Hiker aims to make the outdoors accessible and inclusive with the ‘Darken The Mountains’ initiative

Rebeccah Kellman says that shortly after moving to Canmore, she remembers hiking Grassi Lakes, which overlooks the mountain town of Alberta.

Kellman said another group of hikers were staring at her and whispering, before a woman walked up to her, put her arm against hers and said “Hey, I don’t usually see darker people. as me climb here. “

“I was about 21 at the time, and I didn’t know what to think about it. I was like OK, clearly I’m in a very white-dominated space,” Kellman said.

This experience and others prompted Kellman to found Darken the mountains – a community that welcomes Blacks, Aboriginals and people of color on outdoor adventures.

“It’s not that black people don’t ski, hike or camp, but my hope with Darken The Mountains is to encourage these people to go out, do new things, or if they do. already these things to do with other blacks or people of color, ”she said.

Kellman hopes to bring more representation to outdoor spaces – from challenging the lack of diversity in advertisements for outdoor equipment to creating opportunities for the BIPOC community to have new experiences.

Rebecca Kellman says she hopes to make backcountry and frontcountry camping more accessible this summer. (Julie Debeljak / CBC)

This led to a partnership with SkiBig3, for Darken The Slopes as well.

“We wanted to follow Rebeccah’s lead… she wanted to create a day where she could invite people who identify as BIPOC to come and participate for a day on the slopes,” said Sarah Pearson, Marketing Director of SkiBig3 who represents Banff Sunshine. , Lake Louise and Mount Norquay.

So far, they’ve run two events, which have offered equipment rental, lift tickets, and a ski instructor to accommodate a small group for a day at the ski resort. After the pandemic, they hope to expand the initiative even further.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from… everyone who is here should feel welcome and safe here,” said Pearson. “I think his voice is incredibly powerful… and I think that’s where we can help him amplify his voice.”

Percy Mtakula was one of that group – he said learning to ski in Norquay was a blast, and he immediately clicked with the other skiers.

“People think like, a certain skin color… you’re kind of put in a box,” he says. “That’s why representation is important… just because you’re typed by other people… you’re missing out on something.

Kellman said it’s not just discrimination or stereotypes that can be a barrier to enjoying the outdoors – cost is a factor as well. She said some of the group who joined for the two days of skiing were single parents who said they might never have tried skiing if they didn’t have the chance.

“Skiing… is an expensive and privileged sport. Having a means of transport to get to the mountain, equipment, ski passes, all this only increases the cost, ”she said.

She wants to encourage those who might be intimidated to try the outdoor adventures to give it a try, in a safe space with others who are like them.

“I just want to have a good, strong community of people, especially black people and people of color, to know that we are taking up space outside. We can get out there and enjoy the mountain. That’s something. who we do. And the whites, please make room, ”she said.

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