Coombs Outside: Empowering Jackson Gap, WY’s Native Youth to Develop and Thrive by Decreasing Boundaries to Outside Recreation

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Coombs Outdoors strives to empower local Jackson Hole youth to thrive and thrive by breaking down barriers to outdoor recreation through programs, mentoring and community building. | Photo courtesy of Coombs Outdoors.

Recreation in nature is a gift – a privilege. A medicine. A way of life. For many it is their life and has been since they were young. But that’s only if they’ve had access to it, and the harsh truth is that many of today’s youth don’t have access to it — even in a place as renowned for its outdoor pursuits as Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

That’s what Coombs Outdoors is for. The foundation strives to empower local Jackson Hole youth to thrive and thrive by breaking down barriers to outdoor recreation through programs, mentoring and community building.

People come from all over the world to experience Jackson Hole’s iconic public lands and recreational opportunities. Visitors and residents alike head outdoors to challenge themselves, relieve stress and find inspiration. But not all locals have the same access—many Teton County families encounter barriers to our outdoor culture.

Coombs Outdoors believes that all local youth deserve to experience the outdoors and feel a part of our community. The organization seeks to break down these cultural, financial, and knowledge barriers by offering a year-round outdoor program for youth from kindergarten through high school.

For Coombs’ youngest participants, the programs offer opportunities to play, try new activities, and get comfortable outdoors. For older children, programs offer a balance to challenges at school or at home, time away from screens, a chance to develop new skills, and even an opportunity to do an internship in the outdoor industry. Experiences spill over into the wider community, and children begin to reinvent themselves with friends or family outside of the Coombs programs.

Coombs Outdoors youth programs

Teton County youth grow through our programs from kindergarten through high school, building community, confidence and skills along the way. For our youngest participants, the programs offer opportunities to play, try new activities and get comfortable outdoors. For older children, programs offer a balance to challenges at school or at home, time away from screens, a chance to develop new skills, and even an opportunity to do an internship in the outdoor industry. Experiences spill over into the wider community, and children begin to reinvent themselves with friends or family outside of the Coombs programs.

Founding history of Coombs Outdoors

Whether in the remote backcountry or in ski resorts around the world, modern skiing is tied to the footprints left by Doug Coombs. Doug had the opportunity to downhill ski at a small local ski slope at a young age and the passion he developed empowered him to live an extraordinary life. But perhaps his greatest legacy is the one that lives on in the people he has touched throughout his life, both on and off skis. Doug died in La Grave, France in April 2006, leaving behind his wife Emily and young son David.

Always passionate about equality and access, Emily Coombs learned from an early age from her mother, who instilled a sense of social justice in her two daughters. As Emily watched her son play recreational sports in Jackson, she noticed that there was a growing disparity between the have and the have-not in the community she loved. Children from low-income families, particularly Latino children, were severely underrepresented on Jackson’s ski slopes, soccer fields, and hiking trails.

In September 2012, Emily established the Doug Coombs Foundation in Doug’s memory, the perfect marriage of her and Doug’s passions, inspiring children from low-income families in Teton County to reach their full potential through outdoor recreation. By the end of that first winter, Coombs had enrolled 28 children in the Snow King Mountain Sports School, which provided ski rentals, ski lessons, and lift tickets. Over the years the organization has grown to include nearly two hundred children and has expanded beyond skiing to include activities such as hiking, rock climbing and kayaking, engaging children and youth year-round.

Emily Coombs stepped down from her leadership role in the organization in June 2018 and in August 2019 the Doug Coombs Foundation became Coombs Outdoors to better reflect our work. Today, Coombs Outdoors carries on Doug’s legacy of helping others reach their highest potential and Emily’s legacy of ensuring all children have a chance in life. Coombs Outdoors children and young people have the opportunity to experience the joy of a variety of outdoor activities, follow their dreams and create their own extraordinary lives.

Coombs Outdoors believes that all local youth deserve to experience the outdoors and feel a part of our community. The organization seeks to break down these cultural, financial, and knowledge barriers by offering a year-round outdoor program for youth from kindergarten through high school. | Photo courtesy of Coombs Outdoors