Chill Teaches Boston Kids How to Snowboard

Boston University snowboard team member Alex Ketner teaches kids from Boston how to snowboard. Here he's seen at a recruiting event in September, 2011. (Photo courtesy of Rascha Jelks)

For six weeks every year, members from the Boston University snowboard team take a van to Wachusett Mountain to teach inner-city kids how to snowboard.

“I worked with this one kid who was really good at speeding down the hill, but he couldn’t really stop or turn at all,” said Alex Ketner, BUST member. “I helped him with s curves and learning how to carve.”

Ketner said he was able to ride with the skinny, 11-year-old from Boston because of Chill. Chill is a non-profit youth development program that uses snowboarding to help teach life skills, said Dean Calcagni, the national coordinator for the Boston area.

Chill partners with social service agencies from urban communities, like Boston, to bus kids up to Wachusett for six weeks in January and February. Calagni said about 15 groups from Boston participate.

“We want to give kids the opportunity to try something they really wouldn’t otherwise be able to try,” Calcagni said.

The kids are provided gear – snowboards, boots, jackets, everything other than socks, Calcagni said.

On the mountain, (or the bunny hill,) each child is partnered with a volunteer for one-on-one instruction. Calcagni said the on-snow relationship is what’s important.

“We became boys; we became cool,” Ketner said. “Just snowboarding with someone, you get closer.”

Calcagni said the goal is that all the kids can learn to link turns, stop and ride chair lifts. Each week has a theme that connects to being on the hill. For example, last year, the first week’s theme was patience, he said.

“It’s more powerful than just a learn-to-ride program,” Calcagni said.

After two hours on the bunny hill, Ketner brought his instructee on the chair lifts to ride with him on the mountain, he said.

“He followed me off a small jump and face planted,” Ketner said. “But, if you’re going to try, might as well go big.”

“He got better, he just wasn’t pro status,” Ketner said.

Chill will run from January 10 through February 15 at Wachusett Mountain this winter. For more information visit the Chill Foundation’s website.

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