Ross Powers, founder of the Level Field Fund, celebrates with Ross Powers Foundation beneficiary and fellow U.S. Snowboarding Team member Graham Watanabe at the finish of an FIS Snowboardcross Team World Cup in 2009 in Telluride, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
PARK CITY, UT— (Dec. 6) Ross Powers is a snowboarding legend, having won Olympic gold in the Salt Lake City halfpipe in 2002 before most recently converting to snowboardcross—at the World Cup level, no less. Yet the South Londonderry, VT native would not have the success he's had without the support of his Stratton Mountain community, which is why in 2010 he launched the Level Field Fund (LFF) to offer financial assistance to other promising athletes. Dating back to October 2010, LFF has awarded 53 grants benefitting 40 athletes for a total of over $137,000 dollars.
"We're trying to help U.S. athletes in all sports," said Powers, whose LFF has awarded grants to U.S. skateboarders, kayakers, skeleton and taekwondo athletes in addition to skiers and snowboarders. Powers has also teamed up with fellow snowboarder (and U.S. Team member) Seth Westcott, skier Daron Rahlves and swimmers Michael Phelps and Lenny Krayzelburg to find grant-winning athletes. "I've done all I can to raise money and support athletes, and teaming up with Seth, Daron, Michael, and Lenny has helped athletes in their sports," said Powers.
Still, Powers' philanthropic efforts have made the biggest impact within skiing and snowboarding, where 10 USSA athletes have benefitted from LFF. Those athletes include 2011 U.S. snowboardcross champion and Park City resident Jonathan Cheever as well as cross country A-Teamer and Powers' fellow Vermonter Liz Stephen.
"We try to stay up on them through different media on what our athletes are doing," said Powers. "Coming into this season, [Liz] got an 18th place finish in the World Cup [opener in Sjusjoen, Norway] and other cross country athletes are doing really well."
In cross country, 2011 Junior Olympic Classic Sprint champion and D team athlete Skyler Davis is also a LFF award-winner, along with 2011 FIS World Championship snowboarder Benji Farrow, 2010 alpine Olympian Megan McJames, 2011 U.S. halfpipe champion Devin Logan, 2010 snowboardcross Olympian Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, 2006 X Games snowboardcross bronze medalist Jayson Hale, and 2010 snowboardcross Olympian Faye Gulini. Snowboardcross A Teamers Graham Watanabe and Nick Baumgartner and B Team members Alex Deibold and Pat Holland have also benefitted from the Ross Powers Foundation, what the Level Field Fund was before 2010.
"We're just doing all we can to help different athletes out there," said Powers, "and level the playing field."