The mountains are calling and Stephanie (she/her) answers the call this winter by ripping down the slopes in Vermont with the Snowpack Scholarship Ikon Pass in hand. Based in Massachusetts, Sugarbush, Killington, and Stratton's mountain ranges were a day's drive away on the occupied land of the Wabanaki Confederacy and Abenaki people.
"The benefit of the Ikon Pass, in my opinion, is something I've never experienced before. It's an underrated blessing to be able to pick any resort on a list and choose to snowboard there," explained Stephanie. "I don't have to be the first in line and last off the lift to make it worth a day ticket–it's been an unreal experience this winter."
Stephanie was also able to plan out a Colorado trip at Aspen and Winter Park–locations offered on the Ikon Base Pass, occupied land of the Ute people. "There's no way I'd ever be able to afford these days in Colorado on an optometry resident salary," explained Stephanie. "The lift ticket costs are simply too high."
The Snowpack Scholarship Ikon Pass was created in partnership with SheJumps to remove financial barriers to get more Women of Color in the mountains. While growing up in Montreal and Toronto's diverse cities, Stephanie noticed she would often be the only woman of color in the outdoors. This still rings true on the mountain slopes. The number of Black employees, snowboarders and overall resort goers is countable on a single hand for her. "I've yet to even meet another Black female snowboarder on a personal level–something I've really begun to notice this year," she said. "I remember seeing a lift attendant in Stratton who was Black and I thought to myself, 'WOAH.' That was pretty cool. In Aspen, I saw another Black skier and we said 'Hi' in passing and I thought that was cool as well." Unsurprisingly, it’s a similar situation in the summer on backcountry trails.
While the color of the snow may match the near entirety of New England outdoor enthusiasts, Stephanie noted that the online presence of Women of Color on social media painted an entirely different, more diverse portrait. "It looks like there’s a lot more people of color who have their profiles shared and are getting exposure ," she noted. "Exposure is key, but what's that going to do when lift tickets remain at $200 a day? Exposure is just a block on social media–it doesn't actually do anything in terms of making ski resorts accessible to everybody. There needs to be more work done on the ground. Rentals, lessons, ticket prices–once you add it all up, who can afford it?"
In the recent equity missions of the outdoor industry, companies have barely begun to ask themselves: How can we be/do better? "A lot of brands are doing their best to try to get more diversity and inclusion on the mountain in places that are predominantly white and very homogenous," said Stephanie. "I noticed that a lot more companies, including Ikon, were giving out scholarships, passes, access to the mountains, discounted prices–which is awesome. Everyone is trying to compensate for their lack of actions for the past years."
Added Stephanie, "The Ikon Base Passes are a good start, that’s for sure. Without it, for me personally, I would never have been able to get to these resorts and that in itself has a ton of value. I’m extremely grateful for that."
"I really wholeheartedly support organizations like SheJumps and what they do and stand for," Stephanie said. "I volunteer with an organization here in Boston that introduces youth from underserved communities into the outdoors locally. We're not going hours and hours away into the remote mountains–we're showing them that the great outdoors can be accessible by subway or bus, right in their own cities. Getting more people outdoors is so important, and I’ll always advocate for organizations that feel the same way."