The next generation of snowboarders are catching the 7AM bus. Hop in.
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 founder 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.
SHRED Foundation, in Upstate New York, has been a grant recipient of the Share Winter Foundation since 2018. Share Winter is an enthusiastic funder of SHRED because of the organization’s clear commitment to supporting lifelong snowboarders who lead the winter sports industry forward. One conversation with founder Danny Hairston is all it takes to know you are in the presence of someone with a deep commitment to the youth in his community and a leader who will be celebrated for generations to come.
By Danny Hairston, Founder – SHRED Foundation
Waking up at five or six on a Sunday morning to catch a 7AM bus is not your typical middle or high school student fare. Yet that is the experience for over fifty SHRED youth for six weeks every winter. Over the past five years, our youth have come to celebrate “SHRED Sundays” – a term that they affectionately coined themselves. The goal when I created SHRED was to create not only the ability for youth to go snowboarding, but for them to become snowboarders. I wanted them not just to experience the activity but to be active participants in the culture.
Snowboard culture began when Jake Burton Carpenter decided to reinvent the “Snufer” and formed it into the modern snowboard. SHRED formed in much the same way. Both a snowboard and SHRED represent the idea of looking at something that you love and imagining how it can be improved on. To me, the core ethos of snowboarding is taking something that exists and tweaking it so that it becomes something totally new.
Both a snowboard and SHRED represent the idea of looking at something that you love and imagining how it can be improved on.
I never snowboarded as a pre-teen or teenager. Prior to starting SHRED, I worked for over a decade in youth development. I found snowboarding through my youth development work. The love I developed for snowboarding, plus the realization of the life changing promise it had for youth in disadvantaged situations, set me on the path of continuing to work in snowboarding-based youth development organizations. After leaving New York City for the Hudson Valley, I was introduced to the rich snowboarding culture here in the region. Daniel Broadwell, a regional sales rep, approached me and suggested I use my experience to create an Upstate learn to ride program. After numerous conversations with him and others, we launched SHRED in 2014.
Whenever our youth talk about SHRED, their experiences, and what they value about the program, the first thing you hear is, “SNOWBOARDING!!!” When asked further, however, the overwhelming consensus is that they value being able to hang out with friends, bond, and share something that they love and never thought, before SHRED, that they would be doing. “Community” is a value we foster, so I always smile when I hear it affirmed by our youth. At SHRED, we share not only the understanding of community and how it relates to the rich snowboarding culture that exists in the Hudson Valley and Upstate New York, but the importance of community as a whole.
The hour and a half bus trip from Newburgh, New York, through the Hudson Valley, to Windham Mountain Resort in the Catskills is always surprisingly energetic given the early time of day. Mrs. Cordero, who runs the Boys and Girls Club, has been with us from the start of our partnership with the club. She makes every trip and helps with attendance. With other volunteers, she interacts with the youth on the bus. Over half of our youth have been in the program multiple years. The familiarity has helped create the SHRED Sunday culture.
Over half of our youth have been in the program multiple years. The familiarity has helped create the SHRED Sunday culture.
Our more experienced youth help create a sense of ease for our new beginner groups. Most of our beginners are youth who have joined through word of mouth from these returning students. It isn’t uncommon for an experienced SHRED student to help a new one understand the extremely unfamiliar snowboard equipment. Even learning to put on snowboard boots is an obstacle our first year students have to navigate. Making sure that all youth have obtained and are fitted into their rentals is an all hands on deck endeavor and one our veteran youth help with immensely. Once the rental department is navigated, these returners actively seek out the volunteers and instructors they have worked with over the years. Our first timers, on the other hand, are introduced to the Windham Snowboard School instructors. Every year, these instructors volunteer specifically for our group and they are instrumental in donating not only their time but used outerwear and equipment. One instructor always remarks on how good he felt when he noticed one of our youth in equipment he donated.
SHRED is proud to have youth who have been with us for multiple years. In past programs, I watched capacity dictate programming. It’s disappointing to everyone when youth are introduced to snowboarding only to never have the opportunity to return to the mountain. When I see youth return to the snow year after year and go on to be leaders and instructors, I know we’ve created a framework that successfully addresses this issue.
When I see youth return to the snow year after year and go on to be leaders and instructors, I know we’ve created a framework that successfully addresses this issue.
SHRED is about so much more than just introducing snowboarding. It is important to us that we create snowboarders. On the bus, in their lunch groups, and on the hill with their volunteers and instructors, SHRED youth discuss their goals for the season. For “never-evers,” it is graduating from the beginner hill, getting on the lift and successfully riding a green trail. For second year youth, it is going from green trails to blue. For third year students the goal is to successfully complete the Junior Instructor Program that we provide through our partnership with Windham’s Snowboard School.
The completion of the Junior Instructor Program allows for our youth to obtain their instructor’s credentials so that in their fourth year they can work for Windham’s Snowboard School as instructors. The students who complete are also excited to be able to teach the new SHRED youth who enter the program as never-evers. Additionally, through our partnerships, youth who go into year three are provided with their own snowboarding gear so that they can complete the instructional program and also snowboard outside of program days. With our host mountain relationship, our youth are able to receive free lift tickets. Thus, through our partnerships, we are able to help eliminate the barrier to entry that exists within snowboarding. Additionally, we work with partners such as Union Bindings, CAPiTA Snowboards, Coal Headwear, ThirtyTwo and EVO to create additional career opportunities within the snowboarding industry. Partnerships not only help us eliminate barriers to entry on the mountain, but also address barriers within the industry in regard to diversity.
Partnerships not only help us eliminate barriers to entry on the mountain, but also address barriers within the industry in regard to diversity.
In creating SHRED, I could not have asked for a better partner than Share Winter. Previously, my experience when it came to snowboarding was that organizations had to create curriculum and programming that catered to whatever funding existed for youth development. This made it easy for organizations to fall into mission creep and have the snowboarding component become the window dressing or the “hook” for other outside influenced outcomes. As a non-profit professional, to have a funder who not only shares our vision but is also there to provide the technical and organizational support to grow said vision, is a rarity.
For SHRED to be a Share Winter recipient and a partner means the world to us. It gives us the confidence to know that we can continue our mission, uncompromised, and provide the youth we serve the ability to achieve whatever their minds and hearts can envision.
Loading the bus to head back home offers up smiles that only a day of snowboarding can provide. The return trips are full of conversations of the trick that was landed that day, the turns that were linked, and the prideful anticipation of first year students being able to go up on the chairlift the following week. On this given day, one participant yells over to two of his friends upon getting off the bus. There is still a foot of snow on the ground and he is stoked on his snowboard set up we awarded him that morning. “Yo…let’s hit the park hills! I still want to snowboard!!!”
In the end, this is what it is all about.
About the Author
Danny Hairston is the Founder and Executive Director of SHRED Foundation. He is former Senior Program Manager for Stoked Mentoring and former Fundraising and Event Coordinator for Burton Snowboards’ Chill Foundation. Danny is an avid snowboarder and has worked for ten years helping to write curriculum and implement youth development programs utilizing boardsports.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org