While shredding chutes and trees, it can be easy to forget the steep costs of equipment, quality gear, season passes, and even lessons. But Beecher Clifton-Waite, a high school junior, hasn’t forgotten.
Beecher started his organization Live Free and Ski to help local high school students afford the costs of skiing and snowboarding. Now a government-approved nonprofit with a 501(c)(3) status, the organization is booming.
We caught up with Beecher to talk about his passion for skiing, his organization, and the scholarship he's setting up to help low-income families.
How long have you been skiing?
I’ve basically been skiing all my life. My dad taught me at a very young age, and I’ve skied all over New England and raced in New Hampshire—I’m very familiar with all the mountains around here. At age 10, I got into freestyle skiing, and now that’s a big part of my life, and in the winter, I’m up at my local mountain, Crotched Mountain. Throughout my life I’ve realized that skiing is the thing I want do. I just love it so much.
How does the scholarship process work?
I’ve been working with the guidance department at my school, and we’re in the development stages of creating a scholarship application. We’ll distribute it to the community, and then parents and students can fill it out. Then it will be submitted back to the guidance office, and they’ll evaluate who’s eligible for the scholarship. The applicants will have to fall under a certain family income level, and then we’ll decide who can get the scholarships.
And then we’ll get them out there on the slopes, no questions asked. They’ll just be able to experience (skiing or snowboarding).
How did you get the idea to start this organization, and how did you get it going?
I’m really passionate about skiing, and I feel like everyone should be able to try it. I come from a bit of a financially disadvantaged area, so some people around here don’t have the ability to try skiing and snowboarding because it’s fairly expensive. That really bothered me, and I just wanted to do something about it.
I’ve had help from my dad, the school, my principal, some local businesses, and even some colleges. Then I got it approved by the state, and it just really took off.
I just really want everyone to know that this thing exists, and that it’s available. I hope it can be available to more than just the ConVal (Regional High School) students in the future. I really want this thing to go big, and I really want everyone to be able to try skiing or snowboarding, no matter how rich or poor. Nothing should be stopping anyone.
What have been the greatest challenges along the way, and what have been the greatest rewards?
Since we’re in the developing stage, the most difficult challenge so far has been getting together all the legal documents to get approved by the state. And now we’ve filed for the 501(c)(3) status from the IRS.
But getting a bunch of signatures from people and finding a board of directors—that’s really the hard part. Once those things are finished and finalized, which they are now, it’s really rewarding.
Definitely the most rewarding thing thus far is the Facebook page I’ve created. The feedback has been incredible so far. We’ve only had the page for three weeks, and I have almost 200 likes.
We’ve gotten about $550 in donations on the Dreamfund page, and that’s way more than I ever thought I could get that quickly. I’ve just been so amazed with the results, and I couldn’t be happier.
What are some of your short-term and long-term goals for the organization?
My short-term goals are having students apply, getting those students the scholarships, and getting them out on the slopes. They’ll have satisfaction, and so will the organization, to really see that we’ve made a difference and helped some people.
Another short-term goal is getting the word out there. As we’re planning events such as 5Ks, a race up Crotched Mountain in the summer, and some raffle events, I’m really hoping that the turnout will be really good.
As for long-term goals, I hope to see this organization go really far and reach thousands of students all across the nation. I hope for it to be available in every high school and middle school across the country, and maybe even go above the high school level.
Maybe we’ll even expand it beyond skiing and snowboarding to other sports as well, like snowmobiling, tubing, or maybe even some summer events like water skiing. The possibilities are infinite.
(Photos courtesy Beecher Clifton-Waite)