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Two kids ride up on a lift during a Philanthropy event

Four Mountain Sports Is Gearing Up the Community

How philanthropic efforts across Aspen Snowmass are helping to get the next generation of skiers and riders on the slopes.

Catherine Lutz

For years, mainly Aspen kids benefited from the Aspen Snowmass school ski day program—one day each winter when entire classrooms put down their pencils and worksheets to hit the local slopes, where many already felt at home. A few years ago, the Aspen Snowmass philanthropy team proactively expanded the program to schools throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, including Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, and New Castle. “Our employees and our community are valleywide,” explains Hannah Berman, who heads up philanthropy for Aspen Snowmass. “And we believe that if you grow up in this valley, you should get to be on the mountain, at least once a year.”

Expanding the school program to children who lived further from the slopes also meant diversifying it—bringing in a lot of kids who hadn’t skied before and thus didn’t have their own equipment or passes. To ensure equality, the program offers kids complimentary lift tickets, free or discounted lessons, and ski or snowboard equipment from Four Mountain Sports, the official retailer of Aspen Snowmass. So, when a Basalt High School class of English language learners had their first school ski day, having good, comfortable equipment was key to their success. A handful of first timers fell in love with the sport and asked to come back—and were accommodated again.
And that’s one of the goals of Aspen Snowmass’ philanthropy: “elevating our community,” says Berman. “When you think about the barriers to skiing—cost, equipment, the knowledge of how to ski—our teams come together to make sure people overcome those barriers. Watching kids ski for the first time is so fun, and we want to figure out how to get them back on the mountain.”
In 2023, Aspen Snowmass ski mountains hosted around 3,500 school ski day participants. That’s an increase from the 3,200 who participated in 2022 and way up from the around 900 kids Berman estimates skied or snowboarded with their schools about five years ago. Schoolkids were most of the 6,000 people invited to spend a day on Aspen Snowmass slopes through philanthropic efforts in 2023. But the number of people who come with other programs—including underrepresented groups through Latino Snow Day, Black ski clubs, English in Action, and others—is growing as well: from 2,000 participants in 2022 to 2,500 in 2023, a 25% increase in one year.
Shining Stars skiing
Aspen Valley Ski Club day at Highland Bowl
Kids in a line at ski school
“Progressing diversity, justice, and equity is often complex and slow. But offering school and nonprofit ski days is something we can continue doing right here, right now and it’s a lot of fun,” says Berman. “Our mountains are mostly on public lands, so they should be more reflective of America. The more we can work with clubs and groups to make our mountains look like our community and the country, the better.”

“I am proud to be a part of a team that’s able to do so much for the community,” says Gardner Morrow, general manager at Four Mountain Sports. “From the shops rallying together to work with Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club to donate hundreds of snowboards to their scholarship program in the fall to hosting school groups or Shining Stars events throughout the season—these efforts are highlights of our year.”

In 2023, 1,052 people in philanthropic programs received equipment from Four Mountain Sports, which also donated 106 gift certificates to help local nonprofits raise money through silent auctions and raffles. The total value of Four Mountain Sports donations was $125,000 — representing a large amount of staff time spent making sure participants get the right-size equipment for their ability level, then handling inventory, tuning, and restocking. The shops have “the gnarliest paperwork” of all departments, Berman notes.

“Being able to get kids out on the mountain sliding on snow when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to or have access to the equipment is really special,” adds Morrow. “It’s crucial for building the next generation of skiers and snowboarders.”

Here's a snapshot of three other groups Four Mountain Sports benefits with its philanthropic efforts.

Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club

Founded in 1937, AVSC is the oldest and largest youth-serving nonprofit in the Roaring Fork Valley. Over 3,260 youth athletes from Aspen to Marble to Rifle participate in AVSC programs, with 19% identifying as people of color and 27% receiving financial aid. Four Mountain Sports proudly donates snowboard equipment to AVSC athletes who can’t buy or rent their own; in 2023 FMS facilitated the outfitting of 150 snowboard athletes, enabling them to explore their passions all season long. “This collaboration between Four Mountain Sports and the AVSC Team is a huge success,” says Four Mountain Sports director of logistics, Spencer Purvis. “The amount of excitement and appreciation at that event from the kids and parents is infectious. We’re all proud to help get the next generation of kids up on our slopes so they can learn to love recreating in the mountains as much as we do.”
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Shining Stars

The Shining Stars Foundation helps children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses to thrive through recreational and social programs. Buttermilk Mountain is host to its annual Aspen Winter Games, an eight-day adaptive ski and snowboard program for over 250 participants including the Shining Stars and their medical teams, instructors, and volunteers. Through Four Mountain Sports fittings and equipment rentals, as well as Aspen Snowmass’ complimentary lift tickets and lessons, children are empowered and given a sense of hope. One recent participant, a former volleyball and track and field athlete, had her “identity ripped away from her,” according to her mother, after her cancer diagnosis, which involved losing the use of her leg following a tumor removal and reconstruction. The 16-year-old mastered a sit-ski after just two days, even though she had never skied prior to her cancer diagnosis, and the experience “lit the flame of life” for her again.
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Ascendigo was founded in Aspen in 2004, based on the idea that people on the autism spectrum should have access to full, rich lives and that outdoor recreation can be hugely beneficial to them. As a partner, Aspen Snowmass supports Ascendigo all winter long by offering discounted ski and snowboard lessons (half day, full day, or weeklong) with professionals trained to work with autism, and Four Mountain Sports provides equipment at a discount.
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