kind donation valued at more than $35,000. “Hestra’s goal with our donation was to find a partner that was meeting physical needs while also providing avenues to help grow participation and inclusion in our sport,” Hestra Marketing Manager Drew Eakins explained. “Share Winter gave us autonomy and guidance in selecting the right partners who are doing work that aligns with our values of family, heritage, and sustainability. This was a breath of fresh air for us and we’ve been so thankful for a more hands-on partner.”
Share Winter gave us autonomy and guidance in selecting the right partners who are doing work that aligns with our values of family, heritage, and sustainability. This was a breath of fresh air for us and we’ve been so thankful for a more hands-on partner.
Drew Eakins, Marketing Manager – Hestra
Partners come to Share Winter in a variety of ways: direct outreach, an email communication, a connection from other partners, such as Snowsports Industries America, or often, as was the case with Surefoot, LC, an individual supporter or board member.
When Jean Brown, VP of Finance at Surefoot, LC joined the Share Winter Board of Directors as Treasurer, she knew she wanted to create a connection between the organization and her company. That she did. This winter, Brown helped route gently used, high-quality ski boots to Share Winter grantees. Sourced from Surefoot’s innovative “Growing Pains Program,” a buy-back system Surefoot offers to keep kids in well-fitting boots as they grow, 502 pairs of ski boots found new homes at Whaleback Mountain in New Hampshire and Youth Enrichment Services (YES) out of Boston, Massachusetts. The boots shipped from 12 separate Surefoot retail locations, and with help from Share Winter’s Program Manager, Odessa Messina, landed at Whaleback, where their staff worked directly with YES staff to sort and distribute the boots to both programs. The donation, worth over $160,000 dollars, allowed both programs to increase their impact without increasing their budget. It also saved each program the time it would take to solicit donations (in-kind or financial) to fill the need and tackle other challenges.
“Without support, it is difficult for our program to provide youth with accurately sized equipment because new gear is expensive and wears down fast,” explained Sam House, Secretary of the Board of Directors for Whaleback Mountain. “To maintain our ability to offer financial support to our community and keep our prices low, we have to be thoughtful about every penny we spend. Kids come in a lot of shapes and sizes, and updating our rental and equipment fleet with enough quality gear to fit everyone’s needs is nearly impossible.”
As we all know, it takes more than gear to get on the slopes. Share Winter and their grantees work with ski areas around the country to open up affordable lift ticket options for their youth. Share Winter requires all grantees to provide their youth with at least four days on snow. Negotiating and providing additional opportunities beyond those four days is often difficult.
This year, however, through Share Winter partnership with Indy Pass, one hundred lucky Share Winter youth were provided an opportunity to continue their ski season through the spring. Doug Fish, President and Founder of Indy Pass, facilitated the donation of one hundred Spring Indy Passes to Share Winter, an in-kind donation valued at $15,000. Fish explained the inspiration behind his donation stating, “We believe that Share Winter has the right approach. By introducing the joys of skiing and riding to kids across the country [Share Winter is] having a meaningful, positive impact on young lives and the sport.”
We believe that Share Winter has the right approach. By introducing the joys of skiing and riding to kids across the country [Share Winter is] having a meaningful, positive impact on young lives and the sport.
Doug Fish, President and Founder – Indy Pass
Quality gear, functioning equipment, and a pass to call your own are ultimately about more than just staying warm in winter conditions and having access to the mountain – they are also key elements of feeling like you belong on the slopes or at the trailhead. Share Winter likes to think of itself as the industry’s “welcome wagon”, helping to open the doors and unlock the joys of skiing and riding.
“Our youth are the future of snow sports,” explained Bryan Van Dorpe, Executive Director of Youth Enrichment Services – Boston, a program that serves over one hundred youth, all of whom qualify for free and reduced lunch. “They are connected and they have a voice. Young people who have a positive, welcoming experience will keep coming back.”
Our youth are the future of snow sports. They are connected and they have a voice. Young people who have a positive, welcoming experience will keep coming back.
Bryan Van Dorpe, Executive Director – Youth Enrichment Services – Boston
Share Winter is proud to facilitate over $250,000 in industry giving this season and hopes other manufacturers, ski areas, and retailers will join, inspired by these early adopters’ successes and the tremendous impact they’ve had in a tumultuous year. Sharing is, after all, a core value of the organization, a practice that results in mutual value for both learn to ski and ride programs and the winter sports industry at large.
Become a Share Winter Partner
It is time for our industry to invest in the next generation of snowsports enthusiasts. There are many ways to share winter: donate gear, create employment opportunities, volunteer, mentor, donate needed funds, host events, or spread the word.