Colorado ski industry leaders aim to break barriers from the top down
In the wake of George Floyd's murder, Colorado ski industry leaders have started taking steps to diversify the sport — but they have a long way to go.
Why it matters: For decades, people of color and lower-income earners have been largely excluded from the elite pastime because of a variety of barriers, from the cost to play and live in the mountains to the transportation to get there.
- Less than 2% of recorded resort visits during the 2018-19 ski season came from Black skiers and snowboarders, according to the National Ski Areas Association.
What's happening: Some of Colorado's biggest industry players have responded to the widespread racial justice movement and committed to making the sport more inclusive.
- Vail Resorts sent a letter to employees in June 2020 titled "We Are Part of the Problem" to acknowledge the "incredibly low" representation of people of color in the industry. Leadership has since outlined a plan to address the issue.
- Aspen Snowmass leaders wrote an open letter titled "We Commit" to publicly stand with the Black community and support the fight for social justice.
- Alterra Mountain Co. pledged in September to dedicate nearly $4 million to expand youth access to the mountains, including lessons, lift tickets, equipment rentals and meal vouchers.
What they're saying: “We see a lot of the large ski organizations and resorts putting out letters [and goals] allying with the BIPOC community, and we appreciate that, and we want to see more,” says Henry Rivers, president of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, referring to people of color.
- "But now it's 2021 — almost 2022 — and I am waiting for the other [shoe] to drop and to see these goals implemented," he tells Axios.
- A first priority should be diversifying the workforce running the resorts, Rivers adds. If guests don't feel welcomed, represented and seen by staff, they'll never come.
The big picture: Equity advocates agree the industry is moving in the right direction overall — but only time will tell if meaningful change makes it to the mountains.
- Vulnerable communities "cannot control this," Rivers says. "It's got to be driven by the snow sports industry."
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