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Beyond representation in snow sports

Skills are transferable, but building community as Black, Indigenous, women of color is crucial to our wellbeing in this world. Annette Diggs and EDGE Outdoors are facilitating these connections.

By: Samara Almonte + Save to a List

Being raised with limited opportunities to develop a relationship with any kind of sport as a young woman meant that as an adult, I don’t have any fun or inspirational anecdotes from being coached as a child. Luckily, as an adult, I was gifted the opportunity to connect with Annette Diggs not only as my coach but also as a friend and partner in dreaming of a future where Black and Indigenous women have access to snow sports. 

Annette is the founder of EDGE Outdoors, which launched in 2021. EDGE Outdoors is a powerful initiative created to address the invisibility of Black, Indigenous, Women of Color in snow sports. I met Annette towards the end of this year’s ski season when I became one of the first EDGE Outdoors: Learn to Ski or Snowboard Scholarship recipients. The scholarship consisted of group ski lessons offered by Annette amongst other perks such as free gear from the organization’s sponsors, food accommodations at Stevens Pass, and a discounted Premium Pass for the upcoming year upon completion of scholarship activities. EDGE just closed its application cycle for 2022, and I am so excited to connect with the new cohort of amazing women of color who will start their journey with snow sports.

Photo by Triva Sayler, 

The lonely side effect of inequity

There are so many things to admire about Annette and EDGE Outdoors. One of the most significant things for me about Annette’s vision is her focus on building community beyond representation. As is the nature of neoliberalism, the idea of “representation” for marginalized people doesn’t hold the same weight as it once did. It has been co-opted. What does “representation” in the outdoors do for Black, Indigenous, people of color if we are only going to be competing amongst each other for a spot at a table that was never meant for us to begin with? 

With EDGE Outdoors, Annette is planting the seeds for racialized people, but specifically Black, Indigenous, women of color (BIWOC) to create our own space within snow sports that doesn’t require us to assimilate to White cis male sports culture. Instead, we show up as authentically as possible because there is nothing lonelier than assimilation. 

Sadly, this is too common of an experience for racialized people across the outdoors industry, which we reflected upon taking our first chairlift ride as a cohort. As we regrouped at the top of the mountain, Annette started by sharing her pride for the progress we were making, but more importantly, we shared a moment of vulnerability as she confided in us how lonely she has felt on the slopes as a Black skier, and the joy it brought her to share a ride with other Black and racialized women. 

I am already a sympathetic crier as is, but even if Annette hadn’t begun to shed tears of joy I probably would have still shed some tears. Anytime I can be in the presence of Black and Indigenous sisterhood and love, my heart just melts as I feel my wounds heal. 

It will never just be about “representation.” We can show up to a space with an invitation in hand and still feel lonely. What matters is that we feel loved, respected, and free in every single space we come into. This will always be more important than any kind of physical skill I can gain from working with instructors. Skills are transferable, but building community is crucial to our well-being in this world. 

Photo by Parker

Building for the future

I encourage all outdoor organizations, whether they are BIPOC led or not, to think about EDGE Outdoors as a model to draw inspiration from and of course to give Annette the recognition and compensation she deserves for her work. Through EDGE Outdoors, Annette is committed to disrupting the tokenization of BIPOC in snow sports and to actively removing structural barriers that keep BIPOC from showing up authentically outdoors, with the cost of gear and classes as one of the primary barriers. Showing your support for EDGE Outdoors and investing in any of the people involved in the project is a commitment to multiple communities and generations of racialized skiers to come.

Photo by Triva Sayler.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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