How does a lifelong love of skiing or snowboarding begin? An introduction to the sport from other passionate skiers and snowboarders, in addition to the gear, lessons, and access needed to participate. Vail Resorts is committed to removing barriers to entry and creating a more inclusive sport through its Epic for Everyone youth access program.
“Representation is really important…Now, I am really not afraid of going out and trying new things just because I feel like I might be the one that is different.” – Aya, Epic for Everyone Youth Participant, Girls Inc. of Chicago
“When my teacher first introduced me to it, I was really scared. I was like ‘Oh, I don’t think I can do this.’ The mentors were really encouraging and helped me.” – Esmerelda, Epic for Everyone Youth Participant, SOS Outreach
During the 2021/22 winter season, Vail Resorts hosted more than 8,000 youth who otherwise might not have had access to skiing and riding across its North American resorts. For years, the company has partnered with nonprofit organizations, like SOS Outreach, to support youth near many of its resorts including Vail, Park City, and Heavenly. Recently, Vail Resorts expanded the program to focus on reaching youth in major cities surrounding its regional ski areas. Last season, more than 10% of the participants were from these major cities—including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago—made possible through new partnerships with organizations like the National Brotherhood of Skiers and Boys & Girls Clubs.
For the upcoming 2022/23 winter season, Vail Resorts will add more than a dozen partnerships with nonprofit and youth development organizations working to support youth of color. With this expansion, the company plans to host 9,000 youth across 29 resorts and provide approximately $9 million in product contributions. While programs vary by partner, a typical Epic for Everyone youth access program provides five free on-snow sessions including ski and ride school, meals, and equipment rentals, plus two additional free lift tickets to continue practicing with a guardian. These services are combined with mentorship, including an introduction to career opportunities like snowmaking, operations, and ski and snowboard instruction.
To accelerate the expansion, Vail Resorts Executive Chairperson Rob Katz and his wife and New York Times bestselling author, Elana Amsterdam, will provide $1.6 million in grants this season to remove barriers to entry, including transportation, staff capacity for partner organizations, and apparel to 25 partners, through their family foundation, the Katz Amsterdam Foundation and Charitable Trust. In addition, Vail Resorts strategic partners Helly Hansen and PepsiCo are coming on board with donations of soft goods, food and beverage credits, and financial contributions.
Vail Resorts properties with youth access programs include Afton Alps, Alpine Valley, Beaver Creek, Boston Mills/Brandywine, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Crotched, Heavenly, Hidden Valley (MO), Hunter, Jack Frost/Big Boulder, Keystone, Kirkwood, Liberty, Mad River, Mount Brighton, Mount Snow, Mount Sunapee, Northstar, Okemo, Park City, Roundtop, Seven Springs, Stevens Pass, Stowe, Vail, Whistler, Whitetail, and Wilmot.
Quotes from Vail Resorts, the Katz Amsterdam Foundation and the National Brotherhood of Skiers
“The future of our sport is inclusion,” said Kirsten Lynch, CEO of Vail Resorts. “I feel we have a great responsibility to remove barriers and inspire a passion for our sport. Skiing and snowboarding are for everyone and we are grateful to our non-profit partners who help us introduce the sport to more participants each year.”
“It was inspiring to see the new Epic for Everyone youth access programs come to life last season across so many different locations,” said Beth Ganz, executive director of the Katz Amsterdam Foundation. “These programs work so well because of the partnerships we have with incredible organizations like the National Brotherhood of Skiers and Boys & Girls Clubs who are rooted in these communities and work with these youth every day.”
“This generous grant from the Katz Amsterdam Foundation and Vail Resorts gives us an opportunity to expand our youth outreach program from four clubs last season to nine this season, and almost double the number of youth participants to 615,” said Lee Valentine, executive vice president of the National Brotherhood of Skiers. “We are excited to build upon the program’s successful first year to further our mission of promoting snow sports within underrepresented communities. We welcome the opportunity to strengthen our partnership with Vail Resorts and we commend them on their long-term commitment to this program. This is a win for the youth in those communities that we both serve, but it’s also a win for an industry that is looking for ways to increase diverse participation in the sport.”