Pictured: Annette Diggs of Edge Outdoors in her element teaching at Steven's Pass Resort in Washington State. Photo by @adamjsanders
We’re celebrating Black History Month by acknowledging the importance of increased visibility of Black people in the outdoors (and in snowsports especially) and the dismantling of barriers to entry and finding joy in outdoor spaces. The list is long, and includes but certainly not limited to expensive gear and lift tickets/entry fees, a lack of representation in marketing, a lack of representation within the space, with participants often feeling like “the only one on the mountain or trail,” generational shockwaves from laws such as Jim Crow and segregation, plus the pervasive and unrelenting systems of racism and white supremacy that are felt within these communities that create uncomfortable atmospheres at best, and dangerous ones at worst.
This can feel like A LOT. Good thing is there’s a number of Black and BIPOC founded organizations that are working on changing the industry. They all have similar threads to their origin stories and efforts, creating community and representation in their respective regions. We’re incredibly appreciative of their work within the outdoors in creating access, equity, and diversity to these spaces for humans historically left out of the outdoors and the outdoor narrative.
Black-woman led by none other than Annette Diggs, Edge Outdoors aims to “cultivate inclusivity, bestow equity and justice, promote the normalization of Black and Brown bodies on mountain spaces, and create a community of Women of Color that can thrive and lead.” Entering skiing and not seeing herself on the slopes, Diggs created Edge to normalize seeing Black and Brown humans in snowsports, and create a thriving community of these humans at all points of the skiing and riding journey. This includes helping women of color within instructing to advance their skill and knowledge so that we also see these humans in leadership capacities to help coach the next generation of shredders. Expect to see the Summer Ski Camp at Windells on Mt. Hood scholarships open in early spring, and follow their Instagram here to stay in the loop about the 2024 scholarships in late Fall.
The NBS is currently celebrating their 50th Anniversary season! Started in 1973 by founders Ben Finley and Art Clay, NBS was originally a summit for Black skiers to discuss the skiing experience specifically felt by Black humans and to create community based on this shared experience. More than 350 ski enthusiasts met for that first summit in Aspen, Colorado. While NBS started as a Black Summit with a goal to place a Black skier on the U.S. Ski Team, it has since grown into an entity that aims to “identify, develop, and support athletes of color” who want to pursue international competition or the Olympics. Keep an eye on their website for information on the 2024 Summit, and check out their list of regional clubs here.
Unlikely Riders is a Vermont-based and BIPOC-led organization with the goal of reducing or completely eliminating barriers to entry into snowsports, while also creating a safe, inclusive space for people of color to exist fully and unapologetically within skiing and snowboarding. The specific ways Unlikely Riders is helping to dismantle barriers to entry include a gear closet, which outfits the community with anything and everything from outerwear to hardgoods for skiing, riding, backcountry, and cross country; community gatherings, including LGBTQ+ specific events; and instruction for skiing and riding and adjacent disciplines such as avalanche safety and wilderness medicine.
Founded by the parents of pro rider and artist Dillon Ojo after he passed away in 2018 at the age of 23, the Dillon Ojo Lifeline Foundation is a non-profit aimed at providing underprivileged youth opportunities to pursue sports, arts, summer camps, and more. Donations help to support initiatives such as bursaries, workshops, clinics, and clothing/gear drives in the Montréal-area communities.
Black Outside was founded as an initiative to reconnect Black humans with the outdoors based on the current fact that only 1% of Texans recreating in state parks identify as Black. Through their youth programming, such as summer camp specifically for Black girls and nature-based mentorship for Black male high schoolers, they aim to help Black youth explore themselves, explore their history of Black humans in the outdoors, and find connection with enjoying and exploring nature.
Black Girls Trekkin’ is an LA-based organization that aims to show the world that Black girls and women exist in all corners of the outdoors, even if it is not acknowledged or represented that way. They aim to create a community of Black women and women of color to help get away from the business of LA life, promote diversity in every outdoor space, and connect with other Black women and women of color, while also promoting education about how to protect and preserve nature. If you’re based in the LA area, sign up for their email list to see their event calendar for outdoor meet-ups.
Started in 2016 originally with a goal to increase participation of people of color in outdoor activities and sports, Melanin Basecamp and Diversify Outdoors founder Danielle Williams found quickly in her research that these spaces already had people of color in it, but they simply weren’t being represented in photography, advertising, or marketing. So Melanin Basecamp quickly shifted its goal to increase the visibility of said humans that already are out there doing the things. They do this with a staff of amazing blog writers, funded by donations, who put outdoor content into the world that reflects the real stories and experiences of the amazing community of people of color that exists in all these outdoor spaces.
Outdoor Afro, founded by CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 originally as a blog, is currently a nationwide network of 60,000+ humans, more than 1,200 events both in-person and online, and 100+ volunteers in 60 cities across 32 states. Its purpose is to connect Black people with nature in meaningful ways with year-round activities. Current initiatives include: Making Waves, a national program aimed at giving every child or caregiver has the opportunity to learn to swim; Leadership Training, which helps volunteer leaders learn how to lead local communities safely in nature; and a commemoration day on Juneteenth that encourages people to go outside for 2.5 hours for reflection on the 2.5 additional years slaves in Galveston, Texas were deprived freedom.
Black history is more than just one month out of the year, and it’s important to remember that putting in the work to be anti-racist requires constant and deliberate attention. Be sure to follow along with all these organizations on their social media platforms and sign up for their email lists to continue listening and learning about ways you can make a difference in creating more visibility, diversity, and equity within snowsports.