Alberta skier and cyclist wants to get more BIPOC people into the outdoors

December 9, 2021
Alberta skier and cyclist wants to get more BIPOC people into the outdoors
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A graduate student at the University of Alberta recently started a podcast highlighting Black, Indigenous and people of colour athletes in an effort to make outdoor sports more inclusive. 

As a skier and cyclist of Black Italian origin, Kris Cromwell couldn’t help but notice there were few BIPOC people in outdoor sports. As part of her masters in Native Studies, Cromwell launched a podcast exploring why.

“I really wanted to talk to people that are making changes,” she said. 

Cromwell is using her BIPoC Outside podcast to research why outdoor spaces are exclusionary. Her first episode was released in November. 

In each episode she chats with BIPOC athletes and leaders in outdoor sports, including U.S. Lakota skier Connor Ryan. 

“I come from Lakota culture where dancing is in many of our ceremonies,” he tells Cromwell on the podcast.

“Skiing for me is sort of like a dance. It allows me to connect with the same elements that the ceremonies of my culture are centred around.” 

Statistics collected by the U.S. Forest Service shows 90 per cent of people who visit national forests and wilderness areas in the U.S. are white. 

Race-based data for outdoor recreation is hard to find in Canada. 

Kris Cromwell is an avid skier and cyclist in Edmonton. (Submitted by Kris Cromwell )

There are several reasons why some BIPOC people are reluctant to participate in outdoor spaces, Cromwell said. 

For one, discriminatory and problematic mountain and trail names are found on many maps of the Rocky Mountains, she said on CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.

However, some things are changing. 

Earlier this year for example, a peak near Canmore officially reverted to its original Stoney Nakoda name of Anû Kathâ Îpa or Bald Eagle Peak, after having a racist slur for a name for more than a century. 

Many of the athletes in Cromwell’s podcast are people she has looked up to as heroes. 

“To suddenly just speak with them person to person has been a really mind-blowing experience, and I have been absolutely blessed and humbled,” she said. 

Hopefully, people who are leaders in the outdoor industry will listen to the podcast and take note, said Cromwell. 

“If you want to appeal to a certain demographic, you have to ask them why you’re not currently appealing.”

Using a podcast format is also a way to break down barriers and make her research available to people outside academia, said Cromwell.

“What better way than to put it on the airwaves.” 

6:30New podcast BIPoc Outside

There’s a new podcast in town. We talk to Kris Cromwell from the BIPoC Outside podcast. 6:30

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