Teaching More Than Turns “Kids need to experience positive things in their lives. If we didn’t havethis, all of us would be partying and doing bad. It helps me to believe I can do something and besuccessful. When I am on the slopes I am a ‘snowboarder’ not a ‘criminal’ or a ‘bad kid.’”-Tim,sixteen-year-old LeArnie to Ride participant A positive experience was what Arnie Menconi, founder andcurrent president of the Snowboard Outreach Society (S.O.S.), was in search of back in 1993 whensnowboarding’s negative stereotypes were still hindering its acceptance at many of the country’s resorts. Inan effort to change this perspective Arnie, with the help of some local business owners in Vail, Colorado,held a one-time halfpipe charity event to raise money for Project Challenge, a nonprofit organization thatbrings kids with severe burns, cancer, or AIDS to the mountains to ride.
The event was a success, raising close to 2,000 dollars and setting the S.O.S. concept into motion. The years that followed saw the programgrow steadily. Thanks to Arnie’s determination and the generosity of supporters both within and outside thesnowboard industry, the single fund-raising event at Vail has blossomed into a winter-long program where250 at-risk youths experienced a five-day “LeArnie To Ride” adventure over the ’97/98 season-a total Arnieexpects to better this winter.
Enjoying five days of snowboarding, instruction, and the beauty of themountains is something we all love, but the Snowboard Outreach Society strives to offer more. Between thelines is where the real gift of S.O.S. lies. Creating positive relationships, building self-esteem, and achievingsuccess are life lessons these kids experience while linking their first turns. With S.O.S.’ roots planted firmly,and near-future plans to introduce apprentice and vocational programs, it looks like this group will bespreading snowboarding positivity for years t o come.-Luke Downer