Most snowboarders have an iPod inside their parka as they fly above the halfpipe, letting the music carry them across the ice and snow and into another world.
Hannah Teter takes the idea of "another world'' to a different level. Right next to her iPod, she also carries a picture she took of schoolchildren in Africa, the ones she wants to help through her snowboarding.
The Olympic gold medalist, best known to many in the "mainstream'' as that dippy, groovy, kid from Vermont who makes maple syrup, has taken a more serious approach as she prepares for the next Winter Games. All her winnings will go toward a charity project that helps kids in Kenya get access to better schools, medical attention and clean water.
A worthy cause, indeed, even if it's not the most likely of projects in the land of the Winter X Games.
"For me, being raised in America, to go over there and see what other people live through, it's just super heavy and grounding,'' Teter said. "It makes you so appreciative of what we have and what I have.''
What Teter has is a tremendous sense of perspective for a 21-year-old who makes her living shredding through halfpipes. Snowboarders and the action sports crowd are, in general, a fun, relatively harmless bunch.
Most of them recognize that they have already reached the bonus round of life - making millions competing and shooting movies in one of the more profitable and trendy pastimes out there.
Yet there is a surprising dearth of charitable work mentioned on their Web sites. That's one thing Teter would like to change about her sport - she's also trying to get a team together to market her Specialized Goodness wrist bands and shirts, made from organic products - and she's putting her money where her mouth is.
She is scheduled to compete in about 10 events this season (she finished fourth and out of the money at an event in Breckenridge in December) and will donate all her prize money to her charities.
A noble gesture that's practically unheard of in any sport these days, even by those who like to say "it's not about the money.'' Teter is realistic on this subject, too. She says she can afford to do it thanks to endorsement contracts that reach the deep six figures.
"I've been blessed to have enough to buy organic and have a house in Tahoe. I know I'm going to be able to eat,'' Teter said. "This way, I can work it so that anything extra, I can give to charity.''
Over the summer, Teter made her first trip to Kenya to see where the money was going.
In a town of 56,000 called Kirindon, she toured a number of schools, most with newly dug wells to provide fresh drinking water. They were building an addition to one school. And a boarding school at another place for runaway girls, some of whom are bartered and subjected to early marriages.
"So trippy,'' is how Teter described the trip. "It was so intense, the first school we went to. We didn't know what to expect. We're rolling through the backcountry. It was a day off for the kids, so we're not sure how many people are going to be there. But they all showed up. All 650 kids walked to school. They sang. They were in their fancy travel outfits. It was the most harmonious, heart-wrenching thing. Like, happy-sad. Intense but amazing. All these things at once.''
Teter went on the trip with her parents and brothers, who make up the business and family venture they call "Team Teter.'' One brother, Amen, is her agent and works for the Octagon sports marketing firm. Two others, Abe and Elijah, are also a professional snowboarders. A few decades ago her parents, Jeff and Pat, moved from Missouri to Vermont at the urging of Hannah's grandmother, who had a vision of a better life there.
"We came from rural, flat, dry, dusty Missouri, and now we've got this life,'' Amen said. "The whole family has been so blessed, it's ridiculous. We're some of the luckiest people in the world on pretty much every level.''
Amen says Hannah's giving streak is a result of the way their parents raised her.
"'Do good unto others.' That was the only real law in the world the way they saw it,'' he said.
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