The raucous bouts of sing-along and chanting only stop long enough for a new CD to issue forth from the backseat: Usher, Kanye West, John Legend; eventually we just settle for the radio—95.5, “Portland’s Party Station.” Snowdays staff member Kelly Stoecklein may be driving the van up Interstate 26 to Mt. Hood today, but the students are definitely in charge of the music.

The Snowdays Foundation started out as a simple brainstorm between pro rider Travis Parker and Jefferson high school teacher Patrick Edwards to get some of Edward’s students up on the mountain and snowboarding. Both share a love for the sport, and a deep recognition of the positive impacts that experiencing the outdoors through snowboarding has had on their lives. They are also both well aware that the financial and social means required to go snowboarding are a boundary between many kids and the reality of going riding.

The Snowdays Foundation was started with the goal of giving kids that very opportunity—bringing under serviced and underprivileged Portland area students up to the mountain. The first two years realized this goal to modest success—one on-hill day in 2004, followed by another on-hill day and Snowdays’ incorporation as a legitimate non-profit in 2005.

For 2006, the shape and size of Snowday’s scope has changed dramatically. A partnership with nationally recognized Portland area nonprofit Self Enhancement Inc (SEI), along some aggressive fundraising has expanded the program to include some 2000 students for potential outreach, and has boosted the number of on-hill days from one to eighteen.

Hence the twenty students running amok in the Timberline lodge. It’s a fairly nice Saturday, and the Snowdays group is taking up a sizeable chunk of real estate in the already crowded lodge. The Snowdays Staff and volunteers are running around with bags of outerwear, helping hands on stinky rental boots, and looks of shock; the twenty students are each somewhere in the process of getting on snow clothes, renting boots, putting them on, renting a board, and stretching. The first hour, as Snowdays Staff member Pete Acker puts it, “is always a mess.”

Regardless, the chaos eventually subsides, the successful results apparent as all twenty kids assemble outside the lodge for their lesson, fully garbed and with a board in hand. The group splits up into first timers and those with a bit of experience, and the students get down to the business at hand: learning how to snowboard. It’s as much of a learning process for the volunteers as the students- coaching someone to do something that has become second nature is as complicated and frustrating as the first time itself.

It takes a while, but the students are quick learners with good attitudes. I grab a few of the more advanced riders and go off to explore one of the other lifts. It’s an emotional roller coaster, watching the kids alternately get it and then crash and burn, but by lunch time the crew is hungry for more.

After a tasty bag lunch, we head out to a higher lift, lapping the Stormin’ Norman chair, and then taking a windy and frigid ride to the top of the Magic Mile for the wicked view and our last run. Down at the bottom, the lodge is packed with sore but stoked students, this time sans shred clothes. Back in the van, the vibe is all excitement- learning to shred and hanging out in the mountains is unanimously agreed upon as a good thing.

The jams emit from the speakers, and the van rolls back to town. Snowdays is in the middle of a year packed full of success. The students get to shred, and the volunteers get to interact with individuals they probably wouldn’t other wise; worlds expand, and opportunities are realized. All that and we get to listen to “Diamonds are Forever …” Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.