Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:09

Featured Organiztion - Chill Foundation

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Chill's programs "use snowboarding to motivate youth to accomplish goals they never thought they could, while teaching them some of the most important lessons in life about patience, persistence, responsibility, courage, respect, and pride," and is currently running in cities across North America, as well as in Sydney, Australia and Innsbruck, Austria.

With winter in full swing, we're thrilled to highlight the Burton Chill Foundation as our Featured Organization and hope you're inspired by the work they do to change lives through the sport of snowboarding.

What are some of the life-skills you have found snowboarding teaches young people? How are these lessons different from what’s learned participating in traditional team sports like basketball, football and baseball?

We institute a curriculum of weekly themes for each of the 6 weeks of our program that serves as the core educational component to Chill. These themes embody what we believe are the best life skills learned through the program, and also some of the most appropriate lessons learned week-by-week throughout the challenging, yet very rewarding, learn-to-snowboard process. The themes are:


Week 1: Patience
Week 2: Persistence
Week 3: Responsibility
Week 4: Courage
Week 5: Respect
Week 6: Pride

We feel that snowboarding offers a unique and challenging individual experience that differs greatly from traditional team sports in terms of how it is experienced and what is learned from the process. For starters, the youth that we work with are ones that likely would not have the resources to pursue this mountain-based sport, making it a truly unique and potentially much more profound experience and impact. In addition to this, snowboarding has always differed from other sports in that it is founded in the creativity that one can express through their riding on the mountain, and simply challenge oneself to improve and get better. It is not about a final score or outdoing an opponent – it is about the idea of challenging oneself to succeed outside of a comfort zone, self-improvement, progressing along with friends, and opening up new possibilities.

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What are the core parts of your programming that happen off the hill?

The major focus of the youth-development piece of our programming resides within the weekly themes described above. Those are embedded into our transit scheme which each program we run experiences. Rather than just use a bus to go from point A to point B, we use it as a type of “mobile classroom” per se to bring many different inner-city social service agencies together to share in the implementation of our weekly themes and associated activities. Not only do the youth learn these valuable life skills, but they also come together to share in a very important social environment supported by peers, chaperones, volunteers, staff, and more. Bringing all of these people together to share in some great learning schemes and grow socially is a true core strength of the program that occurs off the hill.

Since the foundation works with kids that have experienced very difficult circumstances - foster homes, drug/alcohol/physical abuse, depression - what type of training do you provide your staff to help address some of these special needs?

It is absolutely both a blessing and a challenge to be able to work with so many youth and groups that come from such varied circumstances. Fortunately, one thing we lean on with Chill is the help, experience, and expertise of our wonderful chaperones who come from each of the social service agencies that we work with to supervise the youth directly, and also to share in the learn-to-ride experience, greatly strengthening the bond they have with the kids. These are truly the adults who are educated and empowered to address the special needs of the varied groups that come to Chill.

From a staffing perspective, we are very fortunate to have great employees within Chill who very often have direct experience within youth work and/or the social services realm, as well as returning employees who run Chill locally for multiple years. Each year, we do a focused training at our headquarters in Burlington, VT with staff representatives from each of our program sites across North America in early December before our on-snow programming begins. During this thorough 5-day training, we address virtually all elements involved in running Chill locally, including preparing our local coordinators with case study situations and youth-based best practices. We also empower our employees with several tools and a support network to be able to effectively address most every situation that could arise. After 17+ years in operation, we’ve seen quite a bit, and we prepare our local staff accordingly.

We noticed you've got a program running in Southern California, which has a deep history with action sports and snowboarding. Is that what made you choose this market? What were the biggest challenges in getting that program off the ground?

The Southern California operations, most commonly referred to as “LA Chill”, actually began in early 2000, so we have over a decade of experience in this great and very deserving market. The program launched and began at Snow Valley, but moved to Mountain High in 2007/2008 where we have been fortunate to find an amazing home and host mountain that is well-suited for Chill.

The SoCal/LA market is a great one for Chill – the area is very visibly an action-sports hub for the USA, but even more than that, there is an amazing array of social service groups who are extraordinary to work with and for whom the experience of snowboarding is perhaps the most novel of any of our sites. In many situations, the youth that we serve through LA Chill have never really been to the mountains and never seen snow at all. As far as challenges are concerned, likely the most notable in that market are simply proximity and timing. Chill most commonly works as an after-school program on weeknights where youth come to us after school and snowboard under the lights before returning back to their city at a reasonable hour. The distance, traffic, etc. make this a considerable logistical challenge for LA Chill. That said, with some creative scheduling and some groups who follow a non-traditional scheduling path, we are able to navigate these challenges and run a very effective program there.

Can you tell us about the High Cascade Summer Snowboard Camp program? Do you have any plans to open it up to more kids or other locations?

The High Cascade Summer Camp Program is an exceptional opportunity offered through one of our great sponsors (High Cascade Snowboard Camp) that provides an avenue for some of Chill’s most outstanding youth to continue with their on-snow progress by spending a week at this top-notch freestyle camp on Mt. Hood during the summer on an incredible glacier. This opportunity is for those participants who have really made strides in life through Chill. We give all of our program chaperones the opportunity to formally nominate these individuals via essay submission for the High Cascade experience. Our national staff then reviews each nomination and we discuss and decide internally on the top 7 candidates to offer this great opportunity to. During their week at High Cascade, all participants receive world-class instruction, a myriad of amazing off-hill activities, and the potential to form great social bonds, all free of charge. This genuinely is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some of our most deserving youth and it makes a tremendous impact.

The opportunity is currently available to any of the youth that we work with in our North American sites based on nominations, so it is already rather open in terms of availability. Moving forward we may explore the potential to send more youth each season should that become possible.

You operate programs in Austria, Australia and Italy - How did those come about? Are there any differences in how those programs run versus the ones in the US?

We have indeed run on-snow programming in each of those locations. One thing we realized early on in the lifespan of Chill was that youth-development opportunities should know no borders or boundaries. Many of these sites opened up and became available due to some Burton offices and, hence, we had the necessary staffing and product resources in those locations. There have been some considerable differences in how those programs are run and instituted. In many situations, our North American 6-week model is not possible to replicate based on the resources, etc. available, so we’ll sometimes see programs occur over 3 or so focused days in a row that build off of each other and utilize all of the weekly themes on a bit of a different timeline. That said, those international programs are still run and organized locally and include all of the core educational and youth-development pieces that define Chill.

Being a nonprofit program created from within a leading manufacturer in the sport, do you feel your needs – things like fundraising, volunteers, capacity building, programming - are different than an independent foundation or nonprofit?

The way that I view this situation is that we’re incredibly fortunate to be able to depend on and build upon the immense support that we get from Burton. Without Burton, Chill would not exist, and we couldn’t be more grateful to operate alongside what I consider to be the best company in the world. That said, Chill does exist and operate as an independent 501(c)3 foundation, and I believe that our “needs” (those referenced above) are very much similar to that of other non-profits. Our volunteers come to each of our sites locally and consist of kind-hearted, philanthropic individuals like most any other NPO. Our fundraising needs to be diverse and sustainable from many varied sources outside of the snowboarding industry in order for us to grow and continue to operate in all of the markets that we wish to be in. So, to speak to the heart of your question, I believe that our needs are very much the same as other non-profits.

What's the future for the Chill Foundation? Is it programs in more cities, or expanding the scope of the cities you're currently in?

I think it is both. There is no doubt that there exists the need and desire for programs like Chill to be in many more markets across both the continent and the world. It is a long-term goal of ours to expand into new markets for sure. It is also a major goal of ours to be able to offer more days/nights of snowboarding and increase the number of youth served each season in each of the sites that we work in, creating more of a widespread positive effect in each of our local communities of operation. To go even further, one of our additional long-term goals with Chill is to grow into additional boardsports such as skating and surfing and create programs that can bring youth through more of a year-round development program to intensify the positive effects that Chill has on youth. I think the immediate short-term focus is to create financially self-sustainable programs across each of the sites that we work in as opposed to having the financing for each site rely predominantly on funds procured by “home base”. This will serve as an excellent model to help achieve the growth of this amazing program that we’re all hoping for.

What can snowboarders do to help support the Chill Foundation's efforts?

Ah, my favorite question! Well, the quick and easy answer to that question is “Get Involved!”

To offer some additional insight and direction there, based on the growth model referenced above, more and more of our sites are going to become locally dependent, and that requires a considerable shift in investment there. Supporting local programming means that local communities are really going to have to rally behind what Chill does in their city/region, investing not only time and energy, but also funds, resources, corporate ties and leads, etc., etc. Individual sites will be shifting to rather major fundraising goals over the next several years, so whether that is getting involved in a local fundraising event or helping to uncover the next major gift donor or corporate sponsor, we’re going to need to reach high in order to achieve that goal of financial stability and self-sustainability.

So, my advice would be to look to support your local program in each and every way possible – volunteering, events, etc. For the SoCal market, that program is LA Chill which started up in early January 2012. In addition, or if you do not have access to a local Chill program, we have easy ways to donate by simply visiting and clicking on the donate tab. Each and every donation goes a long way to help ensure that we serve as many youth as we possibly can.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for a growing “180 Campaign” that will be designed to reach as many snowboarders as possible both virally and through retail outlets. It’s simple: snowboarders support Chill by giving as little as $1.80 online or at stores to help support a riding program that forever changes lives.


This video "Carving The Dream," presents a behind the scenes view of the youth programming that Chill provides and takes a look into the life of Gio, who started out five years ago as a Chill youth participant and who has returned from year to year to lend his experiences as part of our Peer Leadership Program.

From our on-bus facilitation to our on snow programming, this video catches a glimpse of the unique experiences that we work to provide for the youth who participate in our six week program which emphasizes patience, persistence, courage, responsibility, respect and pride. In essence, a snapshot is provided which speaks to our mission of "Changing Lives Through Snowboarding."


For more information on or to donate to Chill, please go to and become a fan of Chill on Facebook at

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