There are many places to start talking about Elizabeth Royster-Young: community hero, snowboarding advocate, or Brady Bunch mom. That’s how she describes her blended family—her three kids, two step-kids—they’re family of seven. Or, there’s the woman who works in tech, testing software. Or, there’s the girl from Jersey City who got pregnant at 15 in high school, a teen and single mom. The girl who got pregnant again in college and in grad school. (She jokes about no more schooling). There’s the woman who worried about feeding her kids, taking care of her family, keeping them safe, keeping them together; the woman who lived in a place known for crime and shooting. “…a place where kids can’t go outside and play,” as Elizabeth puts it. It's a place not known for mountains, not fresh air, not snow and definitely not snowboarding.
And, there’s the girl who at 14 went skiing in 8th grade. If you’re tallying the numbers, that’s a year before she had her first child. And, she loved it. “I’d never seen a mountain,” she says, “and I fell on my skis, and this guy on a snowboard helped me up.” She’d also never seen a snowboard. “He told me, ‘Don't’ worry about it. You can’t even handle your skis, so you don’t need to worry about a board.’”
Now, Elizabeth does way more than worry about a board. She rides herself, but more than that, she gets kids who could have been her out on the slopes. That’s where her charity, Shred Love, started in 2009, comes in. Its mission is “Teaching inner city and at-risk youth life lessons and values through snowboarding.” It takes kids who wouldn’t get to go outside, who’ve never seen mountains, who have little experience with snow and gives them places to explore, places to prove themselves with new skills in new realms. It gives them experiences of success. And fun. And, recently at Plattekill—on a Powder Day at that. She brought the group up this winter. Elizabeth says, “Kids who wouldn’t get to leave their community get to learn something new, get to master a skill on the slopes.”
That would be a kid like Armani Rae. “They had the hill to themselves,” Elizabeth explains, “they don’t know how spoiled they are.” But Armani said the mountain was there for her as if it wasn’t simply that she was one of the few on the hill, but as if the mountain were supporting her, teaching her, giving her something more…
Plattekill Mountain Executive Director, Laszlo Vajtay, says, “The mountain is thrilled to able to offer the opportunity for an exclusive, private, mountain usage to an organization like Shred Love who have a special cause and mission is to introduce kids to skiing and/or snowboarding that otherwise would never have that opportunity.”
“Shred Love,” Elizabeth says, “is a way to give back to my community and do it so it’s hands on and not just a donation, where we can really see the impact.” They plan a few trips a year, and the group is a 501(c)(3) charity, so all donations are tax deductible. If you wish to give you can via PayPal, using Shred Love’s email address—firstname.lastname@example.org or their Facebook page. (You can also contact Elizabeth Royster-Young and Shred Love directly at the above email address too).
To donate gently used gear (snowboard boots, helmets, goggles, snowboards, bindings, etc.), donors can mail it to: Shred Love, PO Box 3378, Bayonne, NJ, 07002. Donors in the Jersey City/Bayonne/NYC area can arrange for a pick up, if they'd wish.
Ski racing is full of legend and myth—Bode Miller’s skiing to school in New Hampshire as a kid, Lindsey Vonn racing at little hills in the Midwest, or Julia Mancuso toughing it out at Squaw Valley when she was little in a Gap jacket that wasn’t even waterproof and doing run after run after run. In the rain. They’re the stories of daring and vision and self-definition, and of determination against the odds. This is the same stuff you see in the Roxbury Central School Ski Team. They practice at Plattekill, and instead of waiting for the mountain to be open and training only on weekends, the team has started hiking up the hill or running a lift after school and setting their own course, placing gates on the hill and practicing over and over and over. The first time was when the mountain was leased for a private rental and the team asked the group if it was okay to practice. The private group cheered them on. Then, as snowmaking was happening, the kids would take the lifts up and set a course on the open slopes. Now the racers are there nearly every day after school.
And, it is paying off. The Roxbury racers have always been competitive. Claire McDaniel was at the State Championships at Whiteface last year, but the Roxbury students wanted more. They, like Mancuso (who, when she was 8 or 9 years old, wrote her name on the back of a Tommy Moe poster saying “Julia Mancuso – three-time Olympic Champion”) are envisioning similar success. Only the six best skiers in men’s and women’s make it to the championships, which are held at Bristol Mountain at the end of February. The RCS skiers race against teams from Margaretville Central School, Windham, Ashland, Jewett, Hunter, and now Ithaca, who’s team has some USSA racers and recently joined their division. The competition is stiff to say the least, and places are based on points accrued in races over the course of the season, but as of now the RCS racers are at the top of the league—the boys are in 1st place and the girls are 3rd in their division—and the wins are dramatic. Take last week's double header at Windham, for instance: Nick Vajtay took both the slalom and the GS. He won the slalom by 2 seconds. To put this into perspective, a 100th of a second is typical of the difference between first and second, even first and third place in ski racing. But, this was an eternity…and it is the kind of time that will carry the team to Bristol in February.
Photo credit: John McDaniel
These pictures speak for themselves: "Come ski, and bring on a long weekend! Welcome MLK Jr. Day!"
The hill is covered top to bottom: Plunge, Blockbuster, Northface...all in deep white. It’s the first time snowmaking on all the runs has happened by Jan 15! And witness these photos (and video) just to show you how much.
The snowmakers—“Snow Cowboys,” as Platty’s Head of Operations, Macker (also in some of these photos), calls them—have been hard at work. Long days, long nights, and bless Mother Nature too, for keeping it cold. And while this week has been a bit warm, Plattekill has the advantage as a weekend-only hill, so grooming won't ruin that snow. It won't turn it into boiler plate.
In short and we’ve written about this before: If it rains, don’t groom. The water will run through the snow all on its own and not turn to ice. Groom after the rain is done falling. This is something other hills—those open 7 days-a-week—don’t have the luxury to do. But Platty can promise good terrain and conditions for the weekend.