Changing the Game
15 organizations working to make skiing and snowboarding more inclusive.
2020 will forever be marked by the call for civil equality across the nation (and across the world) in the wake of the deaths of Black American men and women like Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. And, with June named as LGBTQ Pride Month, the current effort to draw attention to systemic inequality has been historic. Conversations about justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion are taking place at dinner tables and in boardrooms everywhere, even within the ski industry. It’s no secret that the outdoor industry has long had challenges with diversity, but recently, winter athletes, brands, and media have been stepping up to acknowledge the work that has long been ignored and that needs to be done to make skiing, snowboarding, and all outdoor activities more inclusive and accessible.
Photo courtesy of Hoods to Woods Foundation, included below.
With much work ahead for the winter industry to make skiing and snowboarding more inclusive for everyone, working with existing organizations will be key for success. Here are just some of the amazing organizations already doing the work…
Share Winter is a grantmaking organization that carefully selects various non-profit organizations as grantees to build efficient, effective, sustainable winter sports programs and pipelines to ongoing winter sports participation. In 2020, the organization granted around $1 million in funding and funded over 45,000 youth in winter sports programs. "Share Winter exists to (1) empower, amplify, and advocate for organizations providing youth with the opportunity to ski and ride, (2) to reduce barriers to ski/snowboard access, and (3) create a more diverse and welcoming winter sports community," says Chief Executive Officer, Constance Beverley. See their long list of grantees doing amazing work.
Photo courtesy of The Loppet Foundation, an official grantee of Share Winter Foundation and located Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Danielle Wiliams created Melanin Base Camp in 2016 when she realized BIPOC were getting outside and being active, but that it wasn’t being depicted in outdoor media. The goal of MBC is to “increase the visibility of outdoorsy black, indigenous, people of color, to increase our representation in the media, advertising, and in the stories we tell ourselves about the Outdoors.” Working in-line with several partner outdoor organizations, MBC is seen as a media hub focussed on the work to #DiversifyOutdoors.
Offering programs in Colorado, Nevada, California, Utah, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington, SOS Outreach has consistently grown since its inception 25 years ago when it took a group of Denver kids to Vail Mountain to ski for the first time. Today, the program facilitates adult-children mentorships, outdoor adventures, skiing, snowboarding, climbing, backpacking, and camping, and multi-year education to keep kids outside and involved in their communities.
The Hoods to Woods Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that promotes awareness of the outdoors to inner city children through Snowboarding. Founded in 2009 by Brian Paupaw, an African American Snowboarder that grew up in the housing projects in Brooklyn; and Omar Diaz, a Domincan Snowboarder that lived in Washington Heights, NYC and Jersey City, NJ. They met through their mutual love for snowboarding and felt that the sport was too incredible not to share with the inner city youth from their neighborhoods. Understanding the major challenges with winter sports such as cost and awareness, they started carpooling day trips and free lessons. Today, they teach 35-40 teens from Brooklyn at Big Boulder Park, Pennsylvania every Saturday.
Started in 1973 when a handful of Black ski clubs joined forces, the National Brotherhood of Skiers is legendary. Today, NBS is recognized as one of the largest ski organizations and currently consists of 55 member clubs across 43 cities with a membership of 3,500 people. Their work in the industry has expanded over the years and their youth programming help provide resources and financial help to “identify, develop and support athletes of color who will WIN international and Olympic winter sports competitions representing the United States and to increase participation in winter sports.”
After experiencing a spinal cord injury at Mammoth Mountain in 2006, High Fives Founder Roy Tuscany learned that with the support of others, he could overcome physical barriers and get back on the ski slopes. Today, the Tahoe-based non-profit works to raise injury prevention awareness (#helmetsarecool) and provide resources and inspiration to those who suffer life-altering injuries. High Fives has a “Military to Mountain” program that introduces veterans impacted by life-changing injuries to the “healing effects of skiing and snowboarding” and gives “Empowerment Grants” to its roster of hundreds of athletes which help cover things like adaptive equipment, travel costs, living expenses and more.
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Working towards "changing the outdoors for the LGBTQ community," Get Out and Trek puts together events, summits and trips to provide community, representation and access to LGBTQ outdoor enthusiasts. The passion to make people feel safe and like they "belong here, wild and free" when spending time outdoors is important to the organization. They host an annual winter summit and encourage folks to sign up for their newsletter and learn about nation-wide networking events and trips.
The NSCD mission is to “enable the human spirit through therapeutic sports and recreation” and the work they do with adaptive skiers year-round achieves this. Based in Denver, Colorado, NSCD offers “athletes with any physical, cognitive, emotional or behavioral diagnosis” the opportunity to participate in year-round outdoor activities like skiing, climbing, horseback riding, rafting, and more.
Spirit North, was founded in 2009 by four First Nation communities in northern Alberta to improve the well being of Indigenous youth through involvement in outdoor activities, like skiing. Today, the organization operates across six Canadian provinces and territories and serves over 6,000 Indigenous youth. By working with schools, educators, family members, and elders, Spirit North’s goal is to connect youth with land-based activities and sports by engaging the entire community.
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Based in New York state, the SHRED Foundation aims to get rural and urban youth engaged in snowboarding and skateboarding to both recognize alternative paths for success. “When I founded SHRED back in 2014, I didn’t have a grand social justice goal in mind, I simply wanted to share my love of snowboarding and expose kids, who didn’t have the access, to the mountains and our uniquely special culture,” says SHRED Founder and Director Danny Hairston in a recent social post.
Chris Anthony, a Warren Miller Entertainment film veteran, founded his organization in 2013 to provide funding and educational opportunities to schools and students in financial need. Between experiential opportunities and educational programming, CYIP gives students access to mountain trips, ski school, STEM education programs, and scholarship opportunities. The Glide Project provides snow science and avalanche education for youth with an emphasis on developing personal responsibility, teamwork, and respect for the mountain environment.
An 11-year-old national nonprofit with leadership networks all over the country, Outdoor Afro provides a community-centered network aimed at empowering Black connections and Black leadership in nature. With Meet Ups planned regularly with volunteer leaders from everywhere, people can feel welcomed to join in outdoor activities like skiing, biking, hiking, gardening, and more. Outdoor Afro also works to prioritize conservation efforts and to make outdoor recreation more equitable with a mission to break down barriers that often keep Black communities from enjoying the outdoors.
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Coombs Outdoors in an organization dedicated to empowering youth through outdoor recreation. Founded in honor of Doug Coombs in Jackson Hole, where outdoor recreation is big, but the divisions between socio-economic, racial, and cultural classes are even bigger, Coombs Outdoors is dedicated to helping youth from low-income families overcome those barriers by engaging children of all ages through year-round outdoor programming. Starting with kids as young as kindergarten, Coombs activates participation in children with entry level instructional activities, engages them at the middle school level through mentor-based recreation, and empowers teens at the high school level through leadership training, internships, and continued outdoor recreation. Their vision is not necessarily to “create world-class skiers or rock climbers, but to develop word-class people ready to embrace the future with confidence.”
Founded by outdoor activist and industry trailblazer Teresa Baker, the In Solidarity Project aims to bring the entire outdoor industry together “to build a more inclusive future.” Through member-based initiatives like the Outdoor CEO Pledge, DEI training programs, job boards and more, outdoor companies can put in the work to create more inclusivity in their business and in the great outdoors.
The Adaptive Sports Center was originally founded in 1987 by a group of passionate locals in Crested Butte, Colorado who were dedicated to providing ski instruction and equipment to individuals with disabilities. Today, the organization offers over 6,000 year-round activities, from mountain biking to kayaking to ice climbing, to over 800 annual participants who travel from around the world to engage in activities in the heart of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. The vision of The Center is not only to improve the access to outdoor activity to individuals with disabilities, but also to increase quality of life, health, self-confidence, and overall well-being through adventure.
There are dozens more community led organizations, nonprofits and businesses doing work to make the outdoors more inclusive and diverse. Please share some of your favorites in the comments below…