While back-scratchers might be passé in today’s world of extreme skiing, a handful of skiers are scratching the backs of the less-fortunate through a new philanthropic organization.
Two skiers from Colorado—two-time Olympian Chad Fleischer and Alaska ski guide Seth Koch, both from Steamboat Springs—have partnered with world-class competitors Mike Hovey and J.P. Auclair to establish Alpine Initiatives (AlpineInitiatives.org), a nonprofit aspiring to make a difference in people’s lives.
“Our whole concept is built around empowering and educating the youth of the world,” says Fleischer, who came up with the idea 10 years ago after discussing the notion of how skiers can make a difference in the world with Auclair. “We’re not trying to Band-Aid anything—we’re really trying to make an impact.”
That concept came to fruition last summer when the founders headed to Kenya with International Peace Initiatives and built an orphanage for youth with HIV and AIDS. The new Amani Community Home now provides housing, food, education and funding for impoverished children. Auclair headed back this summer to finish the project, while Fleischer and Koch are canvassing future project options in North America.
“It doesn’t have to involve under-privileged children, but all our programs revolve around health, education and sustainability,” says Fleischer.
While getting the foundation off the ground has proven more difficult than airing it out on skis, Fleischer is happy with the support they’ve received. “We couldn’t have chosen a rougher time for our first year, but we’ve gotten incredible support,” he says. “We’re psyched to show that skiers are giving back.”