The great outdoors

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, March 7th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: access to winter sports.

For many people, winter means outdoor fun—like skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. These sports make the blustery winter months something to look forward to.

EICHER: Now, these activities can be pretty expensive, too expensive for some. But there are those who are trying to make it possible.

WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg recently visited a family who got some help in Ketchum, Idaho.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG; REPORTER: The Chavez family bounces into their hotel lobby full of excited energy. Tomorrow, 11-year-old Karoline is going to compete at the Sun Valley Ski Resort in Idaho.

KAROLINE: We have inspection and then our first run, and the inspection again, and then the first one.

Almost every weekend, the Chavez family attends a ski race meet. Some weeks the competitions are at ski resorts in their hometown of Jackson, Wyoming. Other times they have to travel. The family drove five hours for this race. Mom Mary Chavez says these trips are a family highlight.

MARY: I love it. We got to meet new people. Her friends, her teammates. I mean we just love getting every weekend together.

But just a few years ago, Mary and Karoline Chavez say their family hated winter. It was long, dark, and cold… and there was way too much snow.

KAROLINE: In the winter before we started ski racing, um, we would just be in the house and do nothing, watch TV, stay in bed.

MARY: And then she came and introduced us to the skiing stuff and everything just changed.

That “she” is Emily Coombs. Coombs is a skier also living in Jackson, Wyoming. After her late husband died in a skiing accident, she started the Doug Coombs Foundation.

MARY: She got all my family skiing…And it was just, every winter was just different.

The foundation sponsors low-income Hispanic children, getting them involved in outdoor activities—especially skiing. Coombs says more than teaching kids to ski, she wants to teach them to love the outdoors.

COOMBS: The parents were working. They just kept them indoors to be safe. And here we live in this incredibly outdoor world here, and they weren’t accessing the outdoors. So in addition to learning how to ski, they were outdoors and just the fresh air or the exercise, just nature itself. It just enriches your soul.

Besides money being a barrier, Coombs says Hispanic families don’t often live in snowy climates, and when they do, many haven’t yet embraced winter culturally.

COOMBS: So when these kids whose parents have never been around snow are suddenly out there skiing, it’s, it’s just off the charts of, you know, the impact of, of how they perceive snow now. Like, it is really fun.

In 2013, Emily Coombs offered to help the Chavez family start skiing. Two years later, the local ski club awarded Karoline Chavez a scholarship.

AUDIO: [Sound of the competition, music, chatter]

On race day, Mary Chavez, her husband Edgar, and their two younger daughters gather at the bottom of the hill. The race course stretches down a long, steep slope. As competitors rip down the mountain, they have to weave in between staggered plastic polls called gates.

AUDIO: [Sound of race event]  

Dad Edgar stands with his phone out ready to record, while Mary stands with her hands nervously clasped together.

MARY: I’m just hoping for her to come down good. I don’t want her to crash or get hurt. Here she comes. She’s doing pretty good! Here she comes!

Soon, Karoline’s bright blue helmet appears on the hill. She glides down on her skis without a hiccup… but says she was too cautious.

KAROLINE: Probably will push myself a little faster. I felt like I was going a little slow in some parts.

Mary Chavez says since the family started skiing, they spend more quality time together, and they’ve gotten into other sports like soccer. They cut more TV and technology time out of their schedules, and she’s also seen behavioral improvements in the girls.

MARY: There is a big difference. Like for example Karoline, she’s doing really good in school. 

In the ski resort lodge, while the Chavez’s wait for Karoline’s next race, Mary admits that staying in the sport isn’t easy.

MARY: We have to pay for hotel, and then gas, and then food and then we’ve also got to pay for them to ski race.

Mary says the family is excited to be doing something outside of their cultural norms.

MARY: If you look around, we’re the only Hispanic family here. At the beginning we feel weird. And now we’re just used to it just because the parents are welcoming us with so much love.

Edgar and Mary Chavez hope Karoline can pave the way for more Hispanic girls to join the sport and that maybe the sport could earn her a college scholarship.

MARY: She’s like, yeah, mom, like you’ll will be so awesome if I can be like the first Hispanic girl being in the U.S. world championship. And she just has her mind going all the way.

After nearly three hours of waiting, it’s time for Karoline’s final run.

MARY: Come on, speed up, baby! Yeah, Karoline!

She makes it to the bottom and is beaming.   

KAROLINE: What was your time? 36! I’m really proud of myself.

36 seconds. A personal best. Mary Chavez says that excitement is why the family has fallen in love with skiing.

MARY: I think my favorite part of it is seeing my girls’ doing something they like and just seeing the expression on their faces when they come down.

And even if, eventually, they have to stop ski racing, Mary Chavez says they’ve learned the value of the outdoors and even winter.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg reporting from Ketchum, Idaho.

(Photo/Creative Commons)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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