Most kids who’ve grown up on the streets of major cities have accepted the lives given to them. Opportunity is dictated by their place of birth and the color of their skin, and that’s the way it is. Now, however, there is more to life for the disadvantaged youth of urban environments. In 1995, Burton Snowboards founded a nonprofit, after- school, learn-to-snowboard program called Chill. Chill takes underprivileged and at-risk youth between the ages of ten and eighteen snowboarding once a week for seven weeks. It provides equipment, transportation, lift tickets, and instruction, as well as an opportunity to discover the beauty and serenity of the mountains.

Chill began in Burlington, Vermont, and has since expanded to Boston, New York, Seattle, Denver, and Los Angeles. It provides the snowboarding experience to over 750 kids each winter at these six sites, and has introduced over 2,400 kids to the mountains since its beginning. For many of the youth involved with Chill, simply leaving the city is a life-changing experience. Chill helps to break the dead-end cycle of their lives by expanding their environments and showing them that the “other world” really isn’t as far or out-of-reach after all.

“Chill shows them the participants an alternative to the only world they have ever known. (One that is dangerous, dirty, overpopulated, and without the space and avenues for healthy physical exercise.) By taking them to the mountains, Chill provides an incentive to improve themselves and their lives,” states Chill’s press release. The expansion of boundaries is what distinguishes Chill from other after-school programs.

Chill works through agencies in each city that serve kids. The participants of the Chill program are quite diverse: kids in the foster care system; kids on probation, working to improve themselves so they can return to “mainstream” schools; kids with anger-management issues; kids at-risk for dropping out of school; low-income kids; kids with chemical dependencies; and kids in alternative schools. Some of the agencies actually use Chill as part of the treatment and rehabilitation programs the kids are undergoing.

Jennifer Davis, director of Chill, says, “Chill provides so many benefits to the kids. In addition to removing them from their environments, and giving them the chance to have fun away from the streets, this is an opportunity that these kids would otherwise never have. Chill shows these kids, through snowboarding, what is available to them if they can become contributing members of society.”

Although Burton is the founder and largest sponsor, Chill continually seeks out sponsorships and donations in hopes of adding more sites and involving more kids. Other sponsors at this time include Mitsubishi, Nantucket Nectars, and REI. Any city that has a mountain resort with lights within a one-hour drive is a potential Chill site. For more information call Jennifer Davis at (802) 362-4883 or e-mail her at jennd@burton.com.