Larry H. Miller Family Foundation Helps to Bring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to the Ski Slopes

Utah continues to experience economic growth and recognition as a world-class destination. Each year, more people from more places across the globe have chosen Utah to live, work and visit. While Utah continues to attract people from all backgrounds, there is not enough representation in outdoor recreation and especially skiing and winter sports.

Because of this, Ski Utah, state agencies and local and national businesses have teamed together on a new initiative, Discover Winter. This program aims to increase the participation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) individuals in winter sports by making The Greatest Snow on Earth more accessible to more people.

With generous funding through a CARES Act grant from the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity and the Larry H. Miller Family FoundationSki Utah, in its first diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) endeavor with its partner resorts, can accomplish this by removing barriers to entry, from transportation to equipment rentals, lessons and the proper clothing and safety gear. Ultimately, the long-term goal of Discover Winter and all of its partners is to foster a life-long love of skiing and snowboarding for all.

More diversity on the mountain

Winter sports are woefully behind other activities when it comes to more-diverse athletes, enthusiasts and audiences. Despite BIPOC athletes participating and medaling in various events at the recent Olympic Winter Games, Powdermagazine reports that an overwhelming majority (88%) of recreational skiers and snowboarders are Caucasian.

That’s the goal. To increase the presence of black and brown people in the mountains. The power of representation, which brings inclusion, which then can bring opportunity — so then we’re all lifted up.”

Lamont Joseph White

As Park City artist and snowboarder, artist Lamont Joseph White, explained, “That is essentially the message I’m trying to send through my artwork ‘How about more of us come alongside?’ That’s the thought. That’s the goal. To increase the presence of black and brown people in the mountains. The power of representation, which brings inclusion, which then can bring opportunity — so then we’re all lifted up.”

However, beyond race and ethnicity, physical, geographic and economic factorshave played a part in keeping BIPOC from participating in winter sports. Money alone won’t solve these issues, and many Discover Winter participants are not economically disadvantaged, but it attempts to foster a community and culture that welcomes and includes BIPOC, especially those new to Utah.

Discover Winter has provided an opportunity for people who may have grown up in balmy climates to try skiing and snowboarding. Most participants are college students, college graduates and/or working professionals as well as recent immigrants or refugees (according to the Kem C. Gardner Institute, there are roughly 60,000 refugees in Utah, approximately 30%–35% of which are children).

Many participants hail from places that rarely, if ever, see snow, including 23 African countries, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and two Native American tribes. Discover Winter wants to break barriers in the ski industry and winter sports, generally, by among other things, breaking down its barriers to entry.

What the Discover Winter program includes

Participating in skiing and snowboarding can be expensive, but through the Discover Winter program, the costs associated with the sport have been eliminated or significantly reduced for participants.

First, there is the cost of lift passes and lessons. During the months of January, February and March, upwards of 150 participants from Future Scholars of Africa, Weber State University’s Diversity Clubs and Latinx members of Mountain Life Church in Park City have had the opportunity to visit a Utah ski resort four times for ski or snowboard lessons. Participating resorts include AltaBrightonSnowbirdSnowbasinSolitude Mountain Resort and Woodward Park City.

Then, there’s transportation and equipment. Ski Utah provides free transportation to the resorts, and resorts provide ski or snowboard equipment. Ski Utah members and partners have generously donated jackets, pants, helmets, goggles, gloves and neck gaiters for participants to stay warm and safe.

Finally, the fun continues even when lessons are over! At the end of the program, participants receive a Ski Utah Yeti Pass, valid for one free lift ticket at each of Utah’s 15 ski resorts. That way, they can practice their newfound skills and become lifelong skiers and boarders. Moreover, the season concludes with an après party to meet even more new ski friends and brag about the runs they slew and plan which resorts and runs to hit next winter.

“When we moved to Utah from Los Angeles over 10 years ago, we didn’t think skiing was something for us,” says Andrea Garavito Martinez, a Discover Winter participant. “But what really made a difference for us was skiing next to people that looked like us, other BIPOC first-time skiers. When we met Lamont Joseph White, we felt welcomed. Seeing and talking with him really made us feel like, yeah, this space and community is also for us.”

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