It takes just a cursory glance to admit that there is a glaring problem with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) participation in snow sports.
This homogeneity spans the entire spectrum from industry employees to leadership positions to participation in skiing and snowboarding and the recruitment of new beginners and enthusiasts from diverse identities, abilities, ethnicities and backgrounds. Simply look to the data from Snowsports Industries America (SIA) to confirm these trends:
Of 14.9 million skiers participating in the 2018–19 season, SIA found that:
Of 7.8 million snowboarders participating in the 2018–19 season, SIA found that:
51.6% of winter sports participants in the 2018–19 season reported household incomes of over $75,000.
Just 12.6% of participants had household incomes below $25,000.
When you are standing on a mountain with skis or a snowboard strapped to your feet, the heavy weight of all the problems in the world feels just a bit lighter. A wide open, snow-covered slope, expansive skies, fresh air—all of these things are an incredible privilege that we as a community enjoy on a regular basis. Your background, identity, gender, ethnicity or race should never dictate your access to the profound joy and sense of freedom that skiing and snowboarding fosters.
If you identify as a BIPOC individual, check out the opportunities below and know that you are welcome and wanted as a skier or snowboarder on Utah's slopes. Tell a friend, sign up for a program and help us spread the word to share skiing and snowboarding. Let's all commit to making our mountains more diverse, more fun and more inclusive for everyone.
We must support the BIPOC skiers and snowboarders who have already discovered the joy of time spent in the mountains. We must hold these individuals up and amplify their journey and voices to inspire new skiers and snowboarders to join our ranks. If you would like to move forward in achieving diversity in snow sports, volunteer opportunities abound! If time is short, consider supporting a fundraiser, donating gently used gear or committing to a monetary donation. Skiing and snowboarding are better when everyone is welcome.
SKI UTAH'S DISCOVER WINTER
For the 2021–22 ski season, Ski Utah and its partner resorts committed to increasing BIPOC participation with a program called Discover Winter. This program aims to introduce a life-long love of skiing or snowboarding to a more diverse population of adults. With a number of funding partners, Ski Utah helped over 200 participants visit area resorts a total of four times for ski or snowboard lessons. Ski Utah provided lift tickets, lessons, transportation, equipment rentals and clothing as well as facilitated donations and sponsors. All participants who completed four lessons earned a Ski Utah Yeti Pass valid at all 15 Utah ski areas. For more info, click here.
Utah ski areas offer incredible resources and programming for individuals of diverse physical abilities. A host of nonprofit organizations directly partner with resorts in Utah to offer ski and snowboarding lessons in addition to other robust programming opportunities in the outdoors. Just about any individual can be accommodated with an adaptive lesson. I volunteer directly with Wasatch Adaptive Sports out of Snowbird and the impact these lessons can have on someone's life will stop you in your tracks. Students foster confidence, and independence all while experiencing something completely novel and exciting. For a more comprehensive list of adaptive or volunteering opportunities, see this article: click here.
The Chill Foundation was created in 1995 by Jake and Donna Carpenter, who founded Burton Snowboards. They sought to provide local youth with access to life-changing programming and an introduction to board sports. Today, Chill can be found operating internationally and in 15 US cities. To date, the organization has introduced over 30,000 youth to snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing and stand-up paddleboarding. Chill’s six core values provide youth with a foundation and framework for learning and growth, supported and enhanced through on-board progression and adult mentorship. Chill removes all barriers to accessing boardsports by providing youth with everything they need to get after it, at absolutely no cost.
Our Utah chapter of the Chill Foundation works with social service agencies, mental health agencies, foster care programs, juvenile justice programs, and schools in local communities to select youth participants for free snowboardboard lessons. Chill works with Brighton, Powder Mountain, Woodward Park City and the Crossroads Skatepark. Chill is awesome in that they promote resiliency amongst their participants and teach board sports as a tool to empower students in their circumstances.
SOS Outreach was founded over 30 years ago in Colorado and also began operating in Utah from Park City in 2015. The SOS Outreach mission is to bring underserved youth together under a mentorship program which involves exposure to skiing and snowboarding. Inclusivity is key for SOS Outreach which vies to support the local Park City community.
Don't miss this great podcast about SOS Outreach with Ski Utah contributor, Tom Kelly, as he interviews key players and an SOS participant - click here.
The SOS Outreach organization serves over 4,000 youth annually in 15 locations across nine states. In Utah, SOS Outreach operates out of Park City Mountain and Woodward Park City. If you'd like to support SOS outreach, there are myriad ways to get involved, just click here.
SheJumps is an organization with regional chapters across the US and Canada that serve girls aged 6+ and women 18 and older who have either never participated in outdoor activities or are active members of the outdoor community wishing to foster connections, give back and share their passions. The organization develops programming for girls and women to learn outdoor skills in an inclusive environment while pushing participants beyond their perceived boundaries. SheJumps sponsors several programs that benefit first-time skiers including one at Alta Ski Area called 'Get the Girls Out' on International Women's Day. Locate your regional chapter and check out local events or learn how you can help here.
SHARE WINTER FOUNDATION
Share Winter is a grantmaking organization working to improve the lives, health and fitness of youth through winter sports. Carefully selected grantees are supported to build efficient, effective, sustainable winter sports programs and pipelines to ongoing winter sports participation. Share Winter seeks partnerships that make winter sports accessible to a broader, more diverse community with a goal to share winter with 100,000 youth by 2028. In 2019–20, Share Winter allocated $1M to schools, clubs, community organizations, nonprofits, departments of recreation and non-profit ski areas, which served 45,000 youth across the country. Apply for a grant, volunteer or donate here.
NATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF SKIERS
The National Brotherhood of Skiers is an umbrella organization of approximately 50 ski clubs across America that foster a welcoming and supportive environment for African American winter sports enthusiasts. NBS hosts events and fundraisers to support youth development and is one of the largest ski clubs in America today. One of the main tenets of their mission is to increase participation of People of Color in winter sports. Donate or learn more here.
SOS Outreach: Diversity & Inclusion in Sport Podcast w. Tom Kelly - Click Here
Leading the Future | Phillip Henderson - Click Here
Gin Chao | Skiing Is Life - Click Here
J1 Visa Vitality - Click Here
Adaptive Skiing & Snowboarding at Utah's Resorts - Click Here
Lamont Joseph White: Skiing in Color - Click Here