Giving Back

Passing on the Passion

Nonprofit Powdered Soul helps make ski racing accessible by letting youths earn scholarships through volunteer work

By Micah Drew
Coaches for the Flathead Valley Ski Race Team Madeline Williams, left, and Annie Jobe share a laugh on the hill during a training session at Whitefish Mountain Resort on Jan 5, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In 2014, Whitefish native Anna Jobe was facing the end of her 14-year ski racing career. 

After racing with the Flathead Valley Ski Education Foundation (FVSEF) and spending four years on the national scene, Jobe found herself facing a financial wall.  Skiing as a hobby is expensive and as a competitive sport, which includes coaching fees, travel expenses and race entries, it can limit participants to those with means. 

To fund her own racing career Jobe founded a clothing brand named Powdered Soul while in college. It wasn’t long before she saw a wider opportunity to fund young racers and the company became a nonprofit. Now Powdered Soul is aimed at enhancing the overall skiing community by linking older athletes to the next generation of passionate racers.  

The heart of Powdered Soul is providing scholarships to young racers. In its first year, the nonprofit offered two $1,000 scholarships to skiers with FVSEF, enough to cover registration and a partial season pass.   

Powdered Soul pivoted away from clothing and adopted a more community-centric model. Scholarship participants don’t just receive awards based on merit, but by how much time they spend volunteering in their local communities. 

“We wanted to make this based on the amount of work the kids put into it,” said Madeline Williams, the current president of Powdered Soul, who began working with Jobe in 2015. “There are lots of scholarship programs where kids have to write an essay on why they deserve it, and that’s not always someone’s strong suit. The youngest kids can be just as deserving as a high school senior but might not be able to articulate it on paper.”

The program now requires participants to choose a nonprofit organization or community project volunteer with during their award year. Powdered Soul volunteers and board members are involved during this process, aiding in correspondence between participants and organizations to make sure the work fits the participants’ schedules and abilities. The oversight helps relieve pressure on athletes’ parents, removing the need to schedule and organize projects.  

All scholarship recipients are required to log a minimum of 15 hours and funding is awarded as a per-hour amount. Last year the nonprofit awarded nearly $6,000 in scholarship, during a year when holding in-person fundraisers was difficult and funds were more limited. 

According to Williams, over the last year 14 participants logged more than 300 hours of community service, working with organizations such as Nourish the Flathead, North Valley Food Bank, Stumptown Art Studio and the Glacier Symphony, as well as holding regular glass recycling events. 

“The kids really like it, they’re not afraid to get dirty,” Williams said. “Having the kids in the community, being seen out there and giving back is definitely the most important part.”

Powdered Soul has also incorporated an entrepreneurial skills program, where athletes design and produce a product to sell at farmers markets around the Flathead Valley during the summer. All of the proceeds go directly into the scholarship fund and participants have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in business development and marketing. 

“I’ve seen super quiet kids who won’t talk during ski practice just come alive at the market, trying to talk people into coming to the booth,” Williams said. “It builds skills that will benefit them in the future, and they’re really invested in it.”

Each year Williams hopes Powdered Soul continues to grow, ideally adding a paid staff member who can dedicate year-round attention to the organization. 

“Just like with any sport, skiing is a pyramid — there’s a great base with younger kids — but with ski racing in particular the pyramid gets skinnier and skinnier,” Williams said. “So many kids have the potential but can’t afford to continue. We want to pass on the passion we have, and hopefully they’ll do the same one day.” 

A member of the Flathead Valley Ski RaceTeam hikes back uphill after a training run at Whitefish Mountain Resort on Jan 5, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon