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Over the past year and a half, the ski industry has begun to have some long overdue conversations about making the sport more inclusive. It’s no secret that skiing is expensive, with the price tag of participation being a key barrier to the slopes. But the price of lift tickets and gear isn’t the only thing keeping diverse communities from taking up skiing.
“There are multitude of barriers that exist when it comes to BIPOC recreating, leading, and thriving in predominantly white spaces in the outdoors,” says Annette Diggs, PSIA-AASI certified instructor, Black woman, and founder of EDGE Outdoors. “The lack of racial and ethnic diversity can be seen at the guest level and it’s even more apparent in the low rates of BIPOC as certified PSIA-AASI instructors, divisional staff leaders, and examiners.”
While the industry is starting to dig into these issues, it’s still a ways off from actually solving any of them. Luckily, there are a number of organizations and nonprofits that took up the mantle years ago, before “DEI” became the buzzword it is today. These nonprofits have been working hard to break down barriers to the sport for a while now, and we’re inspired by the work they’ve done and continue to do. The common thread? It’s about more than providing a one-off opportunity for folks to get out there. It’s about fostering long-term success, and building a community where everyone feels welcome and can recognize faces that look like theirs on the hill.
Get to know these four nonprofits that are walking the walk when it comes to making skiing more inclusive for everyone.
- Who it serves: Black, Indigenous, Woman of Color including Trans-Woman of Color, or Genderqueer under-represented in snow sports; most programs or scholarships are for adults aged 18+
- Type of program: Scholarships for learn to ski and board programs, avalanche education, and professional instructor certification
Annette Diggs founded EDGE Outdoors to increase and retain the presence of Black, Indigenous, Women of Color in snow sports. “As a Black woman, PSIA-AASI certified instructor, and recreational skier, I have witnessed, lived, and presently experience the side effects of discriminatory law which galvanized me to create EDGE Outdoors,” Diggs shared.
EDGE provides scholarships for learn-to-ski and snowboard programs at Stevens Pass, Wash., avalanche awareness training, introductory backcountry courses, and competitive development training. Diggs expresses how important it is not only to create opportunities for BIWOC skiers to participate, but to create safe and welcoming spaces so they feel empowered to return to the mountains. A big part of that is creating change at the resort level, and providing a space that is safe for BIWOC skiers. Many resorts talk about their commitment to justice and equity in snowsports, and Diggs is providing an opportunity for resorts to stand behind that, through EDGE Outdoors anti-racism training for ski areas.
- Who it serves: Kids and youth in Jackson, Wyo.
- Type of program: Ski/ride lessons, weekly mentoring opportunities, introductory backcountry skiing clinics, and internship programs
Many who visit Jackson Hole, Wyo. take for granted the easy access to world-class skiing just minutes from town. But Teton County has also consistently been ranked among the counties with the highest income disparities in the country, and that access isn’t a given for everyone. Based in Jackson, Coombs Outdoors works to break down cultural and financial barriers to skiing and outdoor recreation for local youth.
In 2012, Emily Coombs started the Doug Coombs Foundation in honor of her late husband Doug Coombs after she noticed the barriers to entry that skiing posed for many who lived in Teton County. Now rebranded as Coombs Outdoors, the organization has grown to serve over 300 local youth each winter, using skiing and outdoor recreation to help empower kids to grow and thrive in the community. From kindergarten through high school, kids progress through lessons at Snow King Mountain, weekly mentoring opportunities at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, introductory backcountry ski clinics, and internship programs to encourage a lifelong journey on skis.
- Who it serves: Kids and youth in Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, Pacific Northwest, and Midwest
- Type of program: Learn to ski/ride lessons and adult mentorship programs
Twenty-five years ago, SOS Outreach started by taking 15 kids from Denver to ski at Vail for the first time. Since 1995, SOS has grown to support over 4,000 youth each year, with ski programs in the Cascades, Sierras, Rockies, and Midwest. The SOS journey spans up to 10 years, starting with introductory programs at 15 different ski resorts across the country, with consistent mentorship opportunities to help kids stay engaged and build leadership skills. When kids get older and feel more comfortable on the hill, they can become mentors for the younger kids, passing on their newfound love for skiing and starting a cycle of mentorship that carries on throughout the years.
- Who it serves: Nonprofits including ski areas that are interested in launching DEI programs within the snowsports space
- Type of program: Offers various grants and DEI training to nonprofits
Share Winter is a grant-making organization that works with nonprofits around the country that are breaking down barriers to access to get more youth on snow. Share supports 24 different organizations in the U.S., including nonprofit ski resorts like Mount Ashland and Antelope Butte, youth empowerment programs like Coombs Outdoors, and coaching programs like the Bridger Ski Foundation, among others. In addition to financial contributions to nonprofits working on better access to skiing, Share Winter provides DEI training programs to their grantees to help promote a more inclusive ski community nationwide.
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