We’ve long understood that mountains are some of the best teachers | Photo: Jon Resnick | Cover Photo: SOS Outreach

All too often, kids growing up in lower income neighborhoods simply don’t have the means to ski or snowboard due to the sport’s prohibitive entry costs. After all, the price of buying skis, bindings, boots, poles and goggles along with all the necessary apparel – gloves, ski hat, ski coat, long underwear and more – adds up fast. With all the lift tickets, gear, and travel required, it’s easy to see why some people don’t have access to the slopes.

Thankfully, one of the ski industry’s biggest players, Vail Resorts, Inc. is hoping to close the engagement gap in skiing and riding by bringing the best sport on Planet Earth to under served youth throughout the country.

As part of its Epic for Everyone Platform, Vail Resorts’ CEO, Rob Katz announced a significant expansion of its current youth access efforts with plans to launch new programs at resorts that serve major metropolitan areas, including New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, Cleveland and Seattle. The company will provide free lift tickets, ski school, equipment rentals and other services to local non-profits who will in turn, provide youth mentorship for enriching on-mountain programs across Vail Resorts’ growing portfolio.

“There is already incredible enthusiasm for getting kids on the mountain, and Elana and I feel fortunate to be able to support and accelerate these efforts.” – Vail Resorts CEO, Rob Katz

Rob Katz and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, will personally donate $10 million over the next five years to participating non-profits to help develop and expand programs, fund transportation and support other needs necessary to provide mountain access and engaging experiences.

“I am incredibly proud of the work our company has already done to broaden engagement in the outdoors and am very excited about the opportunity to dramatically grow our reach,” said Katz. “There is already incredible enthusiasm for getting kids on the mountain, and Elana and I feel fortunate to be able to support and accelerate these efforts. We look forward to working closely with many of our existing partners, such as SOS Outreach, as well as other organizations already focused in this area, such as the Share Winter Foundation, to truly make a difference in the lives of kids and teens, and within the sport itself.”

Come together, right now | Photo Credit: SOS Outreach

The Katz Amsterdam Charitable Trust will immediately work to identify non-profit partners and begin making charitable donations to allow the new and expanded programs to begin next season. The Trust will be looking for non-profits who work with underserved urban youth and are passionate about the benefits of getting kids outside. Through direct grants from the Katz Amsterdam Charitable Trust, and in some cases EpicPromise grants, participating non-profits will receive funding to help with transportation costs, cold weather gear and other needs necessary to run a successful and enriching program.

Vail Resorts Youth Access By The Numbers

  • In-kind Charitable Contributions – $5.6 million/year
  • Underserved Youth – 4,600 kids provided access to the mountains in 2019
  • Projected Growth – 10,000 underprivileged kids to be granted access to the mountains each year, including service to urban populations like Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Kansas City, Milwaukee, New York City, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington D.C

The new youth access initiative builds upon previous initiatives to improve accessibility. Others include the new Epic Day Pass, a highly-discounted pass product for new and occasional skiers and riders, the Military Epic Pass and Epic School Kids, which offers free days of skiing for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade in certain regions like Colorado, Utah and the Pacific Northwest.

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Ski areas that will serve specific cities include: Hunter Mountain in New York; Mount Sunapee, Attitash, Wildcat and Crotched in New Hampshire; Stevens Pass in Washington; Liberty, Roundtop, Whitetail, Jack Frost and Big Boulder in Pennsylvania; and Alpine Valley, Boston Mills, Brandywine and Mad River in Ohio. Each resort will provide on-mountain access (lift tickets), ski and ride lessons, equipment rentals and lunch, all free of charge to participating non-profit programs. Each youth organization will have their own approach to how they administer their programs with participants.

The Katz Amsterdam Foundation and Trust will begin looking for nonprofit partners in the targeted urban areas. Individuals or nonprofits that already have outdoor access programs or are interested in beginning one should contact info@katzamsterdam.org.

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