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Mexicans don’t ski?

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I don’t know about you,  but I’m still buzzing with fuzzy good feelings days and days after attending the 5Point Film Festival. One film that caught my attention this year was The Brotherhood of Skiing, a film about an organization of black skiers that started in 1973.

After the film one of the young directors was brought up on stage. The emcee then proceeded to play devil’s advocate.

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After the film one of the young directors was brought up on stage. The emcee invited him to respond to the unfortunate but invariable question of why diversity is important in the outdoor industry and beyond.

The director seemed a bit unsettled because well, let’s face it, talking about the spiny subject of race in front of hundreds of people is no easy task, especially as a white male. His eventual response: “Well, don’t we all want to see everyone up there skiing?”

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I had to overcome my urge to jump up on stage and help him out. After all, at one point I was just like that young black guy in the film whose girlfriend said to him, “Black people don’t ski.”  But, instead of black insert Mexican. “Don’t you know real Mexicans don’t ski?” were words that rang loud and clear in my world as I grew up in a ski town. It’s a good thing I never listened.

What I wanted the creator of this film to say was that it’s important to showcase minorities doing things like skiing, or simply portrayed enjoying the outdoors, say on the cover of magazines or other advertisements, because there currently exists a major lack of diversity in the outdoors and recreation in general. This is not a question of special treatment or favoring minorities instead of white people. It’s not about “instead of,” it’s about “in addition to. ” 

The film also helps show younger minorities, who might not be able to imagine themselves as part of the ski world, that this sport is not set aside exclusively for white people. A film like “The Brotherhood of Skiing” — or even an advertisement with a few brown or black faces — can be the one thing that could encourages a minority kid, to think it’s possible for them to participate in The Great Outdoors, a world that can feel unwelcoming.

Maybe that comes as a shock to some of you who have never felt “othered,” but I’m telling you  when no one out there skiing (or hiking, or camping)  looks like you, it can be downright intimidating. And with this intimidation there is the risk of missing out completely on the wonders and positive benefits of spending time in nature. Be it the view from the top of a mountain, camping by a lake or gliding down a  ski run, everyone should feel welcome in the outdoors regardless of their ethnicity.

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Lastly, it is so critical for our society to see minorities shining brightly, falling in love with their passion, and doing positive, healthy activities in the outdoors. This portrayal helps break the stereotypes by acting as a direct opposition to how awful people of color can be  portrayed in the media.

So, young director, if you happen to read this, take heart. I applaud you for making a phenomenal film that takes a unique look at the world of skiing through the minority group’s perspective. And, yes, most people do want to see everyone out there skiing and enjoying the outdoors, but there’s much more to it than that. So, if by chance you find yourself at your next film festival and you are asked the same question, feel free to use this minority’s explanation. Seriously, I won’t mind. 

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