What is Gatekeeping in snowsports?
We dive into what gatekeeping is; why it’s not cool; and the ways to recognize and stop gatekeeping within your snowsports community.
Gatekeeping is a term you may have heard before concerning media, the internet, politics, or academia but maybe more recently, you’ve also heard it in relation to sport. So, what is gatekeeping; and why is it important?
Well, the concept of gatekeeping is preventing others from joining or having access to something - be it a social class, an industry, or in this case, a sport. And it’s important because many outdoor sports lack diversity and are extremely difficult to access for most people. When asking, are snowsports accessible? The short answer is, no. Skiing and snowboarding are mainly dominated by one demographic: cis white men. And the main problem here is that many people within this demographic work - whether it's conscious or not - to maintain this exclusivity. And that is gatekeeping.
Of course, when looking at the lack of diversity in snowsports, the history of snowsports is important to consider. There are reasons why there aren't there as many women, people of color, or working-class people involved in the sport (let alone a working-class woman of color). These don't change because many of us within the sport uphold and continue to gatekeep snowsports - even if we don’t want to. Skiing and snowboarding are in many ways classist and exclusive. Skiing is racist, skiing is sexist, skiing is exclusive. However, there isn’t any reason it should stay this way. So to break some boundaries, and help create a more inclusive snowsports community - the first step is to ask yourself, am I a gatekeeper of skiing and snowboarding?
A common example of gatekeeping is the culture of making fun of people on the mountain who don’t know what they are doing. Beginners, often referred to as “Jerrys,” are often laughed at by experienced riders for making mistakes. While there is humor in learning something new, there is also a very real gap between advanced riders and beginners and it lies in more than just ability. Most often “Jerrys” are from a lower-class background, are people of color, and are from a non-western, non-English speaking country. This means that making fun of someone on the mountain who is inexperienced might also be making fun of someone because they are less privileged - and this is problematic. This can be off-putting and confidence-deflating for people who just want to become part of this sport that we all love and there’s nothing cool or funny about that. This creates even more barriers to learning something like skiing and snowboarding and maintains the gatekeep-y idea that if you don’t already know what you’re doing - you shouldn’t be there.
Stopping yourself from gatekeeping is as simple as understanding the privilege it is to have the skills to participate in such an amazing sport and work to share - not limit - that opportunity with others. No one owns the mountain and it should be a place for everyone to enjoy.
So, now that you know what gatekeeping in snowsports is - what now? The first step is already done, just understanding the barriers to the mountain and what you might be doing perpetuate them is a good place to start. If you want to do more and help diversify snowsports check out our diversify the outdoors series here.