Service learning

Snowboard Outreach Society brings series back to Steamboat Springs

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The Snowboard Outreach Society is bringing its SOS Outreach Series back to Steamboat Springs for two winter competitions.

On Dec. 21 and 22, snowboarders can compete in giant slalom and slalom races, while riders will have the chance to compete on the halfpipe and in snowboardcross Feb. 1 and 2.

All interested riders can find additional race and registration information on the Internet at www.sosoutreach.com.

The SOS Outreach Series is a competition run by SOS to generate money to fund its youth programs. SOS, a grass-roots charity based in Avon, has introduced more than 8,000 kids to snowboarding in its Learn To Ride programs. Many of these kids likely would not have been exposed to snowboarding otherwise.

Arn Menconi, founder of SOS, said the response, depending on the child's age, is overwhelming because of snowboarding's popularity, particularly in Colorado. Menconi insists, however, that teaching kids how to ride isn't what SOS is all about.

"It's about showing kids serving others is a way of life," Menconi said. "We want kids to understand at an early age that public work and community service is a lifestyle."

Menconi said the adult volunteers SOS uses are important to the organization because he believes the average adult has grown more self-centered and selfish, ignoring the role he or she plays in the shaping of a child's life.

It is incorrect to assume the Learn To Ride program helps at-risk children, though many kids SOS coaches have instructed come from single-parent and/or low-income homes where they may have also live with abuse or language barriers.

Menconi said SOS is trying to change the image of what it means to be at-risk, focusing more on what an adult can to do eliminate the at-risk label.

"There's a great misnomer that because we are a great ski area we are all an affluent community," Menconi said "This could be no further from the truth. Rural Colorado faces the same problems as the inner city. SOS attempts to address these problems for the kids and their families. :

"I think the biggest point to make is that SOS doesn't think of our students as 'at-risk.' It's more about at-risk adults. Adults are at risk if they're not helping others."

The SOS Outreach Series events on Dec. 21 and 22 will be at Howelsen Hill, while site and competition information for the Feb. 1 and 2 event has yet to be finalized.

The SOS has partnerships with five Colorado ski areas, including Steamboat, Keystone, Beaver Creek, Vail and Breckenridge.

Menconi said snowboarders earn points that go toward nationals by competing in the SOS Outreach Series. Last year, he estimated some 70 riders an estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of the SOS entrants went to Mammoth to compete at nationals.

Skiers are welcome to participate in the SOS Outreach Series, but because it is a U.S. Amateur Snowboard Association-sanctioned series, they are not eligible to go to nationals.

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