Higher causes: Giving back & shaping the future with Red Bull snow athletes
© Aaron Blatt / Red Bull Content Pool
Members of the Red Bull snow team are breaking trail and elevating issues that are important to them. Read on to learn how you can get involved, too.
In contrast to the old adage, “no friends on a powder day,” community has always been integral to snowboarding and skiing; professional riders on both two planks and one have long prioritized their roles as leaders, ambassadors, and stewards of the mountains. Upon achieving long-held goals of becoming best in class in their respective disciplines, Red Bull’s team of riders are quick to give back to the people and places that helped them to get where they are today. Whether volunteering to introduce at-risk youth to the excitement of standing sideways, taking action to combat climate change, or raising money to donate to organizations fighting racial injustice, these pros are breaking trail and elevating the issues that are important to them. Read on to get to know the organizations and causes that Red Bull snow athletes support, and learn how you can get involved, too.
Ben Ferguson Supports the Chill Foundation
In 1995, Jake and Donna Carpenter, founders of Burton Snowboards, established Chill in order to being at-risk youth into the mountains. Since then, the program has worked with 25,000 kids and young adults across sixteen locations in North America (including Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver, and Burton’s home in Burlington, Vermont) as well as international affiliate operations in Japan, Italy, Australia, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Ben Ferguson has been involved with Chill throughout his career as a member of the Burton team, joining fundraisers and ride day events. “I think Chill Foundation is really great because they get kids on the mountain who wouldn't be able to do that by themselves, introducing kids to the sport and lifestyle I, like so many others, enjoy, while giving them direction and guidance in their personal lives.”
Learning to snowboard is just the starting point in Chill; the organization’s goal is to use riding as a vehicle through which participants build confidence and resiliency to help them see beyond their current circumstances and conquer personal struggles. “It’s awesome to see what Jake and Donna have created, and to see the impact they’ve mad on the sport and so many people’s lives. Being a snowboarder is a great lifestyle and it is a good alternative to other things young kids can be drawn to. The more people we can get Involved in snowboarding the better. I’d love to see more diversity in the snowboarding and its culture.”
Get Involved: The Chill Foundation relies on a network of volunteers who give their time to mentor and help teach participants to snowboard, surf, and skateboard. Find a program near you and sign up to make a difference by sharing the love of standing sideways.
Nick Russell Takes Initiative to Shred Racism
When figuring out how to contribute to meaningful causes is intimidating, looking to your local community can be a great way to take the first steps in making change. It was from this ethos that the Shred Racism auction was created. In early July, a group of Tahoe-based snowboarders and skiers led by new addition to the Red Bull Snow team, Nick Russell decided to pool their resources to contribute to fighting racism. Nick focused his efforts on contributing to the Black Organizing Project, a grassroots community organization working for racial, social, and economic justice in Oakland, California, just a three-hour drive from the snowy Sierra. “I wanted to find a way to utilize the platforms that myself and my peers hold within the snow community to raise money to fight for racial justice,” said Nick. “It is no secret that the snow industry is predominately white and lacking people of color, yet that does not mean those of us in the community don’t want equality for all.” Nick and crew set up an online auction featuring a bevy of snowboards, splitboards, skis, outerwear, and even a day in the backcountry in the Tetons with an experienced AMGA guide, with all the proceeds going to support the BOP. “It was amazing to see so many athletes and brands reach out to contribute gear for the auction,” added Russell. The response was overwhelming and within two weeks, the crew had surpassed their initial goal, raising $10,353. “My hope is that campaigns such as this one will continue,” adds Nick. “This is a movement not a moment!”
Get Involved: Learn more about the work the Black Organizing Project is doing here and find out how you can help.
Travis Rice Supports Stoked Mentoring
The idea of challenging oneself to go outside one’s comfort zone through snowboarding (as well as skateboarding and surfing) is central to Stoked’s ideology; the hurdles encountered, the lessons learned, and the confidence gained through action sports can translate seamlessly to situations off the board in everyday life. For Travis Rice, this ethos resonates deeply. “I think it’s really a huge thing when people are able to put themselves in uncomfortable situations,” explains Travis. “That’s when you really learn who you are.”
Through Stoked, participants build their experiences alongside industry mentors. Founded in 2004 by Steve Larosiliere and Selema Masekela, Stoked Mentoring has locations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and has helped over 4,500 individuals. Stoked’s focus on one-on-one mentorship provides a great depth of support for the next generation of leaders both in the mountains and beyond. “You learn about yourself [when you] put yourself out there and ride and focus on the current, the present, the now,” says Rice. “These kids have so much to take from [their experience with Stoked].”
Giving back to snowboarding has been a large part of Travis’ career and Stoked is a big part of that. Currently, he serves as an Igniter, helping with fundraising initiatives and making it down to Southern California to snowboard with Stoked participants in between dropping into the world’s most consequential mountain ranges. “I couldn’t be more proud to be affiliated with the Stoked program,” Rice adds. “I think it’s amazing.”
Get Involved: There are many ways to help at Stoked. Share your love of boarding as a Snow Mentor. Stoked to Serve Mentors work with students on community service projects. Short on time but still want to contribute? Check out Stoked’s Coffee Sessions: one-time, one-on-one conversations with young adults that share insight.
Zeb Powell Helps Young, Up-and-Coming Riders Through the Level Field Fund-Big Rob Fund
For talented up-and-coming snowboarders and skiers, often the biggest hurdle in the path to a professional career is the costs of competition and travel, which can put a strain on the ability to participate. In many places, regional scholarships are integral sources of financial help for aspiring riders; in Southern Vermont, the Big Rob Fund offered by the Level Field is there for the community. For Zeb Powell, who came up through the ranks of snowboarding at Stratton Mountain School in VT, the experience he gained competing has been integral to his path. “I got involved with The Big Rob Fund through my coach at Stratton Mountain School, Ross Powers. The Big Rob fund stands for helping talented riders with the potential to make it in the industry, but not the funds.”
For young snowboarders, the opportunities provided by competitions can be vital for both fun and development and therefore, in 2010, Powers started the Level Field Fund, providing grants to young athletes across a wide variety of sports. In 2019, LFF teamed up with the Big Rob Fund to establish the Level Field Fund-Big Rob Fund, a grant-giving program that helps USASA Southern Vermont series snowboarders who need financial help to cover competition costs. “I’m passionate about the Big Rob Fund because they are part of what got me to where I am today,” adds Zeb, “and I want that same thing for other less fortunate riders.”
Get Involved: You can donate directly to the Big Rob Fund to help young athletes, here.
Michelle Parker and Brock Crouch Combat Climate Change with Protect Our Winters
Growing up in Tahoe, big mountain skier Michelle Parker honed her environmental awareness alongside her penchant for gnarly, consequential lines. She cares deeply about the mountains and because she wants to ensure that there’s plenty of powder days for future generations, she has been working as an athlete advocate with Protect Our Winters, aka POW, for over a decade. POW provides education, resources, action, and advocacy in order to make change in the environment space. “Through my work,” says Michelle, humbly referencing her next-level abilities on skis, “I spend a significant time outside and in close connection with the environment. The damage that is happening to our climate is one of the biggest, if not the biggest threats to humanity and life as we know it.” We can all agree that the more snow, the better, when it comes to powder days and park laps, so it’s more than worthwhile for skiers and snowboarders to take a vested interest in Protect Our Winters’ efforts.
“Through years and years of practice in this space, at POW we have adjusted our messaging and grown to learn that our biggest effect is with the policy makers. Taking issues up with local governments and even going to Capitol Hill in D.C. to speak in person to congressmen and women, senators, and leaders of our nation has been where we have seen and made the most progress. What I personally do is a drop in the bucket in comparison to the waves created by changing policy. I like to think big! We hope to raise awareness about these issues, help to educate, and ultimately change policy/create policy that protects the environment.” What does this mean? Voting is ultimately important in supporting what POW is doing.
A big part of Protect Our Winter’s initiatives are directed at a policy level—this is where the opportunity to affect sweeping change lies—and to that end, POW has recently established the Outdoor State in order to recognize the potential power of people who love spending time outside, especially in an election year. Pro snowboarder Brock Crouch has grown up in the mountains and his dedication to the outdoors is apparent, both on and off his snowboard. Recently, he joined the POW Alliance. “Protect Our Winters helps passionate outdoor people protect the lifestyles and place they love from climate change,” explains Brock. “The goal right now is to get everyone out to vote that loves the outdoors. Imagine if skiers, snowboarders, surfers, runners, bikers, climbers, and more, all came together and stood up for protecting the environment for our generation and the generations to come. That’s the Outdoor State—already there are over 50 million people that recreate outside in the US. That’s a bigger population than California. This year we have an opportunity to show how strong this outdoor community can be by showing up to vote!”
Protecting our ability to keep taking snowy laps at our local resorts is just one reason to get involved with POW and the organization is dedicated to providing education and resources for everyone who wasn't to learn more and help out. And now, Brock is helping to lead the charge for the rising generation in snowboarding. “Honestly, I just want to learn as much as I can about the outdoors and help the younger generation understand what is going on around us,” he says. “I feel that this young generation has a huge impact on what is going on and the changes we need to have happen in the years to come.”
Get Involved: “Protect Our Winters has done a great job at giving you a road map, information to lean on and guide you forward in this work,” explains Michelle. “I encourage anyone to check out protectourwinters.org and click on the little yellow tab at the top of the page that says "act." Join Protect Our Winters and get involved in whatever way feels right to you.”