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Alumni Spotlight – Javier Pineda 


Similar to any young person, Javier Pineda was resistant to moving from his home in Michoacan, Mexico to Summit County, Colorado. Nevertheless, at the age of 12, he and his family made the move and immigrated to the United States in 2006.

“The main reason I moved to Breckenridge was not to ski and snowboard like most people do,” reflects Javier, “it was to reunite with my dad”. Javier’s father came to the U.S. a few years prior to the rest of his family, working jobs on the West Coast before ultimately settling down near Breckenridge.

Javier had seen pictures of where his dad lived in Summit and was intrigued by the idea of snowboarding in the nearby mountains. “Before moving, my connection to the outdoors had always been family-oriented -having barbecues and mellow hiking, that sort of thing. But I always wanted to learn to snowboard” says Javier. 

On his second day ever in Summit County, Javier remembers taking a drive with his family and seeing something that would remain on his mind for over a decade. “On Mount Victoria, there is a chute. It’s a well-known avy path that took out an old mining town” recalls Javier, “during our drive, I can see this chute from the road and it clearly looks like a ski run. So I turn around to my dad and say ‘Hey dad, is that what people ski?’ He laughed and he said ‘no way’. In my mind as a 12-year-old old-kid, I still kept thinking no you can definitely ski that. And that stuck with me for years.”

Despite his dreams of riding in the mountains, it would be many years before Javier would strap into a snowboard. “The biggest barriers of why I didn’t get into the sport right away had to do with time from my parents to take me to the mountain, and then there was the economic aspect- the financial cost,” says Javier. In addition to all of that, the lack of insurance weighed heavily on his parent’s minds, “my mom was so worried about me getting hurt. We migrated to this country and didn’t have insurance or healthcare.”

Finally, when Javier was 16 years old, he convinced his parents to let him take a shot at the sport. He signed up for the SOS’ introductory program and that winter, he hit the slopes of Keystone for the first time. 

It was a steep learning curve at first and Javier remembers being surprised by how difficult it was to make turns. However as time passed, Javier’s skills and confidence on the board progressed. Although he loved the sensation of gliding on snow, Javier still felt like something was missing. “Before I started, I thought snowboarding was the answer to me feeling like I would belong. But when I learned to snowboard, it kind of felt like nothing had changed in that aspect of my life,” says Javier.

Javier graduated high school the following year as a decorated student and student body class president. He attended the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs to pursue a degree in Political Science with the hopes of attending law school. Unfortunately, without in-state tuition, or a social security number to work, Javier was not able to continue his studies at UCCS. During this time, Javier was forced to take a hiatus from snowboarding due to financial costs. 

Photo credit: Mountain Dreamers

Javier eventually found work as a paralegal and returned to Summit County. It was then that he also returned to snowboarding. Yet still, Javier struggled to find a sense of belonging in the sport he loved. Things changed in 2019.

“It was springtime, May I think. I was reading a book about backcountry skiing and as I’m flipping through the book, I see a picture of the chute I saw when I was 12,” says Javier, “I learn that it’s called  ‘J-Chute’. At first I couldn’t believe it, and then I laughed, I told my dad you could ski it and I wasn’t wrong! I went to Walmart, bought some snowshoes because I didn’t know any better, and I hiked up that mountain. When I got to the top, I called my dad and said “hey dad, where do you think I am right now?” 

Reaching the summit of Mt. Victoria was a huge achievement for Javier and after taking a few minutes to call his dad and soak in the view, he dropped into the chute. 

“It was the most amazing and scary thing. It took me 6 hours to get up and 10 minutes to get down. But that moment proved to myself that I can do more than I thought and that I do belong. It was my own power, my own willingness to make it happen. I realized from that experience that this feeling that I got from being challenged and the sense of accomplishment afterwards was something that I wanted to share with more people”. 

This was an experience that would mark a significant transition in Javier’s life, “that moment where I realized that I belong, it was just a domino effect from there”. 

That same year, Javier would go on to co-found Mountain Dreamers, a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to Immigrant’s Rights and Advocacy. “At the time, DACA was being rescinded by the current president,” says Javier, “we felt like we needed to speak up for people who live, work, and provide for people in Summit County”. At first Mountain Dreamers simply started by giving Javier and the other founders a chance to share their story as a way to empower others in the immigrant community – and that’s exactly what Javier did. For the first time in his life, he opened up to the public about being a DACA recipient and the difficulties that accompany it. 

Soon, Mountain Dreamers grew to not only empower, but advocate for and provide free services for folks in the immigrant community. In 2022, Javier left his job as a paralegal to dive in full-time to the work he was doing with Mountain Dreamers. That winter, Javier launched a new program in the organization focused on inclusive and equitable access to the mountain called OSO Outdoors. 

“I got tired of people saying ‘oh you live in Breckenridge, you must ski a lot.’ Living in a community does not automatically translate to accessibility” says Javier, “people do want to be outside, but it comes down to money, time, and so many other factors.”   

With a boost in grant funding, OSO Outdoors held its first program during the spring of 2023. Javier chose to focus his efforts on reaching adults in the community, and over half of the adults who participated had kids who had engaged or were currently engaging in SOS programs. 

“We had a 57-year-old man in our program. He had lived in the county for 27 years! Our program was the first time he ever went to the mountains to ski. You should have seen his face, he was like a kid again. In a way, I’m doing youth programs by expression” jokes Javier. 

But all jokes aside, through this program Javier is making a serious impact and more folks in the community are wanting to get involved. “We had over 150 people interested in the program overnight,” says Javier, “at OSO Outdoors, we don’t have a problem with outreach, we have a problem with capacity”. 

Javier is working hard to build capacity for Mountain Dreamers and OSO Outdoors. Through it all, he recognizes that his time in SOS was pivotal in influencing his life trajectory. 

“I can tell you that my time in SOS was life-changing. The work I do now, I don’t think it would have happened if it weren’t for SOS. SOS planted the seed. The seed of opportunity. It provided a safe space to learn. It provided the resources for me to try snowboarding. And I wish I could have been in the program for longer, but I always look back on those years and feel proud of the courage I showed to try this.”

Javier continues, “SOS helped me understand that snowboarding isn’t just a sport. It’s a lifestyle and through those core values, it gave me a sense of belonging and connected me to people that made me feel part of a family. I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity.”

You can support Mountain Dreamers and OSO Outdoors by visiting: