PARK CITY — Aside from their exploits on snow, young skiers and snowboarders have a reputation for throwing epic parties.
Alcohol might flow freely, and sometimes those looking for fun are too young to drink.
Luke Bodensteiner, executive vice president of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, said every sports organization that deals with youths has to grapple with underage drinking.
In researching how to talk to ski and snowboard teams about the issue, Bodensteiner came across ParentsEmpowered, Utah’s underage drinking prevention initiative. He invited its representatives to speak to coaches and staff at a USSA summit last spring, which spawned a partnership between the two organizations.
“This program provides direct benefit to the USSA in helping us to prevent underage drinking within our own team, and that’s a challenge that all youth sports organizations here in Park City and across the state of Utah have to address,” Bodensteiner said Tuesday during a news conference announcing the partnership.
“It’s helped us make it a topic. It’s helped us to be clear with our athletes about our expectations, and it’s helped to provide them support in making strong personal choices that enhance their development as elite-level athletes,” he said.
As part of the alliance, state liquor stores in Park City will put up signs with a message about the harmful effects of underage drinking. There are also plans for billboards and newspaper ads reminding parents to keep alcohol away from children.
About 40 percent of Utah kids who drink get their alcohol at home with permission from their parents, according to the 2013 Student Health and Risk Prevention survey.
Though declining slightly the past five years, regular alcohol use and binge drinking among teenagers in Summit County is double the state average, the survey shows.
Park City Mayor Jack Thomas said parents are the key to dealing with the issue.
“Parents supplying alcohol to their underage kids and their friends in their own homes is one of the most difficult obstacles we face in this community, Thomas said.
Though it might prevent drunken driving, it doesn’t eliminate health risks to children or the increased likelihood for addiction, besides being illegal, he said.
Bodensteiner said he believes USSA’s involvement in the campaign will not only help the ski and snowboard teams, but make an impact on young people in the Park City area and statewide who see the athletes as role models.