Meet the group trying to bring more diversity to snow sports

Posted at 4:06 PM, Feb 22, 2024

DENVER — Trying out a new sport like snowboarding can be scary and there are a lot of barriers that make people turn the other way. There's transportation to think about since the mountains can be far, and there's cost for the gear, food, lift tickets and more. All of this can add up to thousands of dollars in expenses.

Those barriers mean snow sports have historically been dominated by white, more affluent people.

However, a Colorado group called Slide Thru Sessions is working to change that. Quincy “Q” Shannon grew up in a neighborhood in Denver called Park Hill, which at time was a more impoverished area. Shannon says his mother began putting him in every activity she could think of that would keep him off of the streets.

Shannon is one of the co-founders of Slide Thru Sessions and says he was lucky enough to grow up snowboarding because of the work of the National Brotherhood of Skiers.

“It wasn't until I got older that I actually realized how the diversity within the snow sports industry really wasn't in my favor and how often I wouldn't see people who look like me,” Shannon said.

Now he's on a mission to bring more people who haven't had the opportunity into the sport. The first goal of the group is to educate people on all of the aspects of skiing and snowboarding, from the terminology to the differences in equipment.

Their group has toured snowboard manufacturing company burton to learn about all the nuances of skiing and snowboarding.

Then, with that education, Slide Thru Sessions empowers people to get up on the mountain. They have an entire gear locker for people to use whenever they want.

“They know that there's a place that they can come where they can get a coat that's going to be warm enough. Ski pants that's going to be water resistant, that they're going to have gloves that are going to keep their hands warm and that's available within their community at any given time,” Shannon said.

The group also provides transportation and the lift tickets, asking participants to pay what they can to keep the program going.

“If that is $5, that is okay,” Shannon said. “Come join us. And I think that that's important because it says no matter where somebody is on that financial scale, they're welcome to come in with us.”

Around 478 people hit the slopes with the group last year and more than double have already gone this season.

The second goal of the program is to create an intentional community so that everyone feels welcome on the mountain no matter their skill level.

“A lot of things were blocks of me getting there, and then the expense of snowboarding itself definitely do not have the means for an expensive sport like this,” said Shae Talamoa, one of the program’s participants. Talamoa is originally from Hawaii. She moved to Colorado several years ago and never thought she was be into snow sports.

She doesn’t have a car and says the sports are expensive. Talamoa met Shannon and decided to start volunteering to help with some of the social events. Eventually she was convinced to try snowboarding and now she can’t get enough of the sport.

“What sparked confidence to actually ride. Knowing that I was with people that were at my skill level as well,” Talamoa said. “It was all fun at the end of the day. It's always fun, even if you're falling.”

Shannon says having fun and trying something new is a big reason he does what he does.

They're now searching for more partners and more funding so that this program can keep up with its core mission.

“We are truly about diversifying the mountains if we introduce you to something that you fall in love with. We want to find ways that we can get you to keep going over and over and over again,” Shannon said.