SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – People from all over the world vacation in the Rocky Mountains, but resorts aren’t seeing much diversity of the slopes. According to the National Ski Areas Association, 88% of visitors to ski areas last year were white. Less than 2% were Black. A Colorado woman is working to economic equity in outdoor recreation.
“I like to tell people we meet those who are at the intersection of underrepresentation and economic vulnerability,” said Patricia Cameron, the founder of Blackpackers. CBS4 first spoke with Cameron last year after she completed hiking the Colorado Trail.
Blackpackers is a nonprofit that aims to address the gap in representation in the outdoors. The organization provides gear, outdoor excursions and education for free or at a reduced cost.
LINK: Colorado Blackpackers
After paying for equipment, cold-weather gear and lift tickets, skiing becomes a costly activity that’s out of reach for many people of color.
Before Blackpackers existed, the James Beckwourth Mountain Club exposed inner-city children to the outdoors through education programs. Former board member, Ken Taylor, has continued the club’s mission through Slippers-N-Sliders, a ski club that promotes the sport in the metro Denver urban areas.
“If you’re living in a metro or downtown Denver, it’s a bit of a hassle to get into the mountains. It’s not like you can get on your bike and ride a few miles and get to some mountains. It’s one of these things where if your parents didn’t do it, you probably weren’t exposed to it,” said Taylor.
Taylor says skiing is a family experience – and it’s one he wanted to share with his son.
“I’m not sure if there will ever be a mass of Black folks out there. I think there will always be people that will discover the outdoors, and hopefully their children will as well,” said Taylor.
In February, Blackpackers took a group of nearly 30 people on a ski trip at Arapahoe Basin for free. For many, it was their first time on the slopes.
“It’s a white audience, and we are very excited to do our part to change that. We have the opportunity to work with this group, get these folks up here and introduce them to place where we’re so comfortable,” said Gates Lloyd, Snowsports Director.
A lift ticket for one day can cost up to $200 at some Colorado resorts. When you add on the rentals, cold-weather gear, and transportation it easily makes for a $300 on the mountain.
“We took care of everything from goggles to gloves, gear, their rentals,” said Cameron. “We usually do camping, backpacking, hiking, fly fishing. This is the first time we’ve been able to take a group skiing.”