Utes introduced to snowboarding

Agencies work together to bring program to Steamboat

— Early Sunday morning as the wind blew on Mount Werner, 18 Ute Indian youths braved their way down Spur Run.

It was the start of the fifth and final day of a program that brought the group from northeast Utah to Steamboat Springs and provided them with a taste of snowboarding. Sunday was their initiation to the upper mountain.

As the group members made their way down the green cat track to the Elkhead Lift, some slid down on their heel edge, others started turning and the majority tumbled.

"We call it synchronized falling," one of the snowboard instructors said.

But all popped up as quickly as they fell. And that, the will to push off the ground and start again, was a lesson more important than learning how to snowboard.

"You have to have courage to start snowboarding and have the discipline so you can get back on your board," 15-year-old Mabeleing Yazzie said.

Courage and discipline were just two of the five values the group of Ute Indians, mostly teenagers, focused on as they learned to snowboard.

The program, which had the group spend three days on the mountain last weekend and two days this weekend, is a partnership that includes the Snowboard Outreach Society (SOS), Billy Kidd, Colorado Mountain College, Ski Corp. and the Northern Ute Tribe Department of Education.

"The key thing they stress about the program is that snowboarding is not the most important factor," said Jo Richards, one of three snowboard instructors Ski Corp. volunteered. "It is just a medium for developing more self confidence, building character and becoming role models."

Each morning before group members strapped on their boards, they gathered in a circle and gave their definitions of SOS's core values: courage, discipline, integrity, wisdom and compassion.

And at the end of the day, members discussed how they used the values in snowboarding.

Eva Sevett first thought she was in trouble when she was called to her high school office. What she got instead was an invitation to Steamboat.

By the second day of the program, Sevett was riding.

"I just believed that I could do it," Sevett said of snowboarding. "Everyone at home told me I couldn't do it. So, I proved them wrong."

Mike Brand, who works with Indian Health Services in Utah, said the program is about leadership.

"It is a five-step self-esteem program," Brand said. "But the bigger goal is to instill the idea of future community leadership."

It is also a way to teach healthy lifestyles and encourage physical activity for Native Americans, who are three times more likely to be diagnosed with type two diabetes, Brand said.

The group had worked with Billy Kidd to bring Ute Indian teenagers to Steamboat for the last three years. But, this was the first year that snowboarding and SOS were incorporated.

"It is a pretty easy sport to be successful at, especially if you don't mind falling," said Billy Seabourne, who is the Steamboat field coordinator for SOS. "These guys didn't know how to ride at all and now you see them riding all over and jumping in just five days."

Richards, who went through a three-hour training course with SOS before the program, said some teenagers have an easier time identifying with snowboarding. "They can't identify with a 90-year-old ski instructor," Richards said. "Snowboarding is a rebel sport. The kids that don't like authority still like snowboarding. And, the sport goes well with what we are trying to do with them."

The group was given rentals from Powder Tools and stayed at Timber Run.

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