THOMPSONVILLE, Mich. (March 16, 2022) – From the city to the slopes. SOS Outreach, a national organization focused on mentoring underserved youth, is wrapping up a winter outdoor recreation development program with a weekend trip to Crystal Mountain this weekend.
Around two dozen students from Hamtramck High School will board a bus from the metro-Detroit area to Thompsonville, Mich., on Friday to experience skiing, snowboarding and outdoor activities in northern Michigan – most of them for the first time ever.
According to a 2021 participation survey from the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation across the country lacks diversity. Crystal Mountain and Crystal Community Ski Club (CCSC) are working together to build partnerships and engage groups to help change that – all while helping reduce barriers to participating in outdoor activities.
“Hamtramck is a unique community whose wealth lies in its diversity of cultures. Many of the 26 students participating in the SOS Learn to Ride program are recent or first-generation immigrants from Yemen, Bangladesh and Poland,” Hamtramck English Teacher Jessica Madden said. “These students have not had the chance to venture much further than the metro-Detroit area to experience the beauty of the Great Lakes that is now their home.”
SOS Outreach is a progressive mentor-driven organization focused on teaching kids the life skills they need to live happy, healthy and successful lives despite social, societal or economic barriers. One way they do this is by taking kids to the slopes.
The kids from Hamtramck have been skiing at Mt. Brighton downstate the past several weeks. And now it’s time to head north.
“We have lots of big, wide-open spaces at Crystal Mountain,” Crystal Community Ski Club Alpine Coordinator Hunter Steinkamp said. “Being able to work with kids who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to try snow sports – and connecting them with other skiers and riders their age – is a phenomenal opportunity.”
SOS has served more than 70,000 youth across nine states, and has visited 22 mountains in its 26-year existence. During the pandemic, its on-mountain operations came to a halt, but the support between mentors, kids and community leaders remained strong.
“It has been a rough couple of years, but we are starting to feel the joy of learning together in person again and participating in after-school activities, which have a tremendous impact on the health and success of our students,” Madden said. “The chance to travel and explore the serene landscape of Benzie County is no trivial opportunity for us, and we are grateful for the generous organizations who are making it happen.”
CCSC has about 700 members, most of whom are from Benzie, Manistee, Wexford and Grand Traverse counties. Many of the children not only participate in alpine skiing, but also cross country skiing through the club’s Nordic Rocks program, whose goal is to get kids sliding on snow.
The weekend with the Hamtramck and CCSC kids kicks off with s’mores around a campfire, a snowsports lesson and lunch on Saturday and a snowshoe tour through Michigan Legacy Art Park on Sunday.
The students will also meet up with CCSC members, as well as get a first-hand look at some of the careers at Crystal Mountain – from their young counterpart’s perspectives. Junior members of the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI) will meet some of the children to talk about teaching people how to ski and snowboard. The group will also meet with the resort’s Junior Ski Patrol program.
The trip is funded through SOS Outreach, Detroit Outdoors, Crystal Mountain, Crystal Community Ski Club and PSIA-AASI Central Education Foundation.