Or 29 days on a leap year the US celebrates, appropriates, and commercializes Black History (let’s be honest it’s a blend of all 3). I moved to Vermont from Bed Stuy, New York – a predominantly black neighborhood in Brooklyn where Black excellence lives and breathes through its mom and pop shops, community gardens, block parties, art murals, and mecca of restaurants just to name a few. I am a Colombian American and this is the first time I’ve lived in a place where it’s rare to see anyone who looks like me and/or identifies as BIPOC. I’m also a new member on the Bolton Valley marketing team, and throughout the month I’ve been carefully considering how in my current role I can be a positive change for diversity, equity, inclusion in my new home?
Unsurprisingly, data collected by the National Ski Area Association indicates that 87.5% of the skier demographic makeup in the 2020-2021 season was white. This statistic starkly contradicts a defensive statement “We welcome everyone!”, I recently heard from a participant on a DEI related call. Welcoming or not, history and present day continue to prove that economic and systemic barriers remain in place for marginalized groups and curtail accessibility. Welcoming everyone isn’t a reality until we are collectively backing these communities through granting access to outdoor space, gear/equipment, instruction/education, and moral support. The thousands of excuses I have ever heard are opening the floodgates as we speak. Cue the late great Scientist, George Washington Carver, “Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses”, ergo, action is key.
Identifying a lack of access, financing, and exposure is a starting point towards real significant change, but where do we go from there? The ski industry has “voiced” its desire for diversity (some are cut and paste) but I believe it needs to reflect this change from the inside out. Through philanthropy, marketing, and progressive policies we can better promote inclusivity. Hiring, training, and branding processes will need a lot of reworking, which may lead to opposition from anyone like company shareholders or resort parking staff. Although the challenges here can stack up with the possibility of abrasive political discourse, staffing shortages, policy pushback, etc., I remain hopeful and determined for change.
I chose to write a piece on the lack of diversity, inclusion, and access on the last day of February because my hope was that this message would carry on beyond the shortest month of the year. I implore anyone who is reading this to ask themselves, “how can I be a force for progressive change?”. These are baby steps, but on a professional level, I just started to co-lead a Woman’s club called the ‘Bolton Babe Force’ – which originated through an incredible group of female skiers with a passion for backcountry excursions. My goal is for Babe Force to start chipping away at the current barriers that marginalized groups face and for us to nurture a safe outdoor community where Babes of all abilities, from all walks of life can freely be themselves. On a personal level, I just joined a BIPOC group where I hope to help motivate, create, and take up space for outdoor enthusiasts and newcomers alike. I’ve barely scratched the surface, but we still have 10 months left in 2022 and the possibilities are endless. How will you begin to make a positive impact in your community?