What if I told you that Dylan Alito isn't the objectionable punk you think he is? That under his greasy mop of hair, ripped flannel vest, and Coors stained t-shirt, there is another Dylan—one who defies assumptions based on his well-established reputation.
Image and identity are coupled. For Dylan, this has meant a presumed character rooted in unapologetically not giving a fuck. Few have crafted a persona as polarizing and contentious in snowboarding's modern era. But people mature—and there is often more lurking beneath one's constructed exterior.
Such is the case with Dylan. I recently found an unlikely reality underneath his thorn-studded shell. Don't get me wrong; Dylan still has no interest in conforming to this industry's mold, but you'd be remiss to conclude that's where his story ends. So you tell me, Dylan Alito: renegade or role model?
You've been involved with some admirable charities lately. How did that start?
Last year I started working with Never Summer, and they gave me my first pro model snowboard. One of the stipulations I had was that I wanted a portion of every board sold donated to a charity or foundation.
In my mind, I wanted a foundation that has nothing to do with snowboarding. I know a lot of people work with Chill and similar programs, and that's awesome, but just because the people I work with aren't part of the snowboarding community, doesn't mean they aren't part of our community, you know?
I work with people with special needs. These people are part of our communities, our cities, our state, our country, and our world. This is a worldwide problem and something that I've been passionate about for a long time. My mom had three miscarriages before me that were all special needs. She works with special needs kids, and growing up I was always hanging out with them.
A lot of people in the snowboarding industry can be greedy. A lot of people sell out, and they don't give back. That is something that I have always looked down upon.
What kinds of things have you been doing?
When it comes to Never Summer, the boards are just about to hit the stores, so we will be able to donate money to charities soon. I currently hang out with the kids every Friday. We go do different things—theme parks, waterparks, batting cages, stuff like that—just to hype kids up and teach them basic social skills. We are going to get them on the hill too, and even though it might be the only time they ever do it in their life, I think it will be something cool that they'll have to look back on. Just to be like, "Yeah, I went snowboarding!".
What's the name of the group you are working with?
It's called Gold Star Learning. What's crazy is there are 50,000 people on the waitlist for getting help. What's even crazier is that $5,000 can only sponsor one person for a summer. So to sponsor all of these people on the waitlist will cost over a quarter of a million dollars. There are a lot more people out there with special needs than we really even realize.
Wow, I never thought about that issue in terms of those numbers.
Yeah, I had no idea either when I started working with them. I almost feel like everyone in society should be giving back to some sort of group, just to keep us all grounded and our society moving forward in ways that aren't only driven by finances.
How many people are currently involved in the program?
They are growing like crazy; there are probably 115 kids, and then 40-50 adults. What is really crazy is that a lot of them are so special needs that they truly need a lot of attention. Most employees are on a 1:1 basis, so for the 150 or so people there, they have 130 adults being paid full-time to watch them. I'm one of the only sponsors they have—one of the only people donating a lot of money or time.
How long have you been involved with them?
Just about a year now, but I wish I had been doing something all along.
Did you get any sort of reaction when you first approached them?
At first they didn't really know what was going on or why I wanted to help. They were excited though. Now we work a lot closer. With my background in snowboarding, I know how to help with some marketing and event stuff. We are trying to set up a fall festival where everyone works different jobs so we can teach them basic skills. You know, ticket takers, food servers, stuff like that. But that has been a difficult process too.
I can only imagine. It's incredible to hear you're doing this. I must say though, it comes as a bit of a surprise given the image you've crafted over the years.
I think in a lot of people's minds, I would be the absolute last person to do this. I put out the image of some punk, devil worshipping, loud, or angry kind of guy. But that's not necessarily who I am.
What do the people you work with think about the fact that you're a professional snowboarder?
You know, I don't even think they recognize that I am a pro snowboarder. They are so grateful to spend every minute with someone that wants to hang out with them. They don't care who you are or what you do.
That must be pretty cool for you as well, to not always be the professional snowboarder.
It is. That is one thing a lot of people rely on. Like, "Oh I'm a pro snowboarder," when they're trying to get girls. One of my go-to moves for a while at the bar was telling girls I was a trash man. I wanted people to like me for me, and not just being a snowboarder.
So what are the goals you have, both looking forward to this coming winter and beyond?
I just finished up real estate school yesterday and got my license. It was the first time in ten years that I've put my brain to use. I want to keep that going. When it comes to snowboarding, I by no means want to back down or stop. But also, working with this foundation, I would someday like to raise money to help build them a school. Whether that comes through snowboarding, or real estate, or any other job I find. That is the long-term goal. Short-term is just to keep shredding and hopefully be able to spread this positive image through the snowboard community. Hopefully I can influence some of the other big dogs that are making six figures to take some of that diabetes money that they get from the energy drinks and put it back into the community.
There are a lot of opportunities to incorporate the different aspects of your life in this endeavor.
Yeah, I mean that is one of the sad things about professional snowboarding—a lot of friends that I grew up riding with, we all dropped out of school and had no path or place to go after snowboarding was done. We partied too hard, spent too much money, and then when you get out of snowboarding, you're like, "Damn. I have no life skills or anything." If I had stayed in high school and finished, I still would have had a career starting at 19. Instead, I dropped out at 16 and made a bad name for myself running around doing drugs and drinking in Breckenridge. I had a terrible reputation, but I had a hell of a time doing it. Now I'm finally starting to grow up.
Was there any instance in particular that was a bit of wakeup call?
You know, I can't think of one instance as a wakeup call, but I think it was more of a slow transition over the years. I have always felt like a bit of a black sheep in snowboarding. And I guess that could be one reason subconsciously, just like, "Oh everyone in this industry thinks I'm a pile." I think having this new pro model snowboard was a good start to donate money and give back.
Are you self-conscious of how people perceive you?
You know, I used to think it didn't really affect me, but lately it has more and more. Once people have made a judgment, nobody wants to give you another chance. As much as I still don't give a fuck—I mean, I had a beer bong in my ass last night—I also don't want to be seen as an asshole while I'm doing my thing and having fun.
What would you say are opportunities or entry-level steps for people that are interested in getting involved and helping out?
You know, I think the most basic thing is the biggest thing—time. Time is the best thing you can donate. I think it's important to just go out in your community and be there for the people that need it. Do something for your friends or family, or if you have the time, donate it to a charity. That's even better. But if not, any small step you can take with anyone around you is a good one.