How does a welcoming place look? That may vary from place to place, culture to culture. Clear for years in the ski community is the now well-documented Adventure Gap. Ours is a community with work to do. And many, like Kai Lightner of the climbing world, are outspoken about the challenges faced by the BIPOC community. And years ago, tele-ski legend Leslie Ross created Babes in the Backcountry to educate women in a non-judgmental outdoor environment. There’s been some progress.
I’ll nail it down to this salient point: people crave a welcoming community and a community where someone, even just one person, looks and sounds familiar. The economic and social barriers for some groups getting into the outdoor adventure space remain overwhelming.
Azissa Singh is a relatively new hire at Boulder-based AIARE, which specializes in avalanche education. (Singh is also a certified AMGA rock guide and serves on their Board.) At AIARE, Singh is the Women’s Mentorship Manager. The mentorship program will pair emerging woman avalanche professionals with seasoned women mentors.
“Specifically with this women’s mentorship program, we are trying to support people who are already in the AIARE pool of members,” said Azissa. “We want to create good infrastructure so that we build more mentors and provide support for people who are already trying to make a go of it.”
Azissa acknowledges this is one step of many to broaden representation in the backcountry scene. “We are not just trying to silo into this women’s mentorship program; there are a lot of tactics that we’re taking to try and address those barriers that disproportionately affect women and people with other marginalized identities but ultimately affect everybody,” she said.
She explained that programming cost is one barrier to entry that disproportionately impacts those with multiple barriers already in their way.
From an industry perspective, Weston, a BIPOC owned snowboard and ski manufacturer based in Denver was early on the scene to support its core values of diversity and inclusion. According to Weston, it’s about showing, not telling. Now, they strategically allocate money to help educate newcomers and move beyond single social media posts or pushing one-off stories from their marketing department. It’s an understated effort to make lasting change.
AIARE and Weston are a few of the businesses and organizations making positive changes.
With that in mind, we are presenting some scholarship resources for underrepresented groups. Consider this list of scholarships a living document, and we will add to it as we learn of new initiatives. Please pay it forward and pass this information on to someone who may benefit. Email us at WildSnow (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave the details in the comments if you have a resource we should know about.
(These scholarships are a joint project between Weston and She Jumps.)
The basics from SheJumps: To offer affordable opportunities for adult women to gain experience and education in snowsports avalanche safety with an overall goal increase participation winter sports build stronger communities where all can belong. Our vision is generate equitable enjoy outdoor supportive learning environment community connection are prioritized through women-led attended courses low-cost programming. Supports Adult female identifying underrepresented financial need.
Link to application. Use this application for all SheJumps avy scholarships. Please note, course dates are specific to each region.
Application deadline for all SheJumps scholarships: October 31, 2021.
AIARE Level 1 Scholarships
Cascade Region (WA, OR)
Sawtooth Region (ID)
Teton Region (WY)
Glacier Region (MT)
Rockies Region (CO)
AIARE Level 2 Scholarship
The basics from the SAC: As part of our mission to educate the public and foster a culture of safety in the backcountry, the Sierra Avalanche Center offers scholarships for avalanche education this season. Scholarships can be used for American Avalanche Association approved Level 1, Level 2, Rescue, Pro-1 & Pro-2 courses.
An ideal candidate is someone who:
– Regularly recreates or performs snow-oriented work in the SAC forecast area;
– Already skis, snowboards, hikes, or climbs on snow, not someone looking to begin a new sport
– Might not be able to take an avalanche course without financial support.
Application deadline: October 31, 2021. Link to application.
The basics from Ski Divas: In an effort to bring more opportunity, diversity, and inclusivity to winter outdoor recreation spaces, Ski Divas LLC, Women’s Ski Camps Worldwide and Ski Divas founder, Jessica Baker, will offer a new ski and snowboard camp this coming year specifically for women who are Black, Indigenous, or other Women of Color (BIWOC) from March 19-21, 2021 based in Jackson, WY and the Tetons. This camp is open to skiers and snowboarders, from first time beginners to advanced levels.
-Must be a woman, 21 years of age or older.
-Must be a person of color, Indigenous, Black, or from underrepresented communities.
-Must have personal motivation to learn in the ski or snowboarding disciplines.
-Must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States of America, includes DACA.
Application deadline: December 11, 2021. Link to application.
The basics from Voile: We venture into the mountains for the unique tranquility and personal growth they provide. As a long-time member of the outdoor industry, we recognize the lack of diversity in outdoor spaces and have come to face the troubling reality that these spaces are not exempt from discrimination. Equitable access and representation in the outdoors is something to strive for and will require a sustained collective effort.
Last year we launched our first annual Voile BIPOC Backcountry Scholarship. This scholarship provides a large part of the gear necessary to help an individual further their backcountry goals. Thank you to all who participated for allowing us the space to work towards helping promote diversity in our niche industry. Your essays helped demonstrate how much work needs to be done, both systemically and within local communities. Again, we know this scholarship is not a solution, but rather a step towards providing access and representation on a small scale.
We are committed to becoming better allies, diversifying the outdoors, and being advocates of unity. You can read more about our first set of initiatives in our blog post, Doing Our Part to End Racial Discrimination. Efforts to foster access to the outdoors must also be accompanied by creating safe and welcoming environments across the entire industry, and we hope that the Voile BIPOC Backcountry Scholarship will be a step towards creating equitable access to the mountains.
Voile will award to people $1600.00 and $700.00, respectively, towards Voile backcountry gear.
Application deadline: November 15, 2021
The basics from Wyssen and AAI: Wyssen, USA (a subsidiary of Swiss-based Wyssen Avalanche Control AG) is pleased to announce two scholarship opportunities for Pro and Affiliate members of the American Avalanche Association (A3). Committed to supporting growth and education in the snow and avalanche community, Wyssen Scholarships will be awarded to individuals seeking additional pro-level avalanche education. Each scholarship will include tuition reimbursement, up to a maximum of $1,500, to be applied towards professional training during the 2021/2022 winter season. One scholarship will be offered exclusively to applicants belonging to an under-represented demographic within the snow/avalanche community (including, but not limited to women, non- binary genders, BIPOC, LGBTQ).
• Recipients must be a Pro or Affiliate member of the American Avalanche Association.
• Recipients must submit a course completion certificate following the completion of their
course. Upon receipt, the recipient will receive a reimbursement check for program tuition.
• The scholarship cannot be used for travel or other related expenses.
• Eligible courses include any A3 approved Pro Level 1 or Pro Level 2 course taken during the
2021/22 season. Scholarship award does not guarantee admittance to an approved program and applicant must meet prerequisites and follow course application guidelines.
Application deadline: October 15, 2021