SOS Program Starts New Year Off on the Right Ski
If you’re a kid growing up in Leadville, skiing or snowboarding should be at the top of your winter “to-do” list. But for many local children, the rising cost of getting out on the slopes, turns that desire into a deterrent.
Thankfully there’s the SOS Outreach, Learn to Ski Program. And this year it’s giving 35 young, outdoor enthusiasts from Leadville, a winter’s worth of instruction along with some life lessons.
“This is the first year that we have 4th year students,” said Sara Pederson SOS Coordinator for Leadville. “That means that after this year, they will have completed the main part of the program, they will be the first graduating SOS group from Leadville. And next year, they will be the first group of Junior Sherpa’s ever in Leadville SOS!”
The group started out the New Year with a ride day last Saturday, Jan 5. And two of the SOS kids won Bronze Medals in the Cooper Cup the following day with their Sherpa, Terry Plott.
There are 9 volunteer Sherpa’s this year, giving a substantial amount of their time “to hang out with these kids, teach them about goal setting, and leadership skills,” explained Pederson. While participating in the SOS program, youth are paired with an adult mentor, or Sherpa, that provides each participant with a positive role model and the necessary additional support. Sherpas help students to understand and implement the SOS core values, discover their self worth and become better functioning members of the community.
Along with the dedicated coordinator and sherpas, the program would not be possible without the generous support from Ski Cooper who assists with lift tickets. And we can’t forget Paul Copper from Bill’s Rentals who has a family ski legacy that dates back to when people used to call it Cooper Hill. Bill’s Rentals provides discounted seasonal rentals to the students.
“The program wouldn’t be possible without Paul’s contribution,” said Pederson.
SOS Outreach was founded in 1993 in the Vail Valley. As a nonprofit organization, their programs build character and self-esteem in youth through outdoor activities in addition to curriculum.
Ironically, it began with a group of snowboarders; SOS actually stands for Snowboard Outreach Society. These shredders wanted to expose underprivileged youth to the mountains, as well as to the sport of snowboarding. Since its founding, SOS has expanded across individual winter sports to include skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing while incorporating a youth development curriculum.
According to the SOS website, each of the programs offers a value-based leadership curriculum that enhances the experiences for students by promoting self-respect, positive relationships, social skills, and positive values all while participating in an outdoor sport. During program days students discuss and discover the meaning of the SOS Five Core Values; courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom, and compassion.
The group is also involved with several local service projects, including the animal shelter, the Elks Lodge, St. George’s Church, and the Swan Center horse rescue in Silverthorne.
At the local level, the program has helped to support itself through the annual SOS Outreach fundraiser held annually at Leadville’s West Park Elementary School. So if you attended the spaghetti dinner in November, bought something at the event or are a business who contributed to the silent auction – pat yourself on the back – you helped a local kid learn to ski/snowboard this season!