Doug Coombs was a skiing legend; he passed away in 2006 after trying to rescue a fallen skier. Several years after his death, his wife Emily started a very special foundation in his memory. The Doug Coombs Foundation helps lift up children of poverty by giving them the opportunity to become involved in outdoor activities, specifically skiing, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Emily started simply by enrolling 28 kids into Snow King Mountain's ski school with her own money. It didn't take long before people noticed and wanted to help. Soon, sponsors like Marmot, K2 Skis and Smith Optics jumped in.
“Snow King was the key component since the inception of the Doug Coombs Foundation. Without Snow King, introducing the Hispanic population to the sport of skiing would have had many more challenges,” says Emily.
Snow King Mountain is a secondary ski resort in Jackson Hole, with the other being Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Snow King’s lift setup, low avalanche incident rate, and less rugged terrain makes it a safer place for kids. “Snow king is the ideal solution given it’s in town location, close to the homes of the families we serve, as well as its limited natural hazards, compared to the terrain at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort,” Emily adds. “Snow king has always been and remains a critical element in the mission of getting our low income work force into the sport of skiing, and then providing a place for them to continue skiing throughout their years living in Jackson Hole.”
The Doug Coombs Foundation is changing Jackson Hole, and the world of skiing, in a particularly profound way. "Prior to the inception of the Doug Coombs Foundation, Latino kids and adults were not present on the ski slopes, and very few were present in the many sports organizations outside of the school programs," Emily explains.
A beautiful form of integration is taking shape, allowing friendships and lifelong bonds to be formed. Talented young individuals are being introduced to sports that they will greatly influence. Jackson Hole has morphed from a privileged ski town, to an iconic ski place for all. Emily has enriched not only a town, but an entire sport and 180 kids are now involved in the program. Once winter winds down, these children continue to participate in a variety of sports, such as rock climbing, soccer and hiking.
Many lives have been changed through the foundation, but a few have struck a chord with community.
Emily met the bubbly Karoline in 2013, and the two instantly bonded. “Like Doug, her enthusiastic personality is magnetic, and you simply can’t help but enjoy the time you spend with Karoline, as she is always happy and always nice to others,” Emily gushes. Karoline’s family has become increasingly involved, as well. In addition to mastering the slopes, she’s excelled in soccer and, at such a young age, has already accomplished so much.
Dario grew up in extreme poverty and was introduced to the foundation after his young boys became involved. He blazed through rock climbing and skiing, while having no prior experience. Seeing his great potential, Emily wanted to get Dario into the Exum Program, where he would be trained then experience a once in a lifetime climb up Grand Teton. Dario made the climb, stating “I didn’t do this for the world to see me, I did it to see the world.” He is described as a wonderful father with two intelligent young boys and a devoted wife.
Doug Coombs was a man adored and admired by all; he was a role model and an ambassador for pursuing dreams. He lived an incredible life, which left behind an impactful legacy. The Doug Coombs Foundation is an appropriate way to honor him.
“He would be blown away and would likely cry with joy as he watched all the kids (with his name on their jackets), zooming around Snow King, on skis, discovering the spirit of adventure that we all remember him for,” says Emily. “The one thing Doug missed out on was knowing his own son; skiing with his own son. We can’t change that, but we can provide many kids the opportunity to ski, in his memory, who otherwise wouldn’t ski. I know Doug would like that.”
Emily says Doug didn’t like talking about the possibility of dying, but after Emily’s father passed in a car accident, they discussed what they’d want if the unthinkable happened. “We agreed that whatever the survivor chose to do with us, our remains, our legacy; we trusted it would be good, and we would do it out of our love for each other. We believed that we truly knew each other better than anyone else. We would know what to do in the event if one of us died.” Emily certainly knew what to do to honor the name of Doug Coombs.
Grants and sponsorships fuel the nonprofit, and anyone can donate to the cause. The Doug Coombs Foundation's slogan "Lifting Us Up", sums up its powerful accomplishments. They are laying the groundwork for effective methods of integration and it's an incredible thing to be a part of.
Photos courtesy The Doug Coombs Foundation.
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