ASPN March 2013 : Page 68

vieWs | giving back making a mark Locals Erik Wardell, mark Cole, matt Hamilton and Penn newhard are advocates for positive change. Lofty PhiLanthroPy Roaring Fork Valley locals use snow sports to further good. | By Tess Weaver | Protect our Winters LocaL advocates: Gretchen Bleiler, chris davenport, Penn Newhard, auden schendler Protect Our Winters calls upon the entire snow community to lead the fight against climate change. The California-based organization, founded by professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones, leverages high-profile winter-sports athletes, like local pro-snowboarder and Olympian Gretchen Bleiler, to create effectiveness through education, activism and leading by example. “It’s our life and our livelihood,” says Bleiler. “It’s not just facts and stats—we’re experiencing climate change firsthand and seeing the effects trickle down to our resort communities.” Bleiler has spoken at Aspen High School during the last two Winter X Games as part of POW’s school assembly program, through which the organization has reached 15,000 students W 68 | asPeN maGaziNe | Winter/Spring 2013 photo by matt poWeR hen The A spen Institute founders Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke established The Aspen Idea of “mind, body and spirit” more than a half-century ago, they aimed high— promoting world peace in a postwar world. Starting with the formation of The Aspen Institute, the Aspen Music Festival and the International Design Conference, The Aspen Idea spawned hundreds of nonprofit organizations supporting arts, culture, the health and welfare of communities, and the environment. The causes have evolved over the years, but The Aspen Idea is alive and well in the spirit of today’s local philanthropists. Among them, there is a particular passion and energy within the 21 million-member snow-sports community. It may be because the very act of skiing or snowboarding elicits a special relationship with the mountains. It may be because the sports are climate-dependent. And it may be because skiing is central to Aspen’s identity. Four organizations are harnessing that energy. Two are based in the Roaring Fork Valley; two involve passionate locals.

Giving Back

Tess Weaver

Lofty PhiLanthroPy<br /> <br /> Roaring Fork Valley locals use snow sports to further good.<br /> <br /> When The Aspen Institute founders Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke established The Aspen Idea of “mind, body and spirit” more than a half-century ago, they aimed high— promoting world peace in a postwar world. Starting with the formation of The Aspen Institute, the Aspen Music Festival and the International Design Conference, The Aspen Idea spawned hundreds of nonprofit organizations supporting arts, culture, the health and welfare of communities, and the environment. The causes have evolved over the years, but The Aspen Idea is alive and well in the spirit of today’s local philanthropists. Among them, there is a particular passion and energy within the 21 million-member snow-sports community. It may be because the very act of skiing or snowboarding elicits a special relationship with the mountains.It may be because the sports are climatedependent.And it may be because skiing is central to Aspen’s identity. Four organizations are harnessing that energy.Two are based in the Roaring Fork Valley; two involve passionate locals.<br /> <br /> Protect our Winters <br /> <br /> LocaL advocates: Gretchen Bleiler, chris davenport, Penn Newhard, auden schendler <br /> <br /> Protect Our Winters calls upon the entire snow community to lead the fight against climate change.The California-based organization, founded by professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones, leverages high-profile winter-sports athletes, like local prosnowboarder and Olympian Gretchen Bleiler, to create effectiveness through education, activism and leading by example.<br /> <br /> “It’s our life and our livelihood,” says Bleiler.“It’s not just facts and stats—we’re experiencing climate change firsthand and seeing the effects trickle down to our resort communities.” <br /> <br /> Bleiler has spoken at Aspen High School during the last two Winter X Games as part of POW’s school assembly program, through which the organization has reached 15,000 students Nationwide at 36 schools. In September 2011, Bleiler joined Aspen professional skier Chris Davenport and Aspen Skiing Company Director of Sustainability Auden Schendler to deliver a letter to Capitol Hill, signed by more than 500 professional athletes and corporations, to protect the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant.<br /> <br /> Penn Newhard, founder of Backbone Media in Carbondale, helps to get the word out. The Washington, D.C., trip led to more than 1.2 million media impressions in outlets such as USA Today and National Public Radio. An avid backcountry skier who experienced the effects of climate change, Newhard joined the organization’s board of directors a year ago to help an issue he believes has a marketing problem. “The issue has become deeply politicized,” he says. “The media has done a poor job of conveying that everybody should be concerned about water and clean air.” <br /> <br /> POW and the Natural Resources Defense Council recently commissioned a study to help policymakers understand both the ski and snowmobile industry’s current economic scale and the potential economic impacts that climate change may cause. The report will be hand-distributed to respective senators on Capitol Hill this winter. Protectourwinters.org<br /> <br /> The environment foundation <br /> <br /> LocaL advocate: matt Hamilton <br /> <br /> Almost half of Aspen/Snowmass employees contribute a dollar per week to The Environment Foundation, Aspen Skiing Company’s nonprofit employee organization. Their contributions are matched by the Aspen Community Foundation, the Aspen Skiing Company Family Fund and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. In the past 15 years, the foundation has given $2 million to 375 projects that protect the local environment.<br /> <br /> “It’s not wealthy people contributing; it’s a function of a community that cares,” says Chris Lane, who founded the program in 1998 and is now the executive director of Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. “People are [able] to give an amount that’s less than [the cost of] coffee. These small amounts are making a huge difference.” <br /> <br /> Fourteen employees with four-year term limits run the board and decide how the money is spent. The nonprofit is completely independent from Aspen Skiing Company—some of the organization’s decisions could even theoretically go against the skiing company’s interest.<br /> <br /> “It’s unique because we are involving employees in the decision about how their philanthropy dollars are being spent,” says Executive Director Matt Hamilton.<br /> <br /> Annually, the foundation gives between $200,000 and $250,000 to projects like improving the popular Ute trail, installing solar panels to Solara Preschool in El Jebel, starting a garden at Basalt Elementary School and advocating reducing the effects of natural gas drilling. Aspensnowmass.com/ we-are-different/our-environmental-commitment/ the-environment-foundation<br /> <br /> AsPen vaLLey ski and snoWboard cLub <br /> <br /> LocaL advocate: mark cole <br /> <br /> The goal of the 76-year-old Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club is to make its programs accessible to every child in the Roaring Fork Valley. Ninetynine percent of participants pay a subsidized fee.On top of the subsidy, AVSC provides $300,000 in scholarships to one in three of their participants.The organization works with local retailers Gorsuch and D&E Sports to offer equipment to 200 of the most needy participants. AVSC provides a free adult-supervised bus service from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, as well. The organization also provides materials in Spanish and employs some bilingual staff, and the Paralympic Adaptive Program includes a dozen recent military veterans and seven Paralympic hopefuls.<br /> <br /> Beyond logistics, AVSC works to instill values in its participants. “We want to make them better people in life,” says Executive Director Mark Cole. “We teach commitment, teamwork and integrity. The kids become better and safer skiers, but they also form lasting friendships, gain selfconfidence, learn goal-setting, have an outlet for their creativity and develop a personal connection with the mountains.” <br /> <br /> In order to fill their goals, AVSC needs to raise $1.9 million annually, which comes from a grant from the U.S. Olympic Committee, donors, special events, business sponsors, and grants from local municipalities and foundations.<br /> <br /> “It says something about this community and the way it can come together to make such great things available for people,” says Cole. “It’s these sports that helped define the culture in the valley.They should be available to all of the children.” <br /> <br /> In the last 10 years, participation is up 40 percent; the teen programs have grown more than 100 percent; and Latino participation is up 175 percent. Scholarship awards are also up 450 percent, from $55,000 to $310,000. Teamavsc.org<br /> <br /> ALPine initiatives <br /> <br /> LocaL advocate: erik Wardell <br /> <br /> Alpine Initiatives channels the passion, resources and energy of the snow-sports community into initiatives that promote sustainable futures for communities and environments worldwide, particularly through sustainable agriculture.<br /> <br /> Aspen’s Erik Wardell met AI’s founder, professional skier JP Auclair, following a volunteer trip to Kenya. Upon returning to the States, Wardell jumped onboard to handle the organization’s backend, primarily administration and “all the stuff nobody else wanted to do,” he says. Three years later, Wardell is the organization’s executive director.<br /> <br /> “I do a little bit of everything,” says Wardell.“From managing operations, fundraising and finances, to helping out with programs and communications, to getting my hands dirty and volunteering with our partner organizations, I get to see it all.” <br /> <br /> AI empowers snow-community members to launch Self Started Initiatives. As part of the program, Aspen runner Dylan Bowman has run the Leadville Trail 100 Ultramarathon while raising nearly $12,000 for AI.<br /> <br /> “AI’s Self Started Initiatives are the epitome of grassroots mobilization toward making the world a better place,” says Bowman.<br /> <br /> Industry partners like Armada and Oakley contribute products, while film companies like Sherpas Cinema and Poor Boyz Productions offer their films for screenings that fundraise for efforts like AI’s sustainable food-sourcing project in Madagascar and a self-sustaining children’s home in Kenya. Alpineinitiatives.org

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